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Estimate of Cicero's character.

The character and aims of Cicero will have been abundantly illustrated for the reader of these letters. That controversies should rage round his memory is only what must always be the case with a man who takes an active share in political life. Enmities and their expression in invective are more interesting to many than praise, and therefore more lasting. It is an easy task, moreover, to find faults in a character so impulsive, so many-sided, and so complex as that of Cicero. But the one view which I think inadmissible is the Mommsenian one of sheer contempt. Perhaps Cicero was not so important a figure in Roman politics as he thought himself: that he was of no importance is disproved both by the warmth of his friends and the rancour of his enemies. If he lacked originality as a writer or philosopher, neither did he pretend to any. He wished to interpret the Greek philosophers to his countrymen: he did it imperfectly, but he did it as no one else could or did. The magic of style has found its way to the intelligence and taste of mankind, as many a more learned and accurate man would have failed and has failed to do. He composed speeches which are often unfair, overstrained, and disingenuous, but they remain among the first in the world. He wrote letters incessantly: they are sometimes insincere, sometimes weak and tiresome, but taken as a whole they are scarcely surpassed by any existing collection. Signor E. Masè-Dari has lately written a volume tending to throw a doubt on his financial purity, especially in his administration of Cilicia. The attempt is, I think, a failure; and though Cicero was a man habitually embarrassed in regard to ready money, it seems that the Roman system of investment—of short loans and accommodation money—is more accountable for this than personal extravagance or reckless contraction of debt. In politics, he doubtless made the mistake of putting confidence in the leaders of the losing side. But it was really because he believed their side to be the side of right and justice. He had no personal aim in the choice, beyond the advantages which he would share with all his fellow citizens, and the primary desire to be allowed to live and enjoy the position to which his talents had raised him. His vacillation is never in his conviction as to right and wrong: but that which arose from his innate faculty of seeing every side of a question and all possible contingencies. To a nervous temperament such as his it was impossible that the dangers to himself and his family should not loom large before his eyes. But when the time came to act, he usually shewed far more resolution than his own language allows us to expect. If we had as much self-revelation from the other men of his days as we have from him, we should probably find no less vacillation, and certainly no greater conscientiousness. His almost savage expressions of joy at the murder of Caesar do not present his character in an amiable light. But then in his eyes Caesar had ruined the state. The constitution needed reform: Caesar had destroyed it. Social and political life needed purifying: Caesar had used some of the most reprobate members of society to put an end to all political and social freedom. That may not be the true state of the case as we see it, but it is what Cicero saw and believed. Caesar was a tyrannus. Even when he did well, he did it in the wrong way, and could give no security that it would not be wholly undone by a successor. The only security for justice was law-abiding and constitutional government, and that Caesar had made for ever impossible. By a convention as old as the Republic, " lynching" was the proper punishment of a man who set himself up as rex, and that Caesar practically, and almost even in name, had done.

The last months of Cicero's life are not marred by the vacillations of former periods. From the 1st of September, B.C. 44, his aim is single and continuous. He was resolved to resist to the death the attempt to perpetuate Caesarism after Caesar's death, and to use all his powers of eloquetice and persuasion to rouse the loyalist party to make a stand for liberty. And when one after the other his hopes failed and his supports fell away, he met death with a courage which did not belie his life and his philosophy.

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