On hearing the tribunes make this stubborn speech, though the other senators were dazed and dumbfounded by such outrageous arguments, they
say that Appius Claudius Crassus, the decemvir's1
grandson, moved more by hate and resentment than by hope, came forward to oppose them, and spoke to the following purpose:
"It would be no strange or surprising thing to me, Quirites, if on this occasion I, too, should be taunted with the one reproach that rebellious tribunes have ever directed at our family, to wit, that the Claudian gens from its very origin has regarded no feature of our public life as more important than the majesty of the senate and has always opposed the interests of the plebs.
The former of these charges I neither deny nor seek to refute —namely, that we have striven with all our might, from the day we were first called to be citizens and senators,2
that, so far as in us lay, the dignity of those families with which you proposed to rank us might truthfully be said to have rather gained than lost;
as to the other charge, I would venture to maintain, Quirites, speaking for myself and for my forefathers, that unless one should assume that what is done for the good of the whole nation is opposed to the welfare of the plebs, —as though they inhabited another city, —we have never wittingly done anything, whether as private citizens or magistrates, disadvantageous to the plebs; and that no word or act of ours can be truthfully alleged as being against your interests, though some there may have been which ran counter to your wishes.
But were I not a Claudius, nor sprung from a patrician line, but were merely any one of the Quirites, assuming only that I knew my parents had both been born to freedom and that I lived in a free state, could I pass this by in silence?
Are Lucius Sextius yonder and Gaius Licinius, our perpetual tribunes — [p. 339]
save the mark! —grown so presumptuous in the nine3
years of their reign, as to threaten that they will leave you free to exercise your right of suffrage neither in elections nor in enacting laws?
"' On a certain condition,' says one of them, ' you shall elect us tribunes for the tenth time '; as though he were to say,' What others sue for we are so surfeited withal that we will not accept it without a great reward.'
But what in short is that reward by the grant of which we may always have you for tribunes of the plebs? ' That you adopt,' says he, 'all our rogations in a lump, whether you like them or detest them, —be they good or bad.'
I beseech you, Tarquin tribunes of the plebs,4
imagine me a simple citizen calling out from the midst of the assembly, ' By your good leave, suffer us to choose from these proposals those we regard as wholesome for us, and to reject the rest.'
'No,' he answers, 'you shall not have leave to enact the measures that concern you all, touching interest and lands, unless you will put up with the monstrous sight in Rome of Lucius Sextius and Gaius Licinius here as consuls —an idea you loathe and abominate; —accept everything, or I offer nothing.'
As though a man were starving, and one should serve poison to him with his food, and command him either to abstain from what would give him life, or mix the deadly with the life-giving. Well then! If this state were free, would not the people have cried out to you in full assembly, 'Begone, with your tribuneships and your rogations!' Come! If you will not propose what is profitable to the people to accept, shall there be none to do it?
Suppose that some patrician, or —what those fellows would make out to be still more hateful —some [p. 341]
Claudius, should say, ' Either take all or I will propose5
nothing,' which of you, Quirites, would endure it?
Will you never choose rather to look at facts than at advocates, but always lend ready ears to the utterances of that noble magistrate, and refuse to hear what is said by any of us?
you will admit, is far from appropriate in a free state; well, what of his rogation,
which they resent your refusal to accept? Quirites, it is all of a piece with his words. ' I propose,' he says, 'that it shall not be permitted you to choose such consuls as you will.'
For can aught else be his meaning, when he commands that in any case one consul be chosen from the plebs, and deprives you of the power to name two patricians?
If wars should arise in these days, like the Etruscan war, when Porsinna held Janiculum, or like the Gallic war a little while ago, when all this City —except the Capitol and the Citadel —was in the hands of your enemies; and if Lucius Sextius were standing for the consulship, along with Marcus Furius here, and any other patrician whomsoever; could you endure that Lucius Sextius should be certain of election, while Camillus had to risk defeat?
Is it thus they would equalize the opportunities of office? Would they authorize the election of two plebeian consuls, and forbid the choice of two patricians? Must we perforce take one plebeian, while for both places we may pass the patricians by? What sort of fellowship, of partnership, is this? Are you not satisfied to get a part of that in which you had no part before, unless in reaching for the part you can seize the whole?
'I fear' he replies, 'lest if it be permitted to choose two patricians, you may [p. 343]
choose no one from the plebs.' His meaning is:6
'Since of your own accord you will never choose unworthy men, I will make it obligatory on you to elect those whom you do not wish.'
What follows? Why, a man would not owe the people so much as thanks, if he were the sole plebeian candidate along with two patricians: he would say that he had been elected not by your suffrages, but by the statute.