Every member of the senate accordingly was as such, not in practice but in prerogative, likewise king of the community; and therefore his insignia, though inferior to those of the king, were of a similar character: he wore the red shoe like the king; only that of the king was higher and more handsome than that of the senator. On this ground, moreover, as was already mentioned, the royal power in the Roman community could never be left vacant When the king died, the elders at once took his place and exercised the prerogatives of regal power. According to the immutable principle however that only one can be master at a time, even now it was only one of them that ruled, and such an "interim king" (-interrex-) was distinguished from the king nominated for life simply in respect to the duration, not in respect to the plenitude, of his authority. The duration of the office of -interrex- was fixed for the individual holders at not more than five days; it circulated accordingly among the senators on the footing that, until the royal office was again permanently filled up, the temporary holder at the expiry of that term nominated a successor to himself, likewise for five days, agreeably to the order of succession fixed by lot. There was not, as may readily be conceived, any declaration of allegiance to the -interrex- on the part of the community. Nevertheless the -interrex- was entitled and bound not merely to perform all the official acts otherwise pertaining to the king, but even to nominate a king for life-- with the single exception, that this latter right was not vested in the first who held the office, presumably because the first was regarded as defectively appointed inasmuch as he was not nominated by his predecessor. Thus this assembly of elders was the ultimate holder of the ruling power (-imperium-) and the divine protection (-auspicia-) of the Roman commonwealth, and furnished the guarantee for the uninterrupted continuance of that commonwealth and of its monarchical--though not hereditarily monarchical--organization. If therefore this senate subsequently seemed to the Greeks to be an assembly of kings, this was only what was to be expected; it had in fact been such originally.
The Senate And The Resolutions Of The Community: -Patrum Auctoritas-
But it was not merely in so far as the idea of a perpetual kingdom found its living expression in this assembly, that it was an essential member of the Roman constitution. The council of elders, indeed, had no title to interfere with the official functions of the king. The latter doubtless, in the event of his being unable personally to lead the army or to decide a legal dispute, took his deputies at all times from the senate; for which reason subsequently the highest posts of command were regularly bestowed on senators alone, and senators were likewise employed by preference as jurymen. But the senate, in its collective capacity, was never consulted in the leading of the army or in the administration of justice; and therefore there was no right of military command and no jurisdiction vested in the senate of the later Rome. On the other hand the council of elders was held as called to the guardianship of the existing constitution against encroachments by the king and the burgesses. On the senate devolved the duty of examining every resolution adopted by the burgesses at the suggestion of the king, and of refusing to confirm it if it seemed to violate existing rights; or, which was the same thing, in all cases where a resolution of the community was constitutionally requisite--as on every alteration of the constitution, on the reception of new burgesses, on the declaration of an aggressive war--the council of elders had a right of veto. This may not indeed be regarded in the light of legislation pertaining jointly to the burgesses and the senate, somewhat in the same way as to the two chambers in the constitutional state of the present day; the senate was not so much law-maker as law-guardian, and could only cancel a decree when the community seemed to have exceeded its competence--to have violated by its decree existing obligations towards the gods or towards foreign states or organic institutions of the community. But still it was a matter of the greatest importance that--to take an example--when the Roman king had proposed a declaration of war and the burgesses had converted it into a decree, and when the satisfaction which the foreign community seemed bound to furnish had been demanded in vain, the Roman envoy invoked the gods as witnesses of the wrong and concluded with the words, "But on these matters we shall consult the elders at home how we may obtain our rights;" it was only when the council of elders had declared its consent, that the war now decreed by the burgesses and approved by the senate was formally declared. Certainly it was neither the design nor the effect of this rule to occasion a constant interference of the senate with the resolutions of the burgesses, and by such guardianship to divest them of their sovereign power; but, as in the event of a vacancy in the supreme office the senate secured the continuance of the constitution, we find it here also as the shield of legal order in opposition even to the supreme power--the community.
The Senate As State-Council
With this arrangement was probably connected the apparently very ancient usage, in virtue of which the king previously submitted to the senate the proposals that were to be brought before the burgesses, and caused all its members one after another to give their opinion on the subject. As the senate had the right of cancelling the resolution adopted, it was natural for the king to assure himself beforehand that no opposition was to be apprehended from that quarter; as indeed in general, on the one hand, it was in accordance with Roman habits not to decide matters of importance without having taken counsel with other men, and on the other hand the senate was called, in virtue of its very composition, to act as a state-council to the ruler of the community.