The Roman burgesses again were any thing but a rabble. They were composed of men of standing and wealth. If they did not compose the motive-power, they constituted a firm foundation of the state. They had a clear conception of the common good, and a sagacity in the election of rulers, and a spirit of sacrifice for the general interests. They had a lofty patriotism that nothing could seduce. The rabble of Rome were of no account until the enormous wealth of the senatorial houses raised up clients and parasites. And when this rabble, who were merely the dependents of the rich, obtained the privilege of voting, then the decline of liberties was rapid and fearful, since they were merely the tools of powerful demagogues.
[Balance of power.]
Thus the nobility was not composed exclusively of patrician families, although these were the most numerous, but of old plebeian families also, in the same way that the English House of Lords is composed of families which trace their origin to Saxons as well as Normans, although the Normans, for several centuries, were the governing class. And as the House of Lords has accessions occasionally from the ranks of the people, in consequence of great wealth, or political interest, or eminent genius, or signal success in war, so the Roman nobility was increased, as old families died out, by the successful generals who gained the great offices of state. Marius arose from the people, but his exploits in the field of battle insured his entrance among the nobility in consequence of the offices he held, even as the Lord Chancellors of England, who have been eminent lawyers merely, are made herditary peers in consequence of their judicial position.