Volero was now in high favour with the plebs, and they made him a tribune at the next election. Lucius Pinarius and P. Furius were the consuls for that year.
Everybody supposed that Volero would use all the power of his tribuneship to harass the consuls of the preceding year. On the contrary, he sub-ordinated his private grievances to the interests of the State, and without uttering a single word which could reflect on the consuls, he
proposed to the people a measure providing that the magistrates of the plebs should be elected by the Assembly of the Tribes. At first sight this measure appeared to be of a very harmless description, but it would deprive the patricians of all power of electing through their clients' votes those whom they wanted as tribunes.
It was most welcome to the plebeians, but the patricians resisted it to the utmost. They were unable to secure the one effectual means of resistance, namely, inducing one of the tribunes, through the influence of the consuls or the leading patricians, to interpose his veto.
The weight and importance of the question led to protracted controversy throughout the year.
The plebs re-elected Volero. The patricians, feeling that the question was rapidly approaching a crisis, appointed Appius Claudius, the son of Appius, who, ever since his father's contests with them, had been hated by them and cordially hated them in return.
From the very commencement of the year the Law took precedence of all other matters. Volero had been the first to bring it forward, but his colleague, Laetorius, though a later, was a still more energetic supporter of it.
He had won an immense reputation in war, for no man was a better fighter, and this made him a stronger opponent. Volero in his speeches confined himself strictly to discussing the Law and abstained from all abuse of the consuls.
But Laetorius began by accusing Appius and his family of tyranny and cruelty towards the plebs; he said it was not a consul who had been elected, but an executioner, to harass and torture the plebeians.
The untrained tongue of the soldier was unable to express the freedom of his sentiments; as words failed him, he said, ‘I cannot speak so easily as I can prove the truth of what I have said; come here to-morrow, I will either perish before your eyes or carry the Law.’
Next day the tribunes took their places on the ‘templum
the consuls and the nobility stood about in the Assembly to prevent the passage of the
Law. Laetorius gave orders for all, except actual voters, to withdraw. The young patricians kept their places and paid no attention to the tribune's officer, whereupon Laetorius ordered some of them to be
arrested. Appius insisted that the tribunes had no jurisdiction over any but plebeians, they were not magistrates of the whole people, but only of the plebs; even he himself could not, according to the usage of their ancestors, remove any man by virtue of his authority, for the formula ran, ‘If it seems good to you, Quirites,
depart!’ By making contemptuous remarks about his jurisdiction, he was easily able to disconcert Laetorius. The tribune, in a burning rage, sent his officer to the consul, the consul sent a lictor to the tribune, exclaiming that he was a private citizen without any magisterial
authority. The tribune would have been treated with indignity had not the whole Assembly risen angrily to defend the tribune against the consul, whilst people rushed from all parts of the City in excited crowds to the
Forum. Appius braved the storm with inflexible determination, and the conflict would have ended in bloodshed had not the other consul, Quinctius, entrusted the consulars2
with the duty of removing, by force if necessary, his colleague from
the Forum. He entreated the furious plebeians to be calm, and implored the tribunes to dismiss the Assembly; they should give their passions time to cool, delay would not deprive them of their power, but would add prudence to their strength; the senate would submit to the authority of the people, and the consuls to that of the senate.