VIII.14 How the smallest change in the constitution entails the ruin of principles

Aristotle speaks to us of the repu­blic of Carthage as a very well-orde­red repu­blic. Polybius1 tells us that Carthage in the second Punic War faced the pro­blem that the senate had lost almost all its autho­rity. Livy informs us that when Hannibal retur­ned to Carthage, he found that the magis­tra­tes and the prin­ci­pal citi­zens were diver­ting the public reve­nues to their pro­fit and abu­sing their power. The vir­tue of the magis­tra­tes thus fell with the autho­rity of the senate ; it all flo­wed from the same prin­ci­ple.

The won­ders of cen­sor­ship among the Romans are well known. There was a time when it became oppres­sive ; but it was main­tai­ned because there was more luxury than cor­rup­tion. Claudius wea­ke­ned it,2 and through this wea­ke­ning, cor­rup­tion became even grea­ter than luxury, and cen­sor­ship abo­li­shed itself.3

About a hundred years later. [Historiæ, book III ; Les cinq premiers livres, p. 83.]

See below, book XI, ch. xii.

The tribunes prevented them from making the cens, and opposed their election. See Cicero to Atticus, book IV, letters x and xv.