By thus humbling the clerks and making them submissive, and by managing the business as he himself desired, in a little while he brought the quaestorship into greater respect than the senate, so that all men said and thought that Cato had invested the quaestorship with the dignity of the consulship.
For, in the first place, when he found that many persons were owing debts of long standing to the public treasury and the treasury to many persons, he made an end at the same time of the state being wronged and wronging others; from its debtors he rigorously and inexorably demanded payment, and to its creditors he promptly and readily made payment, so that the people were filled with respect as they saw men making payments who thought to defraud the state, and men receiving payments which they had ceased to expect.
In the next place, though many used improper methods to get writings filed with the quaestors, and though previous quaestors had been accustomed to receive false decrees at the request of those whom they wished to please, nothing of this sort could be done now without Cato finding it out. Indeed, on one occasion when he was doubtful whether a certain decree had actually passed the senate, though many testified to the fact, he would not believe them, nor would he file the decree away until the consuls had come and taken oath to its validity.
Again, there were many persons whom the famous Sulla had rewarded for killing men under proscription, at the rate of twelve thousand drachmas. All men hated them as accursed and polluted wretches, but no one had the courage to punish them. Cato, however, called each one of these to account for having public money in his possession by unjust means, and made him give it up, at the same time rebuking him with passionate eloquence for his illegal and unholy act.
After this experience they were at once charged with murder, were brought before their judges condemned beforehand, one might say, and were punished. At this all men were delighted, and thought that with their deaths the tyranny of that former time was extinguished, and that Sulla himself was punished before men's eyes.