The plebeians then began to watch narrowly the countenances of the patricians, and (hoped) to catch the breeze of liberty from that quarter, by apprehending slavery from which, they had brought the republic into its present condition.
The leading members of the senate detested the decemvirs, detested the commons; they neither approved of what was going on, and they considered that what befell the latter was not without their deserving it.
They were unwilling to assist men who, by rushing too eagerly towards liberty, had fallen into slavery: they even heaped injuries on them, that, from their disgust at the present state of things, two consuls and the former mode of government may at length become desirable.
The greater part of the year was now passed, and two tables of laws had been added to the ten tables of the former year; and if these laws also were once passed in an assembly of the centuries, there now remained no reason why the republic should require that form [p. 203]
of government. They were anxiously waiting to see how soon the assembly would be proclaimed for the election of consuls.
The commons were only devising by what means they should re-establish the tribunitian power, that bulwark of their liberty, a thing now so long discontinued. When in the mean time no mention was made of the elections, and the decemvirs, who had at first exhibited themselves to the people, surrounded by men of tribunitian rank, because that was deemed popular, now guarded themselves by collecting young patricians; troops of these beset the tribunals.
These seized and drove about the commons, and the effects of the commons; when success attended the more powerful individual, as far as obtaining any thing he might covet.1
And now they spared not even their backs. Some were beaten with rods; others had to submit to the axe; and lest such cruelty might go for nothing, a grant of his effects followed the punishment of the owner. Corrupted by such bribes, the young nobility not only made no opposition to oppression, but openly avowed their preference of their own gratification to the general liberty.