Nothing, it is recorded, was ever welcomed by the plebs with such delight; they crowded round the Senate-house, grasped the hands of the senators as they came out, acknowledged that they were rightly called ‘Fathers,’ and declared that after what they had done no one would ever spare his person or his blood, as long as any strength remained, for so generous a country.
They saw with pleasure that their private property at all events would rest undisturbed at such times as they were impressed and actively employed in the public service, and the fact of the boon being spontaneously offered, without any demand on the part of their tribunes, increased their happiness and gratitude immensely.
The only people who did not share the general feeling of joy and goodwill were the tribunes of the plebs. They asserted that the arrangement would not turn out such a pleasant thing for the senate or such a benefit to the whole community as they supposed. The policy was more attractive at first sight than it would prove in actual practice.
From what source, they asked, could the money be raised; except by imposing a tax on the people? They were generous at other people's expense. Besides, those who had served their time would not, even if the rest approved, permit others to serve on more favourable terms than they themselves had done and after having had to provide for their own expenses, now provide for those of others.
These arguments influenced some of the plebeians.
At last, after the tax had been imposed, the tribunes actually gave notice that they would protect any one who refused to contribute to the war tax.
The senators were determined to uphold a measure so happily inaugurated, they were themselves the first to contribute, and as coined money was not yet introduced, they carried the copper by weight in wagons to the treasury, thereby drawing public attention to the fact of their contributing.
After the senators had contributed most conscientiously the full amount at which they were assessed, the leading plebeians, personal friends of the nobles, began, as had been agreed, to pay in their share.
When the crowd saw these men applauded by the senate and looked up to by the men of military age as patriotic citizens, they hastily rejected the proffered protection of the tribunes and vied with one another in their
eagerness to contribute.
The proposal authorising the declaration of war against Veii was carried, and the new consular tribunes marched thither an army composed to a large extent of men who volunteered for service.