CHAPTER XXXV - THE REASON WHY THE CREATION OF THE DECEMVIRS IN ROME WAS HARMFUL TO THE LIBERTY OF THAT REPUBLIC, NOTWITHSTANDING THAT IT WAS CREATED BY PUBLIC AND FREE SUFFRAGE- Machiavelli, "Discourses on Titus Livy"
The election of the Ten citizens (Decemvirs) created by the Roman people to make the laws in Rome, who in time became Tyrants, and without any regard took away her liberty, appears to be contrary to what was discussed above, that that authority which is taken by violence, not that which is given by suffrage, harms the Republics. Here, however, the methods of giving authority and the time for which it is given, ought to be considered. For when free authority is given for a long time ((calling a long time a year or more)) it is always dangerous and will produce effects either good or bad, according as those upon whom it is conferred are good or bad. And if the authority given to the Ten and that which the Dictators have are considered, it will be seen beyond comparison that that of the Ten is greater. For when a Dictator was created there remained the Tribunes, Consuls, (and) the Senate, with all their authority, and the Dictator could not take it away from them; and even if he should have been able to remove anyone from the Consulship, or from the Senate, he could not suppress the Senatorial order and make new laws. So that the Senate, the Consuls, and the Tribunes, remaining with their authority, came to be as his guard to prevent him form going off from the right road. But in the creation of the Ten all the contrary occurred, for they annulled the Consuls and the Tribunes, and they were given authority to make laws and do every other thing as the Roman People had. So that, finding themselves alone, without Consuls, without Tribunes, without the appeal to the People, and because of this not having anyone to observe them, moved by the ambitions of Appius, they were able in the second year to become insolent. And because of this, it ought to be noted that when (we said) an authority given by free suffrage never harmed any Republic, it presupposed that a People is never led to give it except with limited powers and for limited times: but when either from having been deceived or for some other reason it happens that they are induced to give it imprudently and in the way in which the Roman people gave it to the Ten, it will always happen as it did to them (Romans). This is easily proven, considering the reasons that kept the Dictators good and that made the Ten bad: and considering also how those Republics which have been kept well ordered have done in giving authority for a long (period of) time, as the Spartans gave to their King, and how the Venetians give to their Doges; for it will be seen in both these methods, guardians were appointed who watched that the Kings (and the Doges) could not ill use that authority. Nor is it of any benefit in this case that the people are not corrupted, for an absolute authority in a very brief time corrupts the people, and makes friends and partisans for itself. Nor is it harmful either to be poor or not to have relatives, for riches and every other favor quickly will run after power, as we will discuss in detail in the creation of the said Ten.