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23. [52]

You have before you the interpretation put upon the law and upon treaties by the most consummate generals, by the wisest men and the most illustrious citizens. I will add now that given by the judges who presided at this investigation; I will add that of the whole Roman people; I will add the most conscientious and sensible decision of the senate. When the judges were stating openly and were explaining without any disguise what they intended to decide with respect to the Papian law in the case of Marcus Crassus, when the Mamertines claimed him back as a citizen of theirs, the Mamertines, though they had commenced the cause under the sanction of the public authority of their state abandoned it. [53] Many men who had been admitted to the freedom of this city from the free states, or the federate cities, were released from all apprehension on the subject. No one was ever prosecuted on account of his rights as a citizen, either because his own state had not ratified his admission, or because his right to change his city was hindered by any treaty. I will venture also to assert even this, that no one ever lost his action who was proved to have been presented with the freedom of the city by any one of our generals.

Listen now to the decision of the Roman people given on many different occasions, and approved of in the most important causes, in consequence both of the facts of the case, and of precedent. Who is there that does not know that a treaty was made with all the Latins in the consulship of Spurius Cassius and Postumus Cominius? [54] Which, indeed, we recollect to have been in existence till quite lately, engraved and written on a brazen column at the back of the rostra. How then was Lucius Cossinius, a man of Tibur, the father of our present Roman knight of the same name, a most excellent and most accomplished man, after Titus Caelius had been condemned; and how was Titus Coponius, of the same city, he also being a citizen of the very greatest virtue and dignity, (his grandsons Titus and Caius Coponius you are all acquainted with,) after Caius Masso had been condemned, made a Roman citizen? Are we going to affirm that the path to the freedom of the city is open to eloquence and genius, but shall not be open to courage and virtue? Was it lawful for the federate states to acquire spoils from us, and shall it not be lawful for them to carry them off from the enemy? Or shall it be impossible for them to acquire by fighting what they are enabled to acquire by speaking? Or did our ancestors intend that the rewards of a prosecutor should be greater than those of a warrior?

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