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[84] And what is the meaning of an abolition of debts, except that you buy a farm with my money; that you have the farm, and I have not my money?

24. We must, therefore, take measures that1 there shall be no indebtedness of a nature to endanger the public safety. It is a menace that can be averted in many ways; but should a serious debt be incurred, we are not to allow the rich to lose their property, while the debtors profit by what is their neighbour's. For there is nothing that upholds a government more powerfully than its credit; and it can have no credit, unless the payment of debts is enforced by law. Never were measures for the repudiation of debts more strenuously agitated than in my consulship. Men of every sort and rank attempted with arms and armies to force the project through. But I opposed them with such energy that this plague was wholly eradicated from the body politic. Indebtedness was never greater; debts were never liquidated more easily or more fully; for the hope of defrauding the creditor was cut off and payment was enforced by law. But the present victor, though vanquished then, still carried out his old design, when it was no longer of any personal advantage to him.2 So great was his passion for wrong-doing that the very doing of wrong was a joy to him for its own sake, even when there was no motive for it.

[p. 263]

1 Economics of debts.

2 Caesar, it seems, had had some part in the schemes of Catiline in B.C. 63 and possibly in the plot of B.C. 66–65. When his conquests in Gaul had freed him from his debts and made him rich, his party, with his consent, passed (B.C. 49) the obnoxious legislation here referred to—that all interest in arrears should be remitted, and that that which had been paid should be deducted from the principal.

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  • Cross-references in indexes to this page (2):
    • M. Tullius Cicero, De Officiis: index, Debts
    • M. Tullius Cicero, De Officiis: index, Gaius Caesar
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