ePub 版

been said by a historian of great renown, "each part of this body politic in proportion as it contributed to the public good found in it their advantage, so that in spite of the natural restlessness and inconstancy of man's heart, which is always thirsting after novelty and change, and is never cured of its disgust to uniformity, Lacedemon persevered for many ages in the strict observance of her laws."

Plutarch, in his life of Lycurgus, says, that Plato, Diogenes, Zeno, and all those who have treated of the establishment of a political state of government, took their plans from the republic of Lycurgus, with this difference, that they confined themselves wholly to words and theory, but Lycurgus, without dwelling upon ideas and speculative projects, did really and effectually institute an inimitable polity, and form a whole city of philosophers. In order to succeed in this undertaking, and to establish the most perfect form of a commonwealth that he could, he melted down as it were and blended together what he found best in every kind of government and most conducive to the public good. Thus tempering one species with another, and balancing the inconvenience to which each of them in particular is subject, with the advantage which resulted from their being united together. Sparta had something of the monarchal form of government in the authority of her kings. The council of thirty, otherwise called the senate, was a true aristocracy, and the power vested in the people of nominating the senators resembled a democratic government. The institution of the Ephori afterward served to rectify what was amiss in those previous establishments, and to supply what was defective. Plato thought the institution of the senate was advantageous both to the kings and to the people, as by this means the law became the only supreme mistress of the kings, and they never became tyrants over the laws,

§ 9. The government of Athens was not as permanent or uniform as that of Sparta, and often yielded to the exigencies of the times. It was originally, and for a long period, governed by kings, and afterward by archons, assumed entire liberty, which gave place for some years to the tyrannic power of the Pisistratida, but was subsequently re-established, and continued to subsist until the defeat in Sicily and the conquest of the city by the Lacedemonians. Its inhabitants were then subjected to the thirty tyrants, whose usurpation and tyranny induced the people soon to throw off the yoke and again to assert and resume their liberty, and to maintain the same until after many years of contest and struggle the Roman arms subdued Greece and reduced it to a Roman province.

Solon laid the foundation of their popular government, which consisted of the council or senate of five hundred, the assemblies of the people, and the different tribunals for the administration of justice. Solon was not however the originator of this plan, for it was devised by Theseus long before him, but the former adopted it and carried it into execution. After the union of the twelve towns into one city, he divided the inhabitants into three separate bodies, the nobility, the laborers or husbandmen, and the citizens. To the first he committed the religious affairs and offices of the nation. The government did not become a popular one until the establishment of the nine archons, whose authority only lasted for one year, having been reduced from that of ten. Solon's institutions gave to the people great share and authority in the government. Appeals might be brought to their tribunal in all cases, and they decided upon the cancellation of old laws and the enactment of new ones. Their historian thus succinctly describes their authority and form of procedure in the enactment of those laws: “In order that their determination should be made with more wis, dom and maturity, Solon instituted a council composed of

four hundred senators, one hundred out of each tribe, which were then four in number, and they proposed and digested the affairs which were to be laid before the people. Clisthenes, about one hundred years after Solon, having increased the number to ten tribes, augmented that of the senators also to five hundred, and each tribe supplying fifty. This was called the council or senate of five hundred. They were chosen by lot, in which they made use of white and black beans, which were mingled and shaken in an urn, and each tribe gave in the names of those who aspired to that trust, and had the revenue required by the laws to qualify them for it. None could be admitted under the age of thirty. After enquiry made into the manners and conduct of the candidate, he was made to take an oath, whereby he engaged to give at all times the best counsel he could to the people, and never to depart in the least from the tenor of the laws. The senate assembled every day except upon days appointed for festivals. Each tribe in its turn furnished those who were to preside in it, called Prytanes, and this rank was decided by lot. This presiding continued thirty-five days, which being reckoned ten times amounts to the number of days except four of the lunar year, followed at Athens. This time of the presiding or prytanism, was divided into five weeks, regard being had to the five tens of the prytanes drawn by lot presided, each three days, and denominated Ilposypal that is, President. He who was so for three days, presided in the assembly of the senators, and in that of the people. He was charged with the public seal, and also with the keys of the citadel and treasury. The senators, before they assembled, offered a sacrifice to Jupiter and Minerva, under the additional appellation of givers of good counsels, to implore from them the prudence and understanding necessary to form wise deliberations. The president proposed the business which was to be done in the assembly. Every

the publi'd in that ays, presidis, Pre



one gave his opinion in his turn, and always standing. After a question had been settled it was drawn up in writing, and read with a loud voice, and each senator then gave his vote by scrutiny by putting a bean into the

If the white beans carried it the question passed, otherwise it was rejected. This sort of decree was in the nature of a preparatory resolution, as yet not having the force of a permanent law, and was called ynospa Or Προβουλευμα It was afterward laid before the assembly of the people where if it was received and approved, it had the force of a law—if not, its authority subsisted only for one year.

This shows with what wisdom Solon established this council to inform and direct the people, to fix their inconstancy, to check their temerity, and to impart to their deliberations a prudence and maturity not to be expected in a confused and tumultuous assembly, composed of a great number of citizens, most of them without education, capacity, or much zeal for the public good. The reciprocal dependency and mutual concurrence of the two bodies of the state, which were obliged to lend each other their authority, and remained equally without force when without union, and a good understanding were besides a method judiciously contrived for supporting a wise balance between the two bodies. The people not being able to enact anything without it being first proposed and approved by the senate, nor the senate to pass any decrees into a law until it had been ratified by the people. The kings were succeeded by the archons, and their authority rendered democratic in their main features, prior to the wise legislation of Solon, at the time he was chosen archon and was constituted sole legislator and supreme arbiter, with the unanimous consent of all parties; Athens was convulsed and distracted with as many different parties as there were different sorts of inhabitants in Attica. Those that inhabited the mountains were partial to a po

pular government. Those of the low land desired an oligarchy, whilst those that dwelt upon the sea-coast desired a mixed government; whilst a fourth party, consisting of the poor, were determined to choose themselves a chief who should deliver them from the oppression of their rich creditors, whose debts they were unable to discharge. His mind and genius had to mould the government so as to meet the views, or reconcile the conflicting interests of all those varied factions. The success that attended this effort of this master spirit of the age, has excited the admiration, and elicited the eulogium of all succeeding ages. After the rebuilding of Athens in succeeding times under Aristides, the Athenians strove to introduce an absolute democracy, and a decree was then passed by which it was ordained that the offices of government should be open to all the citizens, and that the archons, who, as has been seen, were the chief magistrates of the commonwealth, and who had hitherto been selected out of the richest of its members, should for the future be elected indifferently from the general body of the Athenians, without distinction. Of the assemblies of the people, these were of two sorts, the one ordinary and fixed to certain days, for which no special summons was given; the other extraordinary or special, according to the different occasions that arose. In them all citizens, the poor as well as the rich, had an equal right of suffrage. All the great affairs of the republic were discussed in these assemblies. In them new laws were proposed and old ones amended or abrogated. All that related to religion and the worship of the gods was here examined; magistrates, generals, and officers chosen; peace or war conducted, treaties and alliances concluded, freedom of the city granted, rewards and honors decreed to those deserving of them, punishments ordained to violators of the law, and in fine, justice adminis

« 上一頁繼續 »