"They would force us, not invite us, to grant them office; and thus they mean to win the very highest honours without incurring even such obligations as would be imposed by the least important. They would make their canvass not on worth but on opportunity.
There is many a man who resents being investigated and appraised, who thinks it right that he alone should be certain of success, while his competitors are struggling for office; who would withdraw himself from your judgment; who would have you vote for him from compulsion, not from choice —not as freemen, but as slaves.
I say nothing of Licinius and Sextius, whose years of continuous power you reckon like those of the kings on the Capitol:1
who is there in the state to-day so lowly that the opportunities afforded by that law would not make access to the consulship easier for him than for us and for our children? To elect us will sometimes be beyond your power, even though you wish it; but those persons you would be compelled to elect, even against your inclinations.
“Of the indignity of the thing I have said enough. But dignity after all is concerned with men: what of religious observances and auspices —for the immortal gods are involved in insult and disrespect to these? That this City was founded under auspices; [p. 345]
that all measures, warlike and peaceful, at home and2
in the field, are carried out with auspices, who does not know?
Who then control the auspices, by the tradition of our fathers? The patricians, to be sure; for no plebeian magistrate is elected under auspices;
the auspices belong so exclusively to us, that not only are the patrician magistrates whom the people elect no otherwise elected than with auspices, but we ourselves even —without the people's suffrage —take auspices and nominate an interrex; and have, as private citizens, the right of taking them, which you plebeians have not even in your magistracies.
He therefore deprives the state outright of auspices, who by electing plebeian consuls deprives the patricians of them —for they alone can take them. They may jeer now, if they like, at religious scruples.
'After all,' they will say, 'what difference does it make if the sacred chickens3
will not feed; if they are slow to come out from the coop; if a bird utters an ill-omened cry? ' These are trivial things; but because they did not scorn these trivial things, your fathers were able to build this great republic; and now we, as though we had no further use for Heaven's favour, are polluting all
the ceremonies. Let pontiffs then, augurs, and kings of the sacrifices, be chosen from the vulgar herd; let us set the mitre of the Flamen Dialis on anybody's head, so he but be a man; let us make over the sacred shields, the inner shrine,4
the gods and the service of the gods, to those whom we may not without sin intrust
with them; let laws be proposed and magistrates elected [p. 347]
without the approval of the auspices; neither to5
centuriate nor curiate comitia let the fathers give their sanction; let Sextius and Licinius bear sway in Rome, like Romulus and Tatius —because they give away the moneys and the lands
of others. Is it so sweet to plunder others of their fortunes? Does it not occur to them that one of their laws will make vast deserts in the country-side, by driving the landlords out from their demesnes, while the other will wipe out credit, and with it all
human intercourse? Upon every account I urge you to reject these bills; and may Heaven prosper what you do!”