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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

Or to extraordinary inquisitors


[Footnote

198: Justinian, Novel. lxxvii. cxxxiv. cxli. Procopius in Anecdot. c. 11, 16, with the notes of Alemannus. Theophanes, p. 151. Cedrenus. p. 688. Zonaras, l. xiv. p. 64.]

[Footnote 199: Montesquieu, Esprit des Loix, l. xii. c. 6. That eloquent philosopher conciliates the rights of liberty and of nature, which should never be placed in opposition to each other.]

[Footnote 200: For the corruption of Palestine, 2000 years before the Christian aera, see the history and laws of Moses. Ancient Gaul is stigmatized by Diodorus Siculus, (tom. i. l. v. p. 356,) China by the Mahometar and Christian travellers, (Ancient Relations of India and China, p. 34 translated by Renaudot, and his bitter critic the Pere Premare, Lettres Edifiantes, tom. xix. p. 435,) and native America by the Spanish historians, (Garcilasso de la Vega, l. iii. c. 13, Rycaut's translation; and Dictionnaire de Bayle, tom. iii. p. 88.) I believe, and hope, that the negroes, in their own country, were exempt from this moral pestilence.]

The free citizens of Athens and Rome enjoyed, in all criminal cases, the invaluable privilege of being tried by their country. [201] 1. The administration of justice is the most ancient office of a prince: it was exercised by the Roman kings, and abused by Tarquin; who alone, without law or council, pronounced his arbitrary judgments. The first consuls succeeded to this regal prerogative;

but the sacred right of appeal soon abolished the jurisdiction of the magistrates, and all public causes were decided by the supreme tribunal of the people. But a wild democracy, superior to the forms, too often disdains the essential principles, of justice: the pride of despotism was envenomed by plebeian envy, and the heroes of Athens might sometimes applaud the happiness of the Persian, whose fate depended on the caprice of a single tyrant. Some salutary restraints, imposed by the people or their own passions, were at once the cause and effect of the gravity and temperance of the Romans. The right of accusation was confined to the magistrates.

A vote of the thirty five tribes could inflict a fine; but the cognizance of all capital crimes was reserved by a fundamental law to the assembly of the centuries, in which the weight of influence and property was sure to preponderate. Repeated proclamations and adjournments were interposed, to allow time for prejudice and resentment to subside: the whole proceeding might be annulled by a seasonable omen, or the opposition of a tribune; and such popular trials were commonly less formidable to innocence than they were favorable to guilt. But this union of the judicial and legislative powers left it doubtful whether the accused party was pardoned or acquitted; and, in the defence of an illustrious client, the orators of Rome and Athens address their arguments to the policy and benevolence, as well as to the justice, of their sovereign. 2. The task of convening the citizens for the trial of each offender became more difficult, as the citizens and the offenders continually multiplied; and the ready expedient was adopted of delegating the jurisdiction of the people to the ordinary magistrates, or to extraordinary inquisitors. In the first ages these questions were rare and occasional. In the beginning of the seventh century of Rome they were made perpetual: four praetors were annually empowered to sit in judgment on the state offences of treason, extortion, peculation, and bribery; and Sylla added new praetors and new questions for those crimes which more directly injure the safety of individuals. By these inquisitors the trial was prepared and directed; but they could only pronounce the sentence of the majority of judges, who with some truth, and more prejudice,


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