Between the abdication of the former dictatorship and the new one entered on by Manlius, an assembly of the commons being held by the tribunes, as if it were an interregnum, it became evident which of the laws proposed were more grateful to the commons, which to the proposers.
For they passed the bills regarding the interest and the land, rejected the one regarding the plebeian consulate. And both decisions would have been carried into effect, had not the tribunes declared that they consulted the people on all the laws collectively.
Publius Manlius, dictator, then inclined the advantage to the side of the people, by naming Caius Licinius from the commons, who had been military tribune, as master of the horse.
The patricians, I understand, were much displeased at this nomination, but the dictator used to excuse himself to the senate, alleging the near relationship between him and Licinius; at the same time denying that the authority of master of the horse was higher than that of consular tribune.
When the elections for the appointment of plebeian tribunes were declared, Licinius and Sextius so conducted themselves, that by denying that they any longer desired a continuation of the honour, they most powerfully stimulated the commons to effectuate that which they were anxious for notwithstanding their dissimulation.
"That they were now standing the ninth year as it were in battle-array against the patricians, with the greatest danger to their private interests, without any benefit to the public.
That the measures published, and the entire strength of the tribunitian authority, had grown old with them; the attack was made on their propositions, first by the protest of their colleagues, then by banishing their youth to the war at Velitrae; at length the dictatorial thunder was levelled against them.
That now neither colleagues, nor war, nor dictator stood in their way; as being a man, who by nominating a plebeian as master of the horse, has even given an omen for a plebeian consul.
That the commons retarded themselves and their interests. They could, if they liked, have the city and forum free from creditors, their [p. 441]
lands immediately free from unjust possessors.
Which kindnesses, when would they ever estimate them with sufficiently grateful feelings, if, whilst receiving the measures respecting their own interests, they cut away from the authors of them all hopes of distinction? That it was not becoming the modesty of the Roman people to require that they themselves be eased from usury, and be put in possession of the land unjustly occupied by the great, whilst they leave those persons through whom they attained these advantages, become old tribunitians, not only without honour, but even without the hope of honour.
Wherefore they should first determine in their minds what choice they would make, then declare that choice at the tribunitian elections. If they wished that the measures published by them should be passed collectively, there was some reason for re-electing the same tribunes; for they would carry into effect what they published.
But if they wished that only to be entertained which may be necessary for each in private, there was no occasion for the invidious continuation of honour; that they would neither have the tribuneship, nor the people those matters which were proposed.