THE SECOND VOLUME OF THE LIFE OF CiESAR.* THE second
volume of the Life of etemr, by Napoleon, is exceed- ingly dull. The strange interest of the situation, the character of the first Cmaar analyzed by the last, the career of the Roman conqueror of Gaul described by the representative of the Gauls now garrisoning Rome, almost entirely disappears, and we have simply a scholar of moderate attainments paraphrasing the well known Commentaries. Doubtless the work will be valuable here- after, both to antiquaries and soldiers. Immense resources have been expended in elucidating every geographical allusion, excava- tions having, for example, been carried on for months upon the sites of probable camps, and the Emperor, like all born rulers, having a topographical instinct. His description of ancient Gaul, with its subdivisions, is probably the most " valuable " passage in the literary sense in the whole book, and wants nothing except an • Iii.tory of Jaw Cava.. Vol. IL The Wars is Gad. Loudon: Gesse3, Fetter, sod
ethnological commentary to be quite perfect, the Emperor assum- iug the Celtic character of the majority of the tribes with little effort at demonstration. The description commences with a paragraph which diplomatists may read with advantage and three nations with some alarm:—" Transalpine Gaul had for its boundaries the ocean, the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean, the Alps, and the Rhine. This portion of Europe, so well marked out by nature, comprised what is now France, nearly the whole of Switzerland, the Rhine Provinces, Belgium, and the south of Holland. It had the form of an irregular pentagon, and the country of the Carnutes (the Orle'anais) was considered to be its centre." The account of the constitution, so to speak, of the tribes is less careful, the Emperor being unable to avoid the mis- take of giving a double meaning to his words, one explanatory of the ancient fact, another justifying some modern practice of his own. Thus he attributes the loss of Gallic independence to the absence of a standing army, which he regards as the essential guarantee of national freedom, though all the successors of Alex- ander who maintained real standing armies were conquered, though the conquering Roman army was not, while conquering, anything but the body of citizens in arms, and though the most in- dependent nation now existing has hitherto maintained no army whatever. So also he pens this odd paragraph not to explain the power of the Gallic magistrates, who were really clan leaders, and nothing else, but to justify his own oppression of the press:— " Affairs of the State were allowed to be treated only in these assemblies. It appertained to the magistrates alone to publish or conceal events, according as they judged expedient ; and it was a sacred duty for any one who learnt, eitlier from without or from public rumour, any news which concerned the civitas, to give information of it to the magistrate, without revealing it to any other person. This measure had for its object to prevent rash or ignorant men from being led into error by false reports, and from rushing, under this first impression, into extravagant resolutions." This incessant reference to his own time occasionally lends new.
interest to his comments, but it always tends to obscure his per- ception, or at any rate his account of the age he is describing.
The military narrative is clear, but a little heavy, the following description of the first battle ever fought by Rome at sea being selected as a favourable example. The Veneti were in insurrec- tion, and Czesar, after a series of ineffectual attempts by land, called the fleet to his aid, and invented a system of tactics which made his legionaries useful on the water :—
" It was the first time that a Roman fleet appeared on the ocean. Everything conspired to disconcert Brutus, as well as the tribunes of the soldiers and the centurions who commanded each vessel: the im- potence of the beaks against the Gaulish ships; the height of the enemy's poop; which overlooked even the high towers of the Roman vessels ; and lastly, the inefficiency of the missiles thrown upwards. The military chiefs were hesitating, and had already experienced some loss, when, to remedy this disadvantage, they imagined a method having some analogy with that to which Duillins owed his victory over the Carthaginians in 492: they tried to disable the Gaulish vessels by the aid of hooks (fakes) similar to those which were used in attacks on fortresses (non almindli forma muralium falcium). The fair was an iron with a point and sharpened hook, fixed at the end of long pole; which, suspended to the mast by ropes, received an impulsion similar to that of the ram. One or more ships approached a Gaulish vessel, and, as soon as the crew had succeeded in catching with one of these hooks the ropes which attached the yards to the masts, the sailors rowed away with all their strength, so as to break or cut the cords. The yards fell ; the disabled vessel was immediately surrounded by the Roman; who boarded it; and then all depended on mere valour. This mancenvre was completely successful. The soldiers of the fleet, knowing that no act of courage could pass unperceived by Ccesar and the land troops, emulated one another in zeal, and captured several of the enemy's ves- sels. The Gauls prepared to seek their safety in flight. They had already swerved their ships to the wind, when suddenly there came on a dead calm. This unexpected occurrence decided the victory. Left without the possibility of moving, the heavy Gaulish vessels were cap- tured one after another ; a very small number succeeded in gaining the coast under favour of the night. The battle, which began at ten o'clock in the morning, had lasted till sunset. It terminated the war with the Venal and the other maritime peoples of the ocean. They lost in it, at one blow, all their youth, all their principal citizens, and all their fleet ; without refuge, without the means of defending any longer their oppida, they surrendered themselves, bodies and goods. Ccesar, wishing to com- pel the Gauls in future to respect the rights of nations, caused the whole senate to be put to death, and the rest of the inhabitants to be sold for slaves."
Perhaps the most original paragraph in the book is one intended to explain the sources from which Csesar drew the immense sums he expended in the corruption of the party chiefs of Rome. There is no greater puzzle in the history of property than the income of the Roman party chiefs. The great patricians possessed no doubt vast estates, estates perhaps as large in territorial extent as those of the millionaires of South America, and cultivated by immense gangs of white slaves, held to order by a discipline so cruel that they were "used up" more rapidly than slaves in Cubs, and
restrained from insurrection only by savage punishments and the extraordinary coherence of the dominant Italian caste. The nobles, with their monopoly of action, inherited also vast masses of treasure, plundered from Greece and Asia, treasure which was most of it capable of conversion, and which bore to currency and to corn a proportionate value never since equalled. We are apt, when we hear of the gold and silver vases of a great patrician,
-to think of them according to a modern standard, forgetting that in Rome a gold vessel melted down would purchase fifty or sixty times the amount of coin or labour which it could now secure. A man's plate was in those days a real treasure, as it still is in
parts of Asia, a treasure which might redeem his fortunes. The mvenues of these vast estates, again, and all disposable spoil, were -capable of investment at rates of interest which in Europe we now think immoderate, but which in parts of India and China are paid to this hour. Manufactures, for example, were carried on by bor- rowed capital used in the purchase of slaves, who, being cheap, white, and cruelly oppressed, earned returns for their lords amply sufficient to pay the extravagant usance. Partly, too, from ignorance of the true principles of taxation, and partly from a difficulty about .currency which runs throughout the history of the Republic, and
has never been fairly investigated, kings, municipalities, and even
nations, were always borrowing specie, the usance of which was levied with excessive rigour, the Senate allowing the employ- ment of soldiery in the task. In these ways the wealth of a man like Crassus is intelligible, even if the millionaires did not act, as we strongly suspect they did, as bankers on a great
scale, but Cmsar from a very early period exhausted his resources.
He was overwhelmed with debts, yet during the Gallic war we find him rebuilding the basilica of the Forum eta cost of 60,000,000 .sestertii (450,0001.), and after it giving Antony 1,500 talents, building villas, making huge presents to towns, and otherwise demonstrating his command of enormous treasure. The Emperor .explains with great clearness as to facts and great ignorance as to their meaning the source of this acquired wealth. It was the profit on a slave trade of unexampled magnitude, which filled the patrician estates in Italy, Sicily, Greece, the islands, Spain, and the southern Mediterranean with new "hands."
"We can hardly understand how Creear, while be was paying his -army, could support such sacrifices, and meet, at the same time, so many -other expenses. To increase by his largosses the number of his par- tizans in Rome ; to cause to be built in the Narbonnese theatres and monuments ; near Aricia, in Italy, a magnificent villa ; to send rich presents to distant towns ; such were his burthena. How, to meet them, could he draw money enough from a province exhausted by eight years' war? The immensity of his resources is explained by the cir- -cametance that, independently of the tributes paid by the vanquished, -which amounted, for Gaul to 40,000,000 seatertii a year (more than 7,500,000 franca) [300,0001.], the sale of prisoners to Roman traders prodticed enormous sums. Cicero informs us that he gained 12,000,000 sestertii from the captives sold after the unimportant siege of Pinden- issus. If we suppose that their number amounted to 12,000, this sum -would represent 1,000 sestertii a bead. Now, in spite of Camar's generosity in often restoring the captives to the conquered peoples, or in making gifts of them to his soldiers, as was the case after the siege of Alesia, we may admirthat 500,000 Gauls, Germans, or Britons were -sold as slaves during the eight years of the war in Gaul, which must have produced a sum of about 500,000,000 sestertii, or about 95,000,000 .francs [3,800,000/]. It was thus Roman money, given by the slave- -dealers, which formed the greatest part of the booty, in the same manner as in modern times, when, in distant expeditions, the European mations take possession of the foreign custom-houses to pay the cuts of the war, it is still European money which forms the advance for the .costs."
'That is a funny comment, and shows that the free-trading Emperor is still hampered by some of the old confusion between property and currency. The Mexican duties are import duties, -and need not fall on Europe, but on the produce of the Mexican mines, which may pay for the goods imported as well as the duties. Napoleon of course does not trouble himself to defend the cruelty -of Cmsar's proceeding, one probably unexampled in the sum which At must have added to the aggregate of human misery, but we
wish he had added one of his remarkable notes upon the ex- traordinary consumption of slaves throughout the Roman world.
We believe the true explanation is the disproportion which existed 'between the sexes, the soldiery keeping the women while they sold the men, the women dying rapidly in the terrible marches to market, and the price of ordinary women scarcely tempting the slave-catchers; 'but Napoleon has at his disposal the means of collating a hundred writers, establishing a theory by irresistible evidence, and so mxplaining finally the problem of the old world, the rapid decay of .the working population.
The Emperor perceives clearly and states distinctly that Pompey was the representative of the old organization of Rome, but he underrates very considerably the means at his disposal, and forgets how completely the pataiciat and the bureaucracy were
identified in the Roman world. He is evidently of opinion that Pompey should not have fought, as the advantage of physical resources was on his opponent's aide, and forgets how equal the struggle ultimately proved. His general Burnes-try of the merits of Caesar's action is perhaps the most remarkable passage in the volume:— " The moment for action had arrived. Cesar was reduced to tho alternative of maintaining himself at the head of his army, in spite of the Senate, or surrendering himself to his enemies, who would have reserved for him the fate of the accomplices of Catiline, who had been condemned to death, if he were not, like the Gracehi, Saturninus, and so many other, killed in a popular tumult. Here the question naturally offers itself : Ought not Cassar, who had so often faced death on the battle-fields, have gone to Rome to face it under another form, and to have renounced his command, rather than engage in a struggle which must throw the Republic into all the horrors of a civil war? Yes, if by his abnegation he could save Rome from anarchy, corruption, and tyranny. No, if this abnegation would endanger what he had most at heart, the regeneration of the Republic. Ca3sar, like men of his temper, cared little for life, and still less for power for the sake of power ; but, as chief of the popular party, he felt a great cause rise behind him ; it urged him forward, and obliged him to conquer in despite of legality, the imprecations of his adversaries, and the uncertain judgment of posterity. Roman society, in a state of dissolution, asked for a master ; oppressed Italy, for a representative of its rights; the world, bowed under the yoke, for a saviour. Ought he, by deserting his mission, to disappoint so many legitimate hopes, so many noble aspirations? What! Cresar, who owed all his dignities to the people, and confining himself within his right, should he have retired before Pompey, who, having become the docile tool of a factions minority of the Senate, was trampling right and justice under foot, before Pompey, who, according to the admission of Cicero him- self, would have been, after victory, a cruel and vindictive despot, and would have allowed the world to be plundered for the benefit of a few families, incapable, moreover, of arresting the decay of the Republic, and founding an order of things sufficiently firm to retard the invasion of barbarians for many centuries ? He would have retreated before a party which reckoned it a crime to repair the evils caused by the violence of Sylla, and the severity of Pompey, by recalling the exiles ; to give rights to the peoples of Italy; to distribute lands among the poor and the veterans ; and, by an equitable administration, to ensure the prosperity of the provinces ! It would have been madness. The question had not the mean proportions of a quarrel between two generals who contended for power ; it was the decisive conflict between two hostile causes, between the privileged classes and the people ; it was the continuation of the for- midable struggle between Marius and Sylla! There are imperious cir- cumstances which condemn public men either to abnegation or to per- severance. To cling to power when one is no longer able to do good, and when, as a representative of the past, one has, as it were, no partizans but among those who live upon abuses, is a deplorable obstinacy ; to abandon it when one is the representative of a new era, and the hope of a better future, is a cowardly act and a crime It is not granted to man, notwithstanding his genius and power, to raise at will the popular waves ; yet when, elected by the public voice, he appears in the midst of the storm which endangers the vessel of the State, then he alone can direct its course and bring it to the harbour. Cresar was not therefore the instigator of this profound perturbation of Roman society.; he had become the indispensable pilot. Had it been otherwise, when he disappeared all would have returned to order; on the contrary, his death gave up the whole universe to all the horrors of war. Europe, Asia, Africa, were the theatre of sanguinary struggles between the put and the future, and the Roman world did not find peace until the heir of his name had made his cause triumph. But it was no longer possible for Augustus to renew the work of Quer ; fourteen years of civil war had exhausted the strength of the nation and used up the characters ; the men imbued with the great principles of the past were dead ; the sur- vivors had alternately served all parties ; to succeed, Augustus himself had made peace with the murderers of his adoptive father; the convic- tions were extinct, and the world, longing for rest, no longer contained the elements which would have permitted Ca3sar, as was his intention, to re-establish the Republic in its ancient splendour and its ancient forms, but on new principles."
There is an inconsistency in that passage, the author declaring first that the Senate was with Pompey, which is true, and then that he was supported only by a factious minority, which is incon- sistent with all that is known of the Senate's action ; but he is in fact not thinking of either Pompey or Caner, but of himself and that demand for the surrender of his absolute power which the French Opposition has so repeatedly made. He decides to retain it, not for the reinvigoration of society, but because all men being corrupt and convictions exhausted, he is a necessity to secure to the world the " rest " for which it longs. Does Napoleon per- chance dream of founding a dynasty of Caesars?