Montesquieu

In Rome, jud­ges were selec­ted from the order of the sena­tors. The Gracchi trans­fer­red this pre­ro­ga­tive to the knights. Drusus gave it to sena­tors and knights, Sulla to sena­tors alone, Cotta to sena­tors, knights, and public trea­su­rers ; Cæsar exclu­ded the lat­ter ; Anthony made decu­rions of sena­tors, knights, and cen­tu­rions.

When a repu­blic is cor­rupt, none of the pro­blems that arise can be reme­died without get­ting rid of the cor­rup­tion and recal­ling the prin­ci­ples ; any other cor­rec­tion is either futile or a new pro­blem. While Rome pre­ser­ved her prin­ci­ples, judg­ments could without abuse remain in the hands of the sena­tors ; but when she was cor­rup­ted, to wha­te­ver body judg­ments were trans­fer­red – to the sena­tors, to the knights, to the public trea­su­rers, to two of these bodies, to all three toge­ther, to wha­te­ver other body it might be – things were still awry. The knights had no more vir­tue than the sena­tors, the public trea­su­rers no more than the knights, and the lat­ter as lit­tle as the cen­tu­rions.

When the peo­ple of Rome had obtai­ned the right of par­ti­ci­pa­tion in the patri­cian magis­tra­cies, it was natu­ral to think that their flat­te­rers would become the arbi­ters of the govern­ment. No, what hap­pe­ned was that the peo­ple, who were ope­ning magis­tra­cies to ple­beians, always elec­ted patri­cians. Because they were vir­tuous, they were magna­ni­mous ; because they were free, they dis­dai­ned power. But when they had lost their prin­ci­ples, the more power they had, the less com­pro­mi­sing they were, until finally, having become their own tyrant and their own sla­ves, they lost the strength of free­dom to fall into the weak­ness of license.