This victory of the tribunes and the commons had nearly resulted in a dangerous abuse; for the tribunes conspired together to obtain their re-election, and, that their own ambition might be less conspicuous, to procure as well the return to office of the consuls.
Their pretext was the solidarity of the patricians, which had operated, by injurious treatment of the consuls, to break down the authority of the tribunes of the plebs.
What [p. 217]
would happen if, ere the laws were firmly1
established, the new tribunes should be assailed through the agency of consuls belonging to the patricians' own party? For there would not always be consuls like Valerius and Horatius, who preferred the liberty of the plebs to their own interests.
By a fortunate chance in this emergency the superintendence of the elections fell by lot to none other than Marcus Duillius, a far-seeing man who perceived that the re-election of the magistrates would be fraught with odium.
But when he asserted that he would not consider the candidacy of any of the former tribunes, his colleagues vehemently insisted that he should receive the suffrages of the tribes without restriction, or else resign the presidency of the election to his fellow-tribunes, who would conduct the voting in accordance with the law rather than the desires of the patricians.
A controversy having thus arisen, Duillius summoned the consuls before the benches of the tribunes and asked them what course they meant to pursue in the consular elections; and finding, by their replying that they should have new consuls chosen, that he had got in them popular supporters of his unpopular policy, he went with them before the assembly.
When the consuls, on being there brought forth to the people and asked what they would do if the Roman People, mindful of their help in the recovery of liberty at
home and remembering their military successes, should again elect them to office, declined to alter their determination, Duillius first praised the consuls for persisting to the end in their unlikeness to the decemvirs, and then held the election. And after five tribunes had been chosen [p. 219]
and no other candidates obtained a majority of the2
tribes, on account of the eagerness with which the nine incumbents openly sought re-election, he dismissed the assembly, nor did he afterwards convene it for an election.
He declared that the law had been satisfied, which, without anywhere prescribing the number, provided only that the tribunate should not be left vacant; and directed that those who had been elected should co-opt colleagues.
He recited too the formula of the announcement, in which the following words occurred: “If
I shall call for your suffrages for ten tribunes of the plebs; if for any reason you shall elect to-day less than ten tribunes of the plebs, then let those whom the elected tribunes co-opt as their colleagues be as legally tribunes of the plebs as those whom you shall this day have chosen to that office.”
Having persevered to the end in denying that the state could have fifteen plebeian tribunes,3
and having defeated the cupidity of his colleagues, Duillius laid down his magistracy, approved by patricians and plebs alike.