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26. [68]

But now see the force of this agrarian law. Even those men who are in occupation of the public domains will not quit possession, unless they are tempted by favourable conditions and by a large sum of money. Matters are changed. Formerly when mention of an agrarian law was made by a tribune of the people, immediately every one who was in occupation of any public lands, or who had any possessions the tenure of which was in the least unpopular, began to be alarmed. But this law enriches those men with fortunes, and relieves them from unpopularity. For how many men, O Romans, do you suppose there are, who are unable to stand under the extent of their possessions, who are unable to bear the unpopularity incurred by the ownership of lands granted by Sulla? who wish to sell them, but cannot find a purchaser? who, in fact, would be glad to get rid of those lands by any means whatever? They who, a little while ago, were in constant dread, day and night, of the name of a tribune; who feared your power, dreaded every mention of an agrarian law; they now will be begged and entreated to he so good as to give up to the decemvirs those lands which are partly public property, the possession of which is full of unpopularity and danger, at their own price. And this song this tribune of the people is singing now, not to yell, but in his own heart to himself. [69] He has a father-in-law, a most excellent man, who in those dark times of the republic got as much land as he wanted. He now seeing him yielding, oppressed weighed down with the burdens which Sulla put upon him, wishes to come to his assistance with this law of his, so as to enable him to get rid of the odium attached to him, and to get a sum of money too. And will not you hesitate to sell your revenues, acquired by the profuse expenditure of labour and blood on the part of your ancestors, for the purpose of heaping more riches on the landowners who have become so through Sulla, and of releasing them from danger? [70] For there are two kinds of lands concerned, O Romans, in this purchase of the decemvirs. One of them the owners avoid on account of its unpopularity; the other on account of its miserable condition. The land seized and distributed by Sulla, and extended as far as possible by particular individuals, has so much unpopularity attached to it, that it cannot bear the rustle of a genuine fearless tribune of the people. All this land, at whatever price it is purchased, will be returned to you at a great price. There is another sort of lands—uncultivated on account of their barrenness, desolate and deserted on account of the unhealthiness of the situation—which will be bought of those men, who see that they must abandon them if they do not sell them. And in truth, that is what was said by this tribune of the people in the senate,—that the common people of the city had too much influence in the republic; that it must be drained off. For this is the expression which he used; as if he were speaking of some sewer, and not of a class of excellent citizens.

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