XI.17 On executive authority in the same republic

If the peo­ple were jea­lous of their legis­la­tive autho­rity, they were less so of their exe­cu­tive autho­rity. They left it almost enti­rely to the senate and the consuls, and reser­ved to them­sel­ves only the right to elect the magis­tra­tes and to confirm the acts of the senate and the gene­rals.

Rome’s pas­sion was to com­mand, and her ambi­tion was to sub­ject eve­ryone ; she had always usur­ped, and was still usur­ping ; she conti­nually had great cau­ses ; her ene­mies were cons­pi­ring against her, or she was cons­pi­ring against her ene­mies.

The state of things requi­red the senate, obli­ged to conduct itself on the one hand with heroic cou­rage, and on the other with consum­mate wis­dom, to be in charge of things. The peo­ple vied with the senate for every branch of legis­la­tive autho­rity, because they were jea­lous of their free­dom ; they did not vie with it for the bran­ches of exe­cu­tive autho­rity, because they were jea­lous of their glory.

The part that the senate took in the exe­cu­tive autho­rity was so great that Polybius says forei­gners all thought Rome was an aris­to­cracy.1 The senate admi­nis­te­red the public funds and far­med out the reve­nues ; it was the arbi­ter of the affairs of allies ; it deci­ded on war and peace, and direc­ted the consuls in this regard ; it set the num­ber of Roman and allied troops, dis­tri­bu­ted the pro­vin­ces and armies to the consuls or præ­tors, and when their year of com­mand was over it could give them a suc­ces­sor ; it awar­ded triumphs, recei­ved and sent embas­sies ; it named kings, remu­ne­ra­ted them, puni­shed them, jud­ged them, gave or retrac­ted the desi­gna­tion of ally of the Roman peo­ple.

The consuls rai­sed the troops they were to lead into war ; they com­man­ded the armies on land or sea ; dis­po­sed of the allies ; in the pro­vin­ces they had all the autho­rity of the repu­blic ; they gave peace to van­qui­shed peo­ples, impo­sed condi­tions for it, or sent them to deal with the senate.

In the ear­liest times, when the peo­ple took some part in the busi­ness of war and peace, they exer­ci­sed rather the legis­la­tive than the exe­cu­tive autho­rity. They scar­cely did more than confirm what the kings, and after them the consuls or the senate, had done. Far from the peo­ple being the arbi­ter of war, we see that the consuls or the senate often waged war des­pite the oppo­si­tion of their tri­bu­nes. But in the gid­di­ness of pros­pe­ri­ties, they increa­sed their exe­cu­tive autho­rity. And so they them­sel­ves crea­ted the tri­bu­nes of the legions, which the gene­rals had named until then2 ; and some time before the first Punic War they decreed that they alone would have the right to declare war.3

Book VI. [Les cinq premiers livres, p. 208.]

In the year of Rome 444. Livy, first Decade, book IX. The war against Perseus appearing perilous, a senatus consultum ordered this law to be suspended, and the people constented to it (Livy, fifth Decade, book II).

They took it away from the senate, says Freinsheim, second Decade, book VI.