Matters being in this state, the dictator, being summoned home from the army, came into the city. A meeting of the senate being held on the following day, when, having sufficiently sounded the inclinations of the people, he forbade the senate to leave him, attended by that body, he placed his throne in the comitium, and sent his sergeant to Marcus Manlius;
who on being summoned by the dictator's order, after he had given intimation to his party that a contest was at hand, came to the tribunal, attended by a numerous party.
On the one side stood the senate, on the other the people as if in battle-array, attentively observing, each party, their respective leader.
Then silence being made, the dictator said, “I wish that I and the Roman patricians may agree with the commons on all other matters, as I am confident we shall agree on the business which regards you, and on that about which I am about to interrogate you.
I perceive that hopes have been raised by you in the minds of the citizens, that, with safety to the public credit, their debts may be paid off out of the Gallic treasures, which it is alleged the leading patricians are secreting. To which proceeding so far am I from being any obstruction, that on the contrary, Marcus Manlius, I exhort you to free the Roman commons from the weight of interest; and to tumble from their secreted spoil, those who lie now brooding on those public treasures.
If you refuse to do this, whether because you yourself desire to be a sharer in the spoil, or because the information is unfounded, I shall order you to be carried off to prison, nor will I any longer suffer the multitude to be disquieted by you with delusive hopes.”
To this Manlius replied, “That it had not escaped him, that it was not against the Volscians, who were enemies as often as it suited the interests of the patricians, nor against the Latins and Hernicians, whom they were driving into hostilities by false charges, but against him and the Roman commons, that he was appointed dictator.
Now the war being dropped, which was only feigned, that an attack was being [p. 410]
made against himself; that the dictator now professed to defend the usurers against the commons; that now a charge and destruction was sought for him out of the favour of the multitude.
Does the crowd that surrounds my person offend you,” said he, “Aulus Cornelius, and you, conscript fathers? Why then do you not draw it away from me, each of you by your own acts of kindness? by becoming surety, by delivering your fellow-citizens from the stocks, by preventing those cast in law-suits, and assigned over to their creditors, from being dragged away to prison, by sustaining the necessities of others out of your own superfluities?
But why do I exhort you to expend out of your own property? Fix some capital; deduct from the principal what has been paid in interest; soon will my crowd not be a whit more remarkable than that of any other person.
But [I may be asked] why do I alone thus interest myself in behalf of my fellow-citizens? I have no other answer to give, than if you were to ask me, why in the same way did I alone preserve the Capitol and the citadel. Both then I afforded the aid which I could to all collectively, and now I will afford it to each individually.
Now with respect to the Gallic treasures, the mode of interrogation renders difficult a matter which in itself is easy. For why do you ask that which you know? why do you order that which is in your own laps to be shaken out of them rather than resign it, unless some fraud lurks beneath?
The more you require your own impositions to be examined into, the more do I dread lest you should blind the eyes of those narrowly watching you. Wherefore, it is not I that am to be compelled to discover your hoard, but you must be forced to produce it to the public.”