"But (I may be told) no commoner has been consul since the expulsion of the kings. What then? ought no [p. 254]
innovation to be introduced? and what has not yet been practised, (and in a new state there are many things not yet practised,) ought not even such measures, even though they be useful, be adopted?
During the reign of Romulus there were no pontiffs, nor augurs: they were appointed by Numa Pompilius. There was no census in the state, nor the distribution of centuries and classes; it was introduced by Servius Tullius: there never had been consuls; they were created after the expulsion of the kings.
Of a dictator neither the office nor the name had existed; it commenced its existence among the senators. There were no tribunes of the people, aediles, nor quaestors: it was resolved that those officers should be appointed. Within the last ten years we both created decemvirs for compiling laws, and we abolished them.
Who can doubt but that in a city doomed for eternal duration, increasing to an immense magnitude, new civil offices, priesthoods, rights of families and of individuals, may be established?
This very matter, that there should not be the right of intermarriage between patricians and commons, did not the decemvirs introduce within the last few years to the utmost injury of the commons, on a principle most detrimental to the public? Can there be a greater or more marked insult, than that one portion of the state, as if contaminated, should be deemed unworthy of intermarriage? What else is it than to suffer exile within the same walls, actual rustication?
They wish to prevent our being mixed with them by affinity or consanguinity; that our blood be not mingled with theirs. What?
if this cast a stain on that nobility of yours, which most of you, the progeny of Albans or Sabines, possess, not in right of birth or blood, but by co-optation into the patricians, having been elected either by the kings, or after the expulsion of kings, by order of the people, could ye not keep it pure by private regulations, by neither marrying into the commons, and by not suffering your daughters or sisters to marry out of the patricians. No one of the commons would offer violence to a patrician maiden; such lust as that belongs to the patricians.
None of them would oblige any man against his will to enter into a marriage contract.
But really that such a thing should be prevented by law, that the intermarriage of the patricians and plebeians should be interdicted, that it is which is insulting to the commons. Why do you not combine in enacting a [p. 255]
law that there shall be no intermarriage between rich and poor?
That which has in all places and always been the business of private regulations, that a woman might marry into whatever family she has been engaged to, and that each man might take a wife out of whatever family he had contracted with, that ye shackle with the restraints of a most tyrannical law, by which ye sever the bonds of civil society and split one state into two.
Why do ye not enact a law that a plebeian shall not dwell in the neighbourhood of a patrician? that he shall not go the same road with him? that he shall not enter the same banquet with him? that he shall not stand in the same forum? For what else is there in the matter, if a patrician man wed a plebeian woman, or a plebeian a patrician? What right, pray, is thereby changed?
the children surely go with the father. Nor is there any thing which we seek from intermarriage with you, except that we may be held in the number of human beings and fellow citizens; nor is there any reason why ye contest the point, except that it delights you to strive for insult and ignominy to us.