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19. [42]

When I saw all this (for there was no secret about it), that the senate, without which the constitution could not stand, was entirely abolished out of the city; that the consuls whose duty it was to be the leaders of the public counsels, had so managed matters that by their means the great public council was entirely destroyed; that those men who had the greatest influence were held up to every assembly, (falsely indeed, but still in a way calculated to strike my friends with great fear,) as the great approvers of my ruin; that assemblies were held every day in opposition to me; that no one ever uttered a word in defence of me or of the republic that the standards of the legions were believed to be unfurled against your lives and properties, (falsely indeed, but still they were believed to be so,) that the veteran troops of the conspirators, and that ill-omened army of Catiline, once routed and defeated, was now recruited under a new leader and under the existing unexpected chances of circumstances;—when I saw all these things, what was I to do, O judges? [43] For I know well that at that time it was not your zeal that was wanting to me, but more nearly my energy that was wanting to second your zeal. Was I, a private individual, to struggle in arms against a tribune of the people? No doubt the good would have defeated the wicked, the brave would have defeated the inactive; he would have been slain who could by no other remedy be prevented from being the ruin of the republic. What would have happened next? What would have become of the remains of his party? What would have been the end? Was there any doubt that the blood of the tribune especially when not shed in consequence of any public resolution would have had the consuls for its avengers? especially when we recollect that that fellow had said in the public assembly that I must either perish once or be victorious twice. What was the meaning of my having to conquer twice? Why no doubt that after I had struggled against that most senseless tribune of the people, I should have to struggle with the consuls and with all those who would avenge him. But for myself,— [44] if I alone was to have perished, and if that incurable and deadly wound would not also have been inevitably inflicted on the republic, with which he threatened it—I should have preferred at that time, O judges, to perish once rather than conquer twice. For that second struggle would have been such, that whether we were conquered or conquerors, we should have been alike unable to preserve the republic. What would have happened if in the first struggle, being overcome by the violence of the tribune, I had fallen in the forum, with many virtuous citizens? The consuls, I imagine, would have convened the senate, which they had already expunged from the state; they would summon men to arms who had decided that the republic should not be upheld, no not even by a change of garments; they would, no doubt, have been sure to revolt from the tribune of the people after my death, who had intended the same hour to be that of my ruin and of their own reward!

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