When the consuls had come forth to the people and set speeches had given place to wrangling, the tribune demanded what reason there was why a plebeian should not be chosen consul;
to whom Curtius replied, with truth perhaps, yet, in the circumstances, to little purpose, “because no plebeian has the auspices, and that is the reason the decemvirs have forbidden intermarriages, lest the auspices should be confounded by the uncertain standing of those born of them.”
At this the plebs fairly blazed with indignation, because it was declared that; they could not take auspices, as though they were hated by the immortal gods; nor was the controversy ended —for the plebeians had got a most energetic champion in their tribune, and rivalled him themselves in determination, —until
at last the patricians were beaten, and allowed the law [p. 277]
regarding intermarriage to be passed, chiefly because they1
thought that so the tribunes would either wholly give over their contention for plebeian consuls or would postpone it until after the war, and that the plebs meantime, contented with the right to intermarry, would be ready to submit to the levy.
But since Canuleius was grown so great through his victory over the patricians and the favour of the plebs, the other tribunes were encouraged to take up the quarrel; and they fought for their measure with the utmost violence, hindering the levy, though the rumours of war increased from day to day.
The consuls, since they were powerless to do anything through the senate when the tribunes interposed their veto,2
held councils of their leading men in private. It was clear that they must submit to be conquered either by the enemy or by their fellow citizens.
Of all the consulars only Valerius and Horatius3
took no part in their deliberations. Gaius Claudius spoke in favour of arming the consuls against the tribunes; the Quinctii, both Cincinnatus and Capitolinus, were opposed to bloodshed and to injuring those whom they had acknowledged by a solemn treaty with the plebs to be inviolable.
The upshot of these consultations was this, that they permitted military tribunes with consular authority to be chosen indifferently from the patriciate and the plebs,4
but made no change in the election of consuls. With this decision both tribunes and commons were content. An election was called, for [p. 279]
choosing three tribunes with consular powers.
sooner was it proclaimed than everybody who had ever spoken or acted in a seditious manner, especially those who had been tribunes, fell to canvassing voters and bustling about all over the Forum in the white robes of candidates;
so that the patricians, what with despair of obtaining office now that the plebs were so wrought up, and what with scorn if they must share its administration with these fellows, were deterred from standing. At last, however, they were compelled by their leaders to compete, lest they might seem to have surrendered the control of the commonwealth.
The outcome of this election showed how different are men's minds when struggling for liberty and station from what they are when they have laid aside their animosities and their judgment is unbiassed; for the people chose all the tribunes from among the patricians, quite satisfied that plebeians should have been allowed to stand.
Where shall you now find in one single man that moderation, fairness, and loftiness of mind, which at that time characterized the entire people?