When they had uttered these statements, exasperating [p. 437]
and pitiable in the recital, before persons alarmed for themselves, exciting greater indignation in the hearers than was
felt by themselves, they affirmed “that there never would be any other limit to their occupying the lands, or to their butchering the commons by usury, unless the commons were to elect one consul from among the plebeians, as a guardian of their liberty.
That the tribunes of the commons were now despised, as being an office which breaks down its own power by the privilege of protest.
That there could be no equality of right, where the dominion was in the hands of the one party, assistance only in that of the other. Unless the authority were shared, the commons would never enjoy an equal share in, the commonwealth; nor was there any reason why any one should think it enough that plebeians were taken into account at the consular elections; unless it were made indispensable that one consul at least should be from the commons, no one would be elected.
Or had they already forgotten, that when it had been determined that military tribunes should be elected rather than consuls, for this reason, that the highest honours should be opened to plebeians also, no one out of the commons was elected military tribune for forty-four years?
How could they suppose, that they would voluntarily confer, when there are but two places, a share of the honour on the commons, who at the election of military tribunes used to monopolize the eight places? and that they would suffer a way to be opened to the consulship, who kept the tribuneship so long a time fenced up?
That they must obtain by a law, what could not be obtained by influence at elections; and that one consulate must be set apart out of the way of contest, to which the commons may have access; since when left open to dispute it is sure ever to become the prize of the more powerful.
Nor can that now be alleged, which they used formerly to boast of, that there were not among the plebeians qualified persons for curule magistracies. For, was the government conducted with less activity and less vigour, since the tribunate of Publius Licinius Calvus, who was the first plebeian elected to that office, than it was conducted during those years when no one but patricians was a military tribune?
Nay, on the contrary, several patricians had been condemned after their tribuneship, no plebeian. Quaestors also, as military tribunes, began to be elected from the commons a [p. 438]
few years before; nor had the Roman people been dissatisfied with any one of them.
The consulate still remained for the attainment of the plebeians; that it was the bulwark, the prop of their liberty. If they should attain that, then that the Roman people would consider that kings were really expelled from the city, and their liberty firmly established.
For from that day that every thing in which the patricians surpassed them, would flow in on the commons, power and honour, military glory, birth, nobility, valuable at present for their own enjoyment, sure to be left still more valuable to their children.”
When they saw such discourses favourably listened to, they publish a new proposition; that instead of two commissioners for performing religious rites, ten should be appointed; so that one half should be elected out of the commons, the other half from the patricians; and they deferred the meeting [for the discussion] of all those propositions, till the coming of that army which was besieging Velitrae.