In like manner it seems to have become early the custom not to fill up the senators' places immediately on their falling vacant, but to revise and complete the roll of the senate on occasion of the census, consequently, as a rule, every fourth year; which also involved a not unimportant restriction on the authority entrusted with the selection. The whole number of the senators remained as before, and in this the -conscripti- were also included; from which fact we are probably entitled to infer the numerical falling off of the patriciate.(14)
Conservative Character Of The Revolution
We thus see that in the Roman commonwealth, even on the conversion of the monarchy into a republic, the old was as far as possible retained. So far as a revolution in a state can be conservative at all, this one was so; not one of the constituent elements of the commonwealth was really overthrown by it. This circumstance indicates the character of the whole movement. The expulsion of the Tarquins was not, as the pitiful and deeply falsified accounts of it represent, the work of a people carried away by sympathy and enthusiasm for liberty, but the work of two great political parties already engaged in conflict, and clearly aware that their conflict would steadily continue--the old burgesses and the --metoeci-- --who, like the English Whigs and Tories in 1688, were for a moment united by the common danger which threatened to convert the commonwealth into the arbitrary government of a despot, and differed again as soon as the danger was over. The old burgesses could not get rid of the monarchy without the cooperation of the new burgesses; but the new burgesses were far from being sufficiently strong to wrest the power out of the hands of the former at one blow. Compromises of this sort are necessarily limited to the smallest measure of mutual concessions obtained by tedious bargaining; and they leave the future to decide which of the constituent elements shall eventually preponderate, and whether they will work harmoniously together or counteract one another. To look therefore merely to the direct innovations, possibly to the mere change in the duration of the supreme magistracy, is altogether to mistake the broad import of the first Roman revolution: its indirect effects were by far the most important, and vaster doubtless than even its authors anticipated.
The New Community
This, in short, was the time when the Roman burgess-body in the later sense of the term originated. The plebeians had hitherto been --metoeci-- who were subjected to their share of taxes and burdens, but who were nevertheless in the eye of the law really nothing but tolerated aliens, between whose position and that of foreigners proper it may have seemed hardly necessary to draw a definite line of distinction. They were now enrolled in the lists as burgesses liable to military service, and, although they were still far from being on a footing of legal equality--although the old burgesses still remained exclusively entitled to perform the acts of authority constitutionally pertaining to the council of elders, and exclusively eligible to the civil magistracies and priesthoods, nay even by preference entitled to participate in the usufructs of burgesses, such as the joint use of the public pasture--yet the first and most difficult step towards complete equalization was gained from the time when the plebeians no longer served merely in the common levy, but also voted in the common assembly and in the common council when its opinion was asked, and the head and back of the poorest --metoikos-- were as well protected by the right of appeal as those of the noblest of the old burgesses.
One consequence of this amalgamation of the patricians and plebeians in a new corporation of Roman burgesses was the conversion of the old burgesses into a clan-nobility, which was incapable of receiving additions or even of filling up its own ranks, since the nobles no longer possessed the right of passing decrees in common assembly and the adoption of new families into the nobility by decree of the community appeared still less admissible. Under the kings the ranks of the Roman nobility had not been thus closed, and the admission of new clans was no very rare occurrence: now this genuine characteristic of patricianism made its appearance as the sure herald of the speedy loss of its political privileges and of its exclusive estimation in the community. The exclusion of the plebeians from all public magistracies and public priesthoods--while they were admissible to the position of officers and senators--and the maintenance, with perverse obstinacy, of the legal impossibility of marriage between old burgesses and plebeians, further impressed on the patriciate from the outset the stamp of an exclusive and wrongly privileged aristocracy.
A second consequence of the new union of the burgesses must have been a more definite regulation of the right of settlement, with reference both to the Latin confederates and to other states. It became necessary--not so much on account of the right of suffrage in the centuries (which indeed belonged only to the freeholder) as on account of the right of appeal, which was intended to be conceded to the plebeian, but not to the foreigner dwelling for a time or even permanently in Rome--to express more precisely the conditions of the acquisition of plebeian rights, and to mark off the enlarged burgess-body in its turn from those who were now the non-burgesses. To thisepoch therefore we may trace back--in the views and feelings of the people--both the invidiousness of the distinction between patricians and plebeians, and the strict and haughty line of demarcation between -cives Romani- and aliens. But the former civic distinction was in its nature transient, while the latter political one was permanent; and the sense of political unity and rising greatness, which was thus implanted in the heart of the nation, was expansive enough first to undermine and then to carry away with its mighty current those paltry distinctions.