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    July 17, 1901

    “Ancient History Which Is Also Modern. Abandonment of the Constitution” The Signs of the Times 27, 29, p. 3.

    WE have seen thru an article last week that with a grand flourish and promise of the extension of the blessings of republican liberty, the republic of Rome sent her armies and navies across the sea to fight the battles of peoples who were struggling for liberty against the oppressions of kingships.SITI July 17, 1901, page 3.1

    We have seen her shortly and triumphantly deliver these struggling peoples from the oppressive power of kingships, and publish a proclamation promising to these peoples, liberty, self-government, and freedom from taxation—in once word independence.SITI July 17, 1901, page 3.2

    And we have seen her so evade her published promise as in every sense to disregard it, and compel from those peoples an acknowledgment of the universal and perpetual sovereignty of the republic of Rome.SITI July 17, 1901, page 3.3

    When the republic of Rome had gone thus far, it became essential that she should decide as to what should be done with these new territories and peoples. Since she had refused to them the self-government and independence which she had publicly promised, she was compelled, by the very necessities of the case, to decide how she herself would govern them. And this forced the question as to whether she would govern them according to the Roman constitution, or according to a new order of procedure adapted to the new circumstances; whether she should govern them with the constitution or without it.SITI July 17, 1901, page 3.4

    The earlier State law of Rome knew nothing of tributary subjects. The conquered communities [in the home territory if Italy] were either sold into slavery, or merged in the Roman commonwealth, or admitted to an alliance which secured to them at least communal independence and freedom from taxation.”—Mommsen. But since these people “had paid tithe and tribute to their former masters, it was, in the judgment of the shortsighted, the most judicious, and, if Rome was desirous of retaining these possessions at all, undoubtedly the most convenient, course to manage the new territories entirely in accordance with the rules” to which they had been subject under their former masters. Accordingly the Romans did not extend to the new possessions the Roman constitution, but continued there the original systems under Roman governorship. But “it was the shirt of Nessus which they inherited from the enemy.”—Mommsen.SITI July 17, 1901, page 3.5

    This expression “the shirt of Nessus” is a mythological reference; in the myth a shirt of Hercules was secretly tinged with the blood of the dying Nessus, which, when Hercules again put it on, caused his ruin. The thought of the historian is that when Rome would not extend to her new possessions her own constitution and the privileges of her own government, but held them as tributary subjects ruled by foreign laws, in that she took upon herself what corresponds in the myth to “the shirt of Nessus.” And as in the myth that shirt proved the ruin of him who wore it, so this abandonment of her constitution and the inauguration of this colonial system, proved the ruin of the republic or Rome.SITI July 17, 1901, page 3.6

    It is true that “at first the Roman government, in imposing taxes on their subjects, intended not strictly to enrich themselves, but only to cover the cost of administration and defense.... The fact, however, that they still maintained moderation in the imposition of burdens was of little consequence as compared with the conversion of their sovereignty into a profitable privilege at all; the FALL WAS THE SAME, whether a SINGLE APPEL WAS TAKEN or the TREE WAS PLUNDERED.”—Mommsen. The historian was writing on the all of the Roman republic, not the fall of her new possessions; and he says that the Roman empire fell when she refused to extend to her new possessions and peoples her own constitution, and made those peoples tributary subjects, even tho the taxes levied were to be spent upon and within the new possessions themselves. And he declares that when that was done, the fall of the republic of Rome “was the same, whether a single apple was taken or the tree plundered;” whether the tax imposed were a single sesterce or whole talents, a single cent or millions of dollars.SITI July 17, 1901, page 3.7

    Nor did the abandonment of her constitution by the republic of Rome stop with her refusal to extend it to the new possessions. Those who in that step conducted the government affairs thought to keep the constitution, and the government under it, intact at home, while refusing it to the new peoples abroad. But that step involved yet other issues, which forced the taking of yet other steps in abandonment of the constitution, in which those who were in power in the State “not only usurped in substance the government, but also remodeled the constitution according to their own views,” tho “they changed not the letter but merely the practice of the existing constitution.”—Mommsen.SITI July 17, 1901, page 3.8

    Such was the course followed by the republic of Rome, and onward to ruin; and all the people of the United States and of the whole world have seen the same course repeated so far, step by step and item by item, in the past three years and up to date, in the course of the republic of the United States.SITI July 17, 1901, page 3.9

    The course of the republic of Rome did not stop at this point; will the course of the republic of the United States stop at this point?SITI July 17, 1901, page 3.10

    As a matter of already accomplished fact, the course of the republic of the United States has not even paused at this point, but has passed yet further onward in the identical course of descent of the republic of Rome.SITI July 17, 1901, page 3.11

    This will be followed further next week.SITI July 17, 1901, page 3.12

    ALONZO T. JONES.

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