the Twelve Tables

Miss Amanda Bullis

Dear Amanda,

You are at an age where you will soon be hearing of the social contract. I thought you might like a copy of a few. Oddly enough your ancestors on your father’s side started having written ones a century before Jean Jacques Rousseau introduced the concept to continental currency. Of course that is nothing. On your Mother’s side the concept goes back well over two millennia. Rousseau would have it that the contract and its rewards are not defined and are subject to the general will of society. The English knew better. They learned from the Romans. If a contract exists it must be written and have a meaning that endures. And it must have the same meaning for all people. Else why have a contract? Not to mention a written one.

Do you know of the Twelve Tables? The Romans had two classes: The Patricians and the Plebeians. The Patricians insisted that the laws were sacred. Too sacred to be viewed by the unenlightened. The priests were in charge of the laws. Oddly enough, all the priests – Flamens – were of the upper class; the Patricians. The uneducated would just be confused by the laws anyway. [ Rather like the USA since the 1940’s. Our modern dictum is that the Constitution means whatever the Supreme Court says it does. Regardless of the words.] The poorer Plebeians got fed up with this state and conducted something between a general strike and a civil war. They demanded the laws be posted in public. What the histories so carefully do not say is that the laws did not exist. Note well, this sad truth is indicated by the formation of committees to write the laws rather than the exposing of the supposedly sacred and extant laws. They studied famous, successful codes of law. Especially Greek ones. They were written up in twelve tables and placed in public.

So think of this as your copy of the twelve tables. Words which men and women died to purchase. View them well.

Happy Birthday,

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