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"We call gods and men to witness, general, that we have taken up arms neither to injure our country, nor to occasion peril to any one, but to defend our own persons from harm; who, wretched and in want, have been deprived, most of us, of our homes, and all of us of our character and property, by the oppression and cruelty of usurers; nor has any one of us been allowed, according to the usage of our ancestors, to have the benefit of the law,1 or, when our property was lost to keep our persons free. Such has been the inhumanity of the usurers and of the prætor.2

"Often have your forefathers, taking compassion on the commonalty at Rome, relieved their distress by decrees ;3 and very lately, within our, own memory, silver, by reason of the pressure of debt, and with the consent of all respectable citizens, was paid with brass.4

"Often too, we must own, have the commonalty themselves, driven by desire of power, or by the arrogance of their rulers, seceded5 under arms from the patricians. But at power or wealth, for the sake of which wars, and all kinds of strife, arise among mankind, we do not aim; we desire only our liberty, which no honorable man relinquishes but with life. We therefore conjure you and the senate to befriend your unhappy fellow-citizens; to restore us the protection of the law, which the injustice of the prætor has taken from us; and not to lay on us the necessity of considering how we may perish, so as best to avenge our blood."

1 XXXIII. To have the benefit of the law] “Lege uti.” The law here meant was the Papirian law, by which it was provided, contrary to the old law of the Twelve Tables, that no one should be confined in prison for debt, and that the property of the debtor only, not his person, should be liable for what he owed. Livy (viii. 28) relates the occurrence which gave rise to this law, and says that it ruptured one of the strongest bonds of credit.

2 The prætor] The “proætor urbanus,” or city prætor, who decided all causes between citizens, and passed sentence on debtors.

3 Relieved their distress by decrees] “Decretis suis inopiæ opitulati sunt.” In allusion to the laws passed at various times for diminishing the rate of interest.

4 Silver--was paid with brass] “Agentum ære solutum est.” Thus a sestertius, which was of silver, and was worth four asses, was paid with one as, which was of brass; or the fourth part only of the debt was paid. See Plin. H. N. xxxiii. 3; and Velleius Paterculus, ii. 23 ; who says, quadrantem solvi, that a quarter of their debts were paid by the debtors, by a law of Valerius Flaccus, when he became consul on the death of Marius.

5 Often--have the commonalty--seceded, etc.] "This happened three times: 1. To the Mons Sacer, on account of debt; Liv. ii. 32. 2. To the Aventine, and thence to the Mons Sacer, through the tyranny of Appius Claudius, the decemvir; Liv. iii. 50. 3. To the Janiculum, on account of debt; Liv. Epist. xi." Bernouf.

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