At one and the same time the consuls were inciting the senate against the tribune, and the tribune was arousing the people against the consuls. The consuls declared that the frenzy of the tribunes could no longer be endured; the end had now been reached, and there was more war being stirred up at home than abroad.
This state of things was, to be sure, as much the fault of the senators as of the plebs, and the consuls were as guilty as the tribunes.
That tendency which a state rewarded always attained the greatest growth; it was thus that good men were produced, both in peace and in war.
In Rome the greatest reward was given to sedition, which had, therefore, ever been held in honour by all and sundry. Let them recall the majesty of the senate when they had taken it over from their fathers, and think what it was likely to be when they passed it on to their sons, and how the plebs could glory in the increase of their strength and consequence.
There was no end in sight, nor would be, so long as the fomenters of insurrection were honoured in proportion to the success of their projects. What tremendous schemes had Gaius Canuleius set on foot!
He was aiming to contaminate the gentes
and [p. 261]
throw the auspices, both public and private, into1
confusion, that nothing might be pure, nothing unpolluted; so that, when all distinctions had been obliterated, no man might recognise either himself or his kindred.2
For what else, they asked, was the object of promiscuous marriages, if not that plebeians and patricians might mingle together almost like the beasts?
The son of such a marriage would be ignorant to what blood and to what worship he belonged; he would pertain half to the patricians, half to the plebs, and be at strife even with himself. It was not enough for the disturbers of the rabble to play havoc with all divine and human institutions: they must now aim at the consulship. And whereas they had at first merely suggested in conversations that one of the two consuls should be chosen from the plebeians,3
they were now proposing a law that the people should elect consuls at its pleasure from patriciate or plebs.
Its choice would without doubt always fall upon plebeians of the most revolutionary sort, and the result would be that they would have consuls of the type of Canuleius and Icilius.
They called on Jupiter Optimus Maximus to forbid that a power regal in its majesty should sink so low. For their parts, they would sooner die a thousand deaths than suffer so shameful a thing to be done.
They felt certain that their forefathers too, had they divined that all sorts of concessions would make the commons not more tractable but more exacting, and that the granting of their first demands would lead to others, ever more unjust, would rather have faced any conflict whatsoever than have permitted such laws to be imposed upon them.
Because they had yielded then, in the matter of the tribunes, they had [p. 263]
yielded a second time; it was impossible there4
should be any settlement of the trouble, if in one and the same state there were both plebeian tribunes and patricians; one thing or the other must go, — the patriciate or the tribunate. It was better late than never to oppose their rashness and temerity.
Were they to be suffered with impunity first to sow discord and stir up neighbouring wars, and then to prevent the state from arming and defending itself against the wars they had raised themselves?
When they had all but invited in the enemy, should they refuse to allow the enrolment of armies to oppose that enemy; while Canuleius had the hardihood to announce in the senate that unless the Fathers permitted his laws to be received, as though he were a conqueror, he would forbid the levy? What else was this than a threat that he would betray his native City to attack and capture? How must that speech encourage, not the Roman plebs, but the Volsci, the Aequi, and the Veientes!
Would they not hope that, led by Canuleius, they would be able to scale the Capitol and the Citadel? Unless the tribunes had robbed the patricians of their courage when they took away their rights and their dignity, the consuls were prepared to lead them against criminal citizens sooner than against armed enemies.