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31. [64]

If any chance, O Cato, had conducted endowed with your existing natural disposition to those tutors, you would not indeed have been a better man than you are, not a braver one, nor more temperate, nor more just than you are, (for that is not possible,) but you would have been a little more inclined to lenity; you would not when you were not induced by any enmity, or provoked by any personal injury, accuse a most virtuous man, a man of the highest rank and the greatest integrity; you would consider that as fortune had entrusted the guardianship of the same year to you 1 and to Murena, that you were connected with him by some certain political union; and the severe things which you have said in the senate you would either not have said, or you would have guarded against their being applied to him, or you would have interpreted them in the mildest sense. [65] And even you yourself, (at least that is my opinion and expectation,) excited as you are at present by the impetuosity of your disposition and elated as you are both by the vigour of our natural character and by your confidence in your own ability, and inflamed as you are by your recent study of all these precepts, will find practice modify them and time and increasing years soften and humanise you. In truth, those tutors and teachers of virtue, whom you think so much of appear to me themselves to have carried their definitions of duties somewhat further than is agreeable to nature, and it would be better if, when we had in theory pushed our principles to extremities, yet in practice we stopped at what was expedient. “Forgive nothing.” Say rather, forgive some things, but not everything. “Do nothing for the sake of private influence.” Certainly resist private influence when virtue and good faith require you to do so. “Do not be moved by pity.” Certainly if it is to extinguish all impartiality; nevertheless, there is some credit due to humanity. “Abide by your own opinion.” [66] Very true, unless some other sounder opinion convinces you. That great Scipio was a man of this sort, who had no objection to do the same thing that you do; to keep a most learned man, a man of almost divine wisdom, in his house; by whose conversation and precepts, although they were the very same that you are so fond of; he was nevertheless not made more severe, but (as I have heard said by old men) he was rendered most merciful. And who was more mild in his manners than Caius Lucius? who was more agreeable than he? (devoted to the same studies as you;) who was more virtuous or more wise than he? I might say the same of Lucius Philus, and of Caius Gallus; but I will conduct you now into your own house. Do you think that there was any man more courteous, more agreeable; any one whose conduct was more completely regulated by every principle of virtue and politeness, than Cato, your great-grandfather? And when you were speaking with truth and dignity of his virtue, you said that you had a domestic example to imitate. That indeed is an example set up for your imitation in your own family; and the similarity of nature ought rather to influence you who are descended from him than any one of us; but still that example is as much an object for my imitation as for yours. But if you were to add his courtesy and affability to your own wisdom and impartiality, I will not say that those qualities which are now most excellent will be made intrinsically better, but they will certainly be more agreeably seasoned.

1 Cato was tribune elect.

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