Why need you ask a man questions, Laelius, who, even before you have pronounced the words “I ask you,” will pour out more assertions than you enjoined him before you left home? And why should I, the counsel for the defence, ask him questions, since the course to be taken with respect to witnesses is either to invalidate their testimony or to impeach their characters? But by what discussion can I refute the evidence of men who say “We gave,” and no more? Am I then to make a speech against the man, when my speech can find no room for argument? What can I say against an utter stranger? I must then be content with complaining and lamenting, as I have been some time doing, the general iniquity of the whole prosecution, and, in the first place, the whole class of witnesses; for that nation is the witness which is the least scrupulous of all in giving evidence. I come nearer;—I say that that is not evidence which you yourself call decrees; but that it is only the grumbling of needy men, and a sort of random movement of a miserable Greek assembly. I will come in still further,—he who has done it is not present; he who is said to have paid the money is not brought hither; no private letters are produced; the public documents have been retained in the power of the prosecutors. The main point of my argument concerns the witnesses. These men are living with our enemies, they come into court with our adversaries, they are dwelling in the same house with our prosecutors.
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THE SPEECH OF M. T. CICERO IN DEFENCE OF LUCIUS FLACCUS.
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