On the other side, however, the senate were discussing this secession of the plebs to a private house, which happened to be situated on the Capitol, and the great danger with which liberty was menaced.
A great many exclaimed that what was wanted was a Servilius Ahala, who would not simply irritate an enemy to the State by ordering him to be sent to prison, but would put an end to the intestine war by the sacrifice of a single citizen.
They finally took refuge in a resolution which was milder in its terms but possessed equal force, viz., that ‘the magistrates should see to it that the republic received no hurt from the mischievous designs of M. Manlius.’
Thereupon the consular tribunes and the tribunes of the plebs —for
these latter recognised that the end of liberty would also be the end of their power, and had, therefore, placed them- selves under the authority of the senate —all consulted together as to what were the necessary steps to take.
As no one could suggest anything but the employment of force and its inevitable bloodshed, while this would obviously lead to a frightful struggle, M. Menenius and Q. Publilius, tribunes of the plebs, spoke as follows: ‘Why are we making that which ought to be a contest between the State and one pestilent citizen into a conflict between patricians and plebeians?
Why do we attack the plebs through him when it is so much safer to attack him through the plebs, so that he may sink into ruin under the weight of his own strength? It is our intention to fix a day for his trial.
Nothing is less desired by the people than kingly power. As soon as that body of plebeians become aware that the quarrel is not with them, and find that from being his supporters they have become his judges; as soon as they see a patrician on his trial, and learn that the charge before them is one of aiming at monarchy, they will not show favour to any man more than to their own liberty.’