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ARISTOCRACY.                                       2$
of plebiscites, which by and by gained the force of laws bind-
ing on all citizens. But, as one could stay the proceedings
of the rest, it was not difficult to cause disunion among them
by influences of one kind or another. They appear in all
the dissensions of Rome, and especially in the later times of
the republican state, when they are found generally opposing
the interests of the optimatcs and the senate—the tribune
Octavius, who opposed his colleague C. Gracchus, being one
of the exceptions—and they contributed more than any
other magistrates to the downfall of the republic. With all
this they did much good. The tribunate had its use, says
Mommsen (u. s., i., 359), in pointing out legitimate paths of
opposition, and averting many a wrong ; but it is equally
evident that, where it did prove useful, it was employed for
very different objects from those for which it had been es-
tablished, "The bold experiment of allowing the leaders
of the opposition a constitutional veto, and of vesting them
with a right to assert it regardless of consequences, proved
to be an expedient by which the state was politically un-
hinged ; and social evils were prolonged by useless pallia-
tives/' And again, " this singular magistracy presented to
the commons an obvious and available aid, and yet could not
possibly carry out the necessary economic reforms [those
relating to the bad taxation, the system of credit and the
occupation of the domain-lands by the upper classes]* It
was no proof of political wisdom, but a wretched compromise
between the wealthy aristocracy and the leaderless multitude/'
(u. s,, i,, 358.)
The years following the establishment of the tribunate
were filled with violence, one of the worst instances of which
was the murder of the tribune Genucius in 281 A. U. C,,
just before his impeachment of two ex-consuls was to be
tried, This had, it would seem, the usual effect of political
crimes—it benefited the other party ; for in 283 U* C, a law
of Publilius Volero was proposed, by which the plebeian as-
semblies of the tribes (the comitid tribuiti) were first intro-
duced, and was earned ; at the same time, it is probable that