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14. [35]

It is a defect in my language, O Romans, when I call this power a kingly power. For in truth, it is something much more considerable; for there never was any kingly power that, if it was not defined by some express law, was not at least understood to be subject to certain limitations. But this power is absolutely unbounded; it is one within which all kingly powers, and your own imperial authority, which is of such wide extent, and all other powers, whether freely exercised by your permission, or existing only by your tacit countenance, are, by express permission of the law, comprehended.

The first thing which is given to them is, a liberty of selling everything concerning the sale of which resolutions of the senate were passed in the consulship of Marcus Tullius and Cnaeus Cornelius or afterwards. [36] Why is this so obscure and so concealed? What is the meaning of it? Could not those matters concerning which the senate passed resolutions, be mentioned in the law by name? There are two reasons for this obscurity, O Romans; one, a reason of modesty, if there can be any modesty in such inordinate impudence; the other, a reason of wickedness. For it does not dare to name those things which the senate resolved were to he sold, mentioning them by name; for they are public places in the city, they are shrines, which since the restoration of the tribunitian power no one has touched, and which our ancestors partly intended to be refuges in times of danger in the heart of the city. But all these things the decemvirs will sell by this law of this tribune of the people. Besides them, there will be Mount Gaurus; besides that, there will be the osier-beds at Minturnae; besides them, that very salable road to Herculaneum, a road of many delights and of considerable value; and many other things which the senate considered it advisable to sell on account of the straits to which the treasury was reduced, but which the consuls did not sell on account of the unpopularity which would have attended such a measure. [37] However, perhaps it is owing to shame that there is no mention of all these things in the law.

What is much more to be guarded against, what is a much more real object of fear, is, that great power is permitted to the boldness of these decemvirs of tampering with the public documents, and forging decrees of the Senate, which have never been made; as a great many of those men who have been consuls of late years are dead. Unless, perhaps, I may be told, that it is not reasonable for you to entertain any suspicions of their audacity, for whose cupidity the whole world appears too narrow.

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