Online Library of Liberty

A collection of scholarly works about individual liberty and free markets. A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.

Advanced Search

Cicero’s Life and Politics

Related Links:
Related Links in the GSR:

Source: Introduction to The Political Works of Marcus Tullius Cicero: Comprising his Treatise on the Commonwealth; and his Treatise on the Laws. Translated from the original, with Dissertations and Notes in Two Volumes. By Francis Barham, Esq. (London: Edmund Spettigue, 1841-42). Vol. 1.


The life of Marcus Tullius Cicero, the father of Roman eloquence, has been drawn by a multitude of able historians in all the nations of Europe. Among these we may mention the names of Plutarch, Cornelius Nepos, Boethius, Rapin, Erasmus, Scaliger, Bellendenus, Olivet, Middleton, and Melmoth, not to cite the later writers.

As the leading facts of Cicero’s biography are noticed in all cyclopedias and biographical dictionaries, it is unnecessary to present them in any thing like detail at present, for this would be needless repetition.

Suffice it to say, he was born at Arpinum, b. c. 107, a. u. 647. His father was a Roman knight, descended from Titus Tatius, king of the Sabines. “In his very youth (we quote the words of Moreri), he pleaded with so much freedom against Sylla’s friends, that fearing the resentment of one that spared nobody, he travelled into Greece, and heard Antiochus, of Ascalon, an academic philosopher at Athens. Thence he past into Asia, seeking still the perfection of eloquence. He became the disciple of Xenocles, Dionysius, Menippus, and afterwards studied at Rhodes, under Apollonius Molon, the most eloquent man of his time. Molon being at one of Cicero’s orations, could not avoid crying out that the deplored the misfortune of Greece, which being already conquered by the Romans, was then likely to lose by his scholar’s eloquence the only advantage she had left over her victorious enemies. Hence Cicero came to Rome, where, in consideration of his great parts, he obtained Sicily, and was made questor of Rome. When he was chosen Ædile, he condemned Veres, to make satisfaction for the violences and extortions he had committed. In 691 (a. u.) he was consul with Antonius Nepos, during which consulship he discovered Cataline’s conspiracy, and punished the accomplices, for which he was styled Preserver of the Commonwealth; yet in a. u. 696, he was banished, through the envy, and by the practices of Clodius and others. But the people shewed such concern for his misfortunes, that he was recalled the next year at the request of Pompey, who had a hand in his exile. After this Cicero, at his return from Cilicia, where he was proconsul, a. u. 702, followed Pompey in the civil wars, after whose death, in 706, he was pardoned by Cæsar, whom he reconciled to Ligarius. He had no hand in that prince’s death, though he was an intimate friend of Brutus. But after this murder he favoured Augustus, who desired to be consul with him, and proposed a general amnesty. But the interest of Augustus made him take other measures, and join with Antony and Lepidus in the triumvirate. Antony making use of his power, and hating Cicero extremely, by reason of the orations he wrote against him, which we call Phillipics, got him pursued and beheaded in the 711th year of Rome, forty–three years before the Christian æra, and in the 64th year of his age. His executioner was one Popilius, whom he had formerly defended against some who accused him of having killed his father. His many works are well known: as his books, De Inventione—his Orations, Epistles, Philosophical Questions, De Finibus — his Tusculans; with his works de Natura Deorum, Amicitia, Senectute, De Republica, De Legibus, &c. It is said that he wrote three books of verse, concerning what had befallen him during his consulship.”

We must now take a brief view of Cicero’s character and opinions, as they are sketched by his admirable English biographer, Middleton. He evinces, beyond contradiction, the fact that Cicero preferred the divine, theocratic, Catholic, and Eclectic, philosophy of the Academic Platonists, to that sectarian dogmatism which prevailed among the Stoics, Peripatetics, Epicureans, and other partisans. “Thus (says Cicero, Acad. 2, 3,) we preserve our judgment free and unprejudiced, and are under no necessity of defending what is prescribed and enjoined to us; whereas, all the other sects of men are tied down to certain doctrines, before they are capable of judging what is best; and in the most infirm part of life, drawn either by the authority of a friend, or charmed with the first master whom they happen to hear; they form a judgment of things unknown to them, and to whatever school they chance to be driven by the tide, cleave to it as fast as the oyster to the rock.”

“As this syncretic or academic school (says Middleton) was in no particular opposition to any, but an equal adversary of all, or rather to dogmatical philosophy in general, so every other sect next to itself readily gave it the preference to the rest, which universal concession of the second place is commonly thought to infer a right to the first. The academic manner of philosophizing was of all others the most rational and modest, and the best adapted to the discovery of truth, whose peculiar character it is to encourage inquiry, to sift every question to the bottom, to try the force of every argument till it has found its real moment, and the precise quantity of its weight.”

This same spirit of Catholicism or Unionism — this leading principle of the syncretic, eclectic, and coalitionary philosophy—Cicero carried into politics; and thus he endeavoured to reconcile those sects, parties and factions, whose increase he foretold would prove the inevitable ruin of his country—a prophecy which was afterwards most awfully fulfilled, as Montesquieu has proved at large in his “Grandeur and Decline of the Roman empire.”

“As to Cicero’s political conduct (says Middleton), no man was ever a more determined patriot or a warmer lover of his country than he. His whole character, natural temper, choice of life, and principles, made its true interest inseparable from his own. His general view, therefore, was always one and the same—to support the peace and liberty of the commonwealth in that form and constitution of it which their ancestors had delivered down to them. He looked on that as the only foundation on which it could be supported, and used to quote a verse of old Ennius’s as the dictate of an oracle, which derived all the glory of Rome from an adherence to its ancient manners and discipline,

“Moribus antiquis stat, res Romana virisque.”

It is one of his maxims that he inculcates in his writings—“that as the end of a pilot is a prosperous voyage; of a physician, the health of his patients—of a general, victory—so that of a statesman is to make the citizens happy, to make them firm in power, rich in wealth, splendid in glory, and eminent in virtue, which is the greatest and best of all the works among men.”

“And as this cannot be effected but by the concord and harmony of the constituent members of a city, so it was his constant aim to unite the different orders of the state into one common interest, and to inspire them with a mutual confidence in each other. For, says he, quæ harmonia a musicis dicitur in cantu, ea est in civitate concordia arctissimum atque optimum omni in Republica vinculum incolumitatis. ‘What harmony is to musicians, that is concord to states. Concord is the strongest and best bond of security to all nations.’

“Cicero, therefore, (continues Middleton) endeavoured so to balance the power of the people by the authority of the Senate, that the one should enact, but the other advise; the one have the last appeal, and the other the chief influence.

“For (says he) when the Senate is the regulator of public opinion, we find from this distribution of rights, namely, of authority to the Senate, and of power to the people, that the state is maintained in equilibrium and harmony. This was the old constitution of Rome, by which it raised itself to all its grandeur: while all its misforfortunes were owing to the contrary principle of distrust and dissension between these two rival powers. It was the great object, therefore, of Cicero’s policy, to throw the ascendant in all affairs into the hands of the Senate and the Magistrates, as far as was consistent with the rights and liberties of the people; which will always be the general view of the wise and honest in all popular governments.” So far Middleton.

Such being the strong preference of Cicero for the Catholic, Syncretic, Unionistic, and Universal policy, which includes all the particular forms of government, it may be worth while to take a brief review of these particular forms, in order to gain a clearer notion of the Ciceronian theory.

The Catholic, Syncretic, or Unionistic government is, in fact, the same as that which is called the mixed government by most modern politicians. Insomuch as union necessarily excels and precedes division and partition, this kind of government is essentially more sublime and ancient than any of its particular components. Hence there is some degree of incorrectness in the application of the word ‘mixed’ to this universal government, as it seems to postpone its history, and to complicate its theory. It is, however, useful in disquisitions of this kind, just because it is more popularly understood than more scholastic terms; and we shall not hesitate to avail ourselves of it.

The Syncretic, Universal, or Mixed government then, which Cicero, like many of the sages of antiquity, preferred to all particular forms of government whatsoever, included and harmonized all those partial systems which pass under the names of patriarchal, monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic institutions.

The divine and theocratic form of government, when closely examined, will be found to be analogous in many of its elemental features to the Catholic or Syncretic policy. All these terms are analogous, and all imply a system of divine dominations, perfectly regular and complete, capable of embracing all just authorities, and of holding them in a state of perfect coalition, harmony, and co–operation, from the highest to the lowest.

The first development of the syncretic and mixed policy, is that form of government which is called the Patriarchal or Paternal. The power of patriarchs has in all ages been accounted higher, wider, and more absolute than that of any of the emperors, kings, aristocrats, or democrats that subsequently arose.

This aboriginal and supreme form of government, entitled the patriarchal, has been lauded as the earliest and best, by Philo, Plutarch, Selden, Bossuet, Filmer, Michaelis, Pastoret, and most of the commentators on the political history of the Jews. The patriarchs, and, as they were subsequently called the Judges, of the Jewish nation, were in fact theocratic legislators: they combined an absolute ecclesiastical and civil power, universal and indefeasible.

Sir Robert Filmer has evinced, beyond contradiction, the priority and superiority of the patriarchal power. He has shewn that the beautiful principle of paternal government and hereditary succession is the natural and proper foundation of human government.

In this respect Gerson, Bossuet, Du Pin, and other Catholic writers are perfectly right. When they entitle the pope a patriarch, they acknowledge that so far as precedence of rank is concerned, he stands as much above all emperors and kings, as they stand above all archbishops and bishops. The patriarchal power of the pope should not, however, extend beyond his own dominions. Emperors and kings should be supreme within their own territories in ecclesiastieal as well as civil matters; for they ought to be as much defenders of the universal faith of their subjects, as they are of their universal rights.

The patriarchal theory, which shews us that we must trace the true origin of monarchical and aristocratic power to the paternal principle of hereditary succession, is of the greatest value. By Filmer’s doctrine, we consider our princes and nobles as the personal representatives of the oldest families; and as such entitled to the same deference and respect as attach to priority of birth and seniority of age, in all national clans and private families. The able politician Heeren has recently shewn that the theory which makes all government merely a matter of popular compact and election, though supported by Locke and his followers, is fraught with all the perils of Rousseau’s “social compact,” and tends to produce republicanism and revolution.

These remarks would indicate the truth of what the admirable Selden observes with reference to the Hebrew commonwealth, namely, that when the government was changed from the patriarchal into the monarchical, there was in fact a fall from a higher order of government into a lower. It is no wonder, therefore, that the Deity was incensed against the people of Israel for asking a king, instead of a patriarchal successor to Samuel; for, by so doing, they throw their political system into an inferior condition.

Yet, royal, imperial, and monarchical government is next to the patriarchal, wonderfully sacred and venerable. We find something resembling it in the first rise and youthful spring of all ancient nations. In the Asiatic territories it has been universally cherished. And we find that kings, a series of wise and heroic monarchs, laid the foundation of all the glories of Greece and Rome. Still, however fair, monarchy has been continually exposed to the dangers of degeneration into despotism and tyranny.

Next to the imperial or regal, is that particular form of government called the aristocratical. Inferior to the regal no doubt it is, but something infinitely better than the democratic. It still maintains something of the patriarchal dignity of hereditary succession to family wealth and honors, which is the grand security of all states, though it has often been abused to purposes of pride, extravagance, and oppression.

The last particular form of government we shall mention, is the democratical or republican. The advantages and disadvantages of this form are so neatly summed up by Paley, we shall avail ourselves of his words.

“The advantages of a republic are, liberty, or exemption from needless restrictions; equal laws; regulations adapted to the wants and circumstances of the people, public spirit, frugality, averseness to war, the opportunities which democratic assemblies afford to men of every description, of producing their abilities and counsels to public observation, and the exciting thereby, and calling forth to the service of the commonwealth the faculties of its best citizens.

“The evils of a republic are — dissentions, tumults, factions, the attempts of powerful citizens to possess themselves of the empire; the confusion, rage, and clamour, which are the inevitable consequences of assembling multitudes, and of propounding questions of state to the discussion of the people; the delay and disclosure of public counsels and designs, and the imbecility of measures retarded by the necessity of obtaining the consent of numbers—and lastly, the oppression of the provinces which are not admitted to a participation in the legislative power.”

Now Cicero, the most observant of all politicians, clearly perceived that in proportion as the catholic, syncretic system of government, which combined and harmonized these several particular forms, advanced, in that proportion had the state become prosperous and durable. For it is the remarkable characteristic of this syncretic government, being unionistic, universal, coalitionary, mixed, and eclectic, to blend all that is good in the particular species, without contracting their mischiefs. Like the light of heaven, it combines all colours in a blaze of glory, which, when divided and segregated, become faint and shadowy.

Thus, according to Cicero, there can be only two principal distinctions in the kinds of government—one is the Catholic, Syncretic, Unionistic, coalitionary, and harmonic. The other is the sectarian, partizantic, divisionary and discordant. Cicero’s preference for the first kind was strong and invincible; he saw that by a manly eclecticism, a philanthropical latitudinarianism, it combined all the separate notes of political wisdom into one grand and majestic concord; and he saw that the universal tendency of all divisionary and particular governments was to produce a miserable contractedness in national politics, and to embroil the state in the interminable jars of schisms and sects, parties and factions.

Cicero’s testimony in favour of this Syncretic, Unionistic, and Mixed government, is most clearly and forcibly stated in a passage of his Commonwealth, which we here translate. “In my opinion, royalty (regium) is far the best of the three particular forms of government; but it is very inferior to that government which is composed of the equal mixture of the three best forms of government united, modified, and tempered by each other. I wish, in fact, to see in a commonwealth, a princely and regal power (placet enim esse quiddam in republicâ, præstans et regale), that another portion of authority should be allotted to the nobles, and that certain things should be reserved to the judgment and wish of the people. This constitution possesses a noble character of equability—a condition necessary to the existence of every free people, and at the same time obtains a wonderful stability; whereas particular governments easily degenerate into something corrupt. Thus absolute monarchs are apt to become despots—aristocracies, factious oligarchies—and the populace a mob and a hubbub (turba et confusio). It often happens, too, that these three kinds of government are expelled and replaced by each other. But in this Syncretic and Mixed government, which unites and amalgamates the partial forms, equal disasters cannot happen without outrageous misconduct among the grandees; for there exists no cause of revolution where every one is firmly established in his appropriate station, and there are few temptations to corrupt his integrity.”

This passage fully unfolds the Syncretic and Eclectic views Cicero entertained respecting government. He wanted to obtain a Unionistic, Universal, and Mixed government, fairly composed of kings, lords, and commons, each assisting, and at the same time correcting the other.

It is evident, then, that Cicero had no objection to an emperor or a king, in a limited monarchy or a mixed constitution. On the contrary, he expressly asserts that monarchy was essentially a better form of particular government than either aristocracy or democracy: “Primis tribus generibus (says he); longe præstat meâ sententiâ regium).

Cicero, therefore, desired to restore the monarchial government, and wished to see an emperor or king once more swaying the Roman commonwealth—a fact which will appear manifestly proved in this newly–discovered treatise, De Republica. But while he pleaded for a king, he pleaded not for a king forced on the Romans by ambition or chicanery, but a king universally approved by his political character and conduct, and legitimately elected by the open, free, and unbiassed suffrage of the senate and the people. We conceive Cicero’s sentiments in this respect may be well expressed by the opening passage in Philo Judæus’s Treatise on Princes.

“Some have desired (says Philo) that princes should be established by lot, and by the collection of ballots, and have introduced this form and method of election, which is in no way profitable to the people, inasmuch as ballot shows good luck rather than virtue. Many have arrived, by this means, at the authorities of which they were totally unworthy—rascals, whom a true prince would reject and refuse to own as his subjects; for, noblemen of high honour will not take into their service all the serfs that are born in their houses, or all those they have bought; but those only that are obedient and ready to execute their will. The rest, who are obstinate and incorrigible, whom they cannot bring under discipline, they sell them by auction in troops, as unworthy of a gentleman’s service. It is not, therefore, fitting to constitute as lords of cities and nations, those who have got possession of the government by lot or ballot, which is a deceitful and slippery thing, and dependent on inconstant fortune. When the question is the cure of the invalid, lot is not spoken of; and physicians are not chosen by lot, but are approved by experience. So when we wish to make a prosperous and happy voyage by sea, the crew do not select a pilot by lot, and send him immediately to the helm, for fear, lest by his ignorance and rashness he should cause them shipwreck, even in calm and peaceful weather, and thus destroy the lives of all on board. But he is chosen who is known to have learned studiously from his youth the art of piloting vessels; who has often made voyages, and has traversed the majority of seas; who has sounded the depths and shallows, and is acquainted with the various ports and havens. It is even so in the government of great states, and the management of public and private, sacred and secular affairs. Government, which is the true art of arts, the science of sciences, in which it would be most unreasonable to regulate our measures by the eccentric courses and irregular motions of fortune. The sage legislator, Moses, therefore, well considered this evil; for he has no where mentioned this method of balloting for a magistrate; but he approves of that only which is made by the open election and suffrage of the people: and for this reason he says—“The prince you shall establish over you shall not be a stranger, but one of your brethren;” shewing by this, that the election ought to be a matter of rational preference, exhibited by the votes of the people, with full knowledge of the character and dispositions of him they choose and appoint.”

Such was Cicero’s desire to restore the kingly power and monarchical government at Rome, that he seems to have availed himself of certain passages in the oracles of the Sibyls, those initiated prophetesses, who, having obtained some knowledge of the Hebrew prophecies respecting the advent of the Messiah’s universal monarchy, applied the prediction to the several nations in which they delivered their oracles. Now Cicero, who was a distinguished augur, and a notable master of divination, was well acquainted with these Sibylline foretellments, and appears to have made considerable use of them to promote his political designs. Cicero, therefore having found it stated in the Sibylline oracles, that “a divine king should make his appearance in the Roman empire, whoshould obtain universal dominion over the world, availed himself of this prediction to enforce his pleadings in favour of monarchy; and, therefore, referring to this Sibylline oracle, he says, “eum quem revera regem habeamus, appellandum quoque esse regem, si salvi esse vellemus”—(him whom indeed we should account a king, let us also call him king, if we would be secure). The Latin words are thus rendered by Cudworth—“if we would be safe, we should acknowledge him for a king who really is so.” Thus, says Grotius (de veritate Christ.), “by the Sibyls it is stated that he was to be acknowledged as king, who was to be truly our king—who was to rise out of the East, and be Lord of all things.” The Romans, therefore (as Brocklesby affirms), found something in their Sibylline oracles that favoured the change of their government from a republic into a monarchy; and therefore in Cicero’s days a rumour was spread about by Cæsar’s party (who designed for him the honour of king), that the sibylline oracles pronounced that the Parthians could never be conquered except by a king.

Respesting these Sibylline oracles, Cicero observes—Valeant ad deponendas potius quam ad suscipiendas religiones—(“let them avail for the taking down rather than the taking up of religions”). Cudworth supposes that Cicero in this saying intimates that these oracles of themselves tended rather to the lessening than the increasing of Pagan superstitions, and that they predicted a change of the Pagan religion, to be introduced by the worship of one God. But perhaps Cicero’s words imply no more than this—that he would have the Roman senate put their state oracles to a contrary use than they had hitherto been put to, not to the increasing superstition (of the overspreading of which he sadly complaineth in his second book on Divination), but the abating and retrenching it.

Be this as it will, there is no doubt that the Sibylline oracles afloat in the Roman state, prophecying as they did of a divine and universal kingdom of holiness, justice, and peace, not only facilitated the establishment of the Christian religion (as Grotius observes), but likewise facilitated the restoration of the kingly and monarchical form of government throughout the Latin empire.

The prodigious influence which these Sibylline oracles exerted over the religious as well as political destinies of the world at that period has been noted by many cholars. They took a strong moral hold on the minds both of the Christians and the Pagans, and urged on the greatest changes in society. The heathens (says a learned author) doubted not of the truth of the predictions of the Sibyls that were quoted by the fathers. They only put another sense upon them—nay, they even proceeded so far as to own that the Sibylline verses foretold the nativity of a certain new king, and a considerable revolution. This is mentioned by Tully, in several places: moreover, when Pompey took the city of Jerusalem, it was commonly reported that nature designed a king for the people of Rome. Lentulus, according to the testimony of Cicero and Sallust, flattered himself that he should become this king that was intimated by the Sibyl. Others have interpreted this prophecy with respect to Julius Cæsar or Augustus, as is observed by Cicero and Suetonius. Virgil, in his fourth Eclogue, produces the verses of the Cumæan Sibyl, foreshewing the birth of a new king that was to descend from heaven. In short, it is most certain that the Gentiles acknowledged that the books of the Sibyls were favourable to the Christians, insomuch that the latter were prohibited to read them, as appears from the words of Aurelian to the senate, recited by Vobiscus. (On this disputed question, see Selden, Blondel, Vossius, Flower, Bryant, and Faber.)

But while Cicero preferred the monarchical form of government, and would probably have assisted in the establishment of a constitutional king, reigning with the free and spontaneous approbation of the senate and the people, and limited in his powers by the aristocratic and democratic parties, he, at the same time, frankly and fearlessly owned his objection to the kind of absolute kingship which Cæsar wished to obtain for himself. Cicero saw that this great man was aiming at the throne in an illegitimate and unconstitutional way. Instead of seeking the monarchical authority by the voluntary and unextorted election of the senate and the people, he was proceeding by a most offensive system of seduction and intimidation to the object of his ambition.

We believe that Cicero, as well as Brutus, knew how to reverence and esteem the personal merits of Cæsar. They acknowledged that he was the greatest and noblest man of his age. They conceived that his design of restoring monarchy, (as the only means of consolidating the strength of the Roman empire and of reconciling the factions that were lacerating its vitals,) was in itself glorious and patriotic; and they saw that he was of all others the fittest man to become the emperor and regent of the state; that “quiddam præstans et regale,” which Cicero thought so desirable.

But while Cicero agreed with Cæsar in some of these general desiderata of policy, he entirely disagreed with him respecting the modus operandi. Cicero wished for a limited monarchy; Cæsar aspired to an absolute one. Cicero wished that this limited monarchy should be established in a constitutional and legitimate way, by the free and unbiassed choice and approbation of the senate and the people; Cæsar, on the other hand, wished to obtain his supremacy by means of military intimidation over the aristocracy, and pecuniary corruption over the democracy. All this Cicero protested against; he saw it would expose the Roman empire to all the evils of tyranny. He therefore sided with Cato and Brutus, and might have expressed his sentiments in the language that Shakspere has given Cæsar’s noblest antagonist,—“As Cæsar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him; but as he was ambitious, I slew him.”

In the same way, Cicero knew how to honour and extol a conservative aristocracy for its proper uses and services. He commended his brother–senators, so far as he could do so, for their philanthropical and patriotic proceedings; but he was by no means blind to their abuses and maladministrations; and he laid the lash of his invective, without compunction, on those who deserved the excruciations of his tremendous satire.

Cicero has also vouchsafed occasional eulogy to the democratic portion of the commonwealth; for he knew how to honour true merit and patriotism wherever he found them. But his political predilections were evidently rather aristocratical and anti–democratic. He saw that although the democrats were sometimes useful, when in their proper place they supported the popular interests, yet, on the whole, they were a very dangerous, precipitous, and violent body, continually straining after political dignities they knew not how to maintain; clamorous for perilous innovations which would have laid the glory of the state in ashes; rioting in all the reckless exasperations of schisms and factions; and eager for all revolutions which place honour, and authority, and wealth at the mercy of chance and confusion.

And thus Cicero appears to have discerned the great moral of history—that the first steps to democracy are the first steps to ruin: that the monarchical principle is the only one which can permanently exalt and consolidate the energies of a state: whereas the accessions of democracy, into which all nations have a tendency to degenerate, are certainly accompanied with that virulent spirit of partizanship and faction, which, by dividing a nation’s strength, inevitably hurry it to decay; as was the case with Greece, and Rome, and Venice.

This conviction induced Cicero to oppose every obstacle he could to democratic corruption. Among other securities against this, he upheld the ancient Roman system of open voting by poll, (per capita) whereby the voters were induced to give their suffrages in the full presence of their fellow–citizens, to that mongrel style of secret voting by ballot, (per tabellas) which crept in during the later years of the republic, corrupted the moral courage and frankness of the ancient Romans into a sneaking and pitiful hypocrisy, and introduced infinite factions among the lower orders.

On this doctrine of Cicero, Montesqieu has made a remark, which is worth quoting, from his “Spirit of Laws:”—“The law (says he) which determines the manner of giving suffrages is likewise fundamental in a democracy. It is a question of some importance, whether the suffrages ought to be public or secret. Cicero observes, that the laws which rendered them secret towards the close of the republic, were the cause of its decline. But as this is differently practised in different republics, I shall here offer my thoughts concerning the subject.

“The people’s suffrages (continues Montesqieu) ought, doubtless, to be public; and this should be considered as a fundamental law of democracy. The lower sort of people ought to be directed by those of higher rank, and restrained within bounds by the gravity of certain personages. Hence by rendering the suffrages secret in the Roman republic, all was lost: it was no longer possible to direct a populace that sought its own destruction.”

Last modified April 13, 2016