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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

For the first constitutio principis


3511: It is an important question in what manner the emperors were invested with this legislative power. The newly discovered Gaius distinctly states that it was in virtue of a law--Nec unquam dubitatum est, quin id legis vicem obtineat, cum ipse imperator per legem imperium accipiat. But it is still uncertain whether this was a general law, passed on the transition of the government from a republican to a monarchical form, or a law passed on the accession of each emperor. Compare Hugo, Hist. du Droit Romain, (French translation,) vol. ii. p. 8.--M.]

[Footnote 36: His laws are the first in the code. See Dodwell, (Praelect. Cambden, p. 319--340,) who wanders from the subject in confused reading and feeble paradox. * Note: This is again an error which Gibbon shares with Heineccius, and the generality of authors. It arises from having mistaken the insignificant edict of Hadrian, inserted in the Code of Justinian, (lib. vi, tit. xxiii. c. 11,) for the first constitutio principis, without attending to the fact, that the Pandects contain so many constitutions of the emperors, from Julius Caesar, (see l. i. Digest 29, l) M. Hugo justly observes, that the acta of Sylla, approved by the senate, were the same thing with the constitutions of those who after him usurped the sovereign power. Moreover, we find that Pliny, and other ancient authors, report a multitude of rescripts of the emperors from the time of Augustus. See Hugo, Hist. du Droit Romain, vol.

ii. p. 24-27.--W.]

[Footnote 37: Totam illam veterem et squalentem sylvam legum novis principalium rescriptorum et edictorum securibus truncatis et caeditis; (Apologet. c. 4, p. 50, edit. Havercamp.) He proceeds to praise the recent firmness of Severus, who repealed the useless or pernicious laws, without any regard to their age or authority.]

[Footnote 38: The constitutional style of Legibus Solutus is misinterpreted by the art or ignorance of Dion Cassius, (tom. i. l. liii. p. 713.) On this occasion, his editor, Reimer, joins the universal censure which freedom and criticism have pronounced against that slavish historian.]

[Footnote 39: The word (Lex Regia) was still more recent than the thing. The slaves of Commodus or Caracalla would have started at the name of royalty. Note: Yet a century before, Domitian was called not only by Martial but even in public documents, Dominus et Deus Noster. Sueton. Domit. cap. 13. Hugo.--W.]

[Footnote 40: See Gravina (Opp. p. 501--512) and Beaufort, (Republique Romaine, tom. i. p. 255--274.) He has made a proper use of two dissertations by John Frederic Gronovius and Noodt, both translated, with valuable notes, by Barbeyrac, 2 vols. in 12mo. 1731.]

[Footnote 41: Institut. l. i. tit. ii. No. 6. Pandect. l. i. tit. iv. leg. 1. Cod. Justinian, l. i. tit. xvii. leg. 1, No. 7. In his Antiquities and Elements, Heineccius has amply treated de constitutionibus principum, which are illustrated by Godefroy (Comment. ad Cod. Theodos. l. i. tit. i. ii. iii.) and Gravina, (p. 87--90.) ----Note: Gaius asserts that the Imperial edict or rescript has and always had, the force of law, because the Imperial authority rests upon law. Constitutio principis est, quod imperator decreto vel edicto, vel epistola constituit, nee unquam dubitatum, quin id legis, vicem obtineat, cum ipse imperator per legem imperium accipiat. Gaius, 6 Instit. i. 2.--M.]

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