Then assembling the people, he thus addressed them: “What you have so often wished for, Campanians, the power of punishing an unprincipled and detestable senate, you now have, not at your own imminent peril, by riotously storming the houses of each, which are guarded and garrisoned with slaves and dependants, but free and without danger. Take them all, shut up in the senate-house, alone and unarmed; nor need you do any thing precipitately or blindly.
I will give you the opportunity of pronouncing upon the life or death of each, that each may suffer the punishment he has deserved.
But, above all, it behoves you so to give way to your resentment, as considering that your own safety and advantage are of greater importance.
For I apprehend that you hate these particular senators, and not that you are unwilling to have any senate at all; for you must either have a king, which all abominate, or a senate, which is the only course compatible with a free state.
Accordingly you must effect two objects at the same time; you must remove the old senate and elect a new one. I will order the senators to be summoned one by one, and I shall put it to you to decide whether they deserve to live or die:
whatever you may determine respecting each shall be done; but before you execute your sentence on the culprit, you shall [p. 838]
elect some brave and strenuous man as a fresh senator to supply his place.”
Upon this he took his seat, and, the names having been thrown together into an urn, he ordered that the name which had the lot to fall out first should be proclaimed, and the person brought forward out of the senate-house.
When the name was heard, each man strenuously exclaimed that he was a wicked and unprincipled fellow, and deserved to be punished. Pacuvius then said, “I perceive the sentence which has been passed on this man;
now choose a good and upright senator in the room of this wicked and unprincipled one.”
At first all was silence, from the want of a better man whom they might substitute; afterwards, one of them, laying aside his modesty, nominating some one, in an instant a much greater clamour arose;
while some denied all knowledge of him, others objected to him at one time on account of flagitious conduct, at another time on account of his humble birth, his sordid circumstances, and the disgraceful nature of his trade and occupation.
The same occurred with increased vehemence with respect to the second and third senators, so that it was evident that they were dissatisfied with the senator himself, but had not any one to substitute for him;
for it was of no use that the same persons should be nominated again, to no other purpose than to hear of their vices, and the rest were much more mean and obscure than those who first occurred to their recollection.
Thus the assembly separated, affirming that every evil which was most known was easiest to be endured, and ordering the senate to be discharged from custody.