Just when these matters were going on in the senate, Canuleius thus declaimed in favour of his laws and against the consuls:
" Frequently even before now I think I have observed how much the patricians despised you, Romans, how unworthy they deemed you to dwell in the one city and within the same walls with them;
but on the present occasion most clearly, in their having risen up so determinedly in opposition to those propositions of ours: in which what else do we do, but remind them that we are their fellow citizens, and that though we possess not the same power, we inhabit the same city?
In the one we demand intermarriage, a thing which is usually granted to neighbours and foreigners: we have granted even to vanquished enemies the right of citizenship, which is more than the right of intermarriage.
In the other we propose nothing new; we only reclaim and demand that which is the people's; that the Roman people may confer honours on whomsoever they may please.
And what in the name of goodness is it for which they embroil heaven and earth? why was almost an attack made on me just now in the senate? why do they say that they will not restrain themselves from violence, and threaten that they will insult an office, sacred and inviolable?
Shall this city no longer be able to stand, and is the empire at stake, if the right of free suffrage is granted to the Roman people, to confer the consulship on whomsoever they may please, and if a plebeian, though he may be worthy of the highest honour, is not precluded from the hope of attaining that honour? and is this of the same import, whether a plebeian be made a consul, as if any one were to propose a slave or the son of a slave to be consul?
Do you perceive in what contempt you live? they would take from you a participation in this light, if it were permitted them.
That you breathe, that you enjoy the faculty of speech, that you possess the forms of human beings, excites their indignation. Nay [p. 253]
even, as I hope for mercy, they say that it is contrary to religion that a plebeian should be made consul. I pray, though we are not admitted to the annals, nor to the commentaries of the pontiffs, do we not know even those things which strangers know? that consuls have succeeded kings? and that they possess no privilege, no majesty which was not formerly inherent in kings?
Do you suppose that we ever heard it mentioned that Numa Pompilius, who not only was not a patrician, but not even a citizen of Rome, was sent for from the country of the Sabines by order of the people, with the approbation of the senate, and that he was made king at Rome?
that afterwards Lucius Tarquinius, who was not only not of Roman, but not even of Italian extraction, the son of Damaratus of Corinth, an emigrant from Tarquinii, was made king, even whilst the sons of Ancus still lived?
that after him Servius Tullius, the son of a captive woman of Corniculum, with his father unknown, his mother a slave, attained the throne by his ability and merit?
For what shall I say of Titus Tatius the Sabine, whom Romulus himself, the founder of our city, admitted into partnership of the throne? Accordingly, whilst no class of persons is disdained, in whom conspicuous merit may be found, the Roman dominion increased. You do well to be dissatisfied now with a plebeian consul, when your ancestors disdained not foreigners as kings, and when, even after the expulsion of kings, the city was not shut against foreign merit.
After the expulsion of the kings, we certainly admitted the Claudian family from the Sabine country not only into citizenship, but even into the number of the patricians.
Can a man from a foreigner be made a patrician, then a consul?
shall a Roman citizen, if he belong to the commons, be precluded from all hope of the consulate? Do we then deem it impossible that a man of the commons an be a person of fortitude and activity, qualified to excel both in peace and war, like to Numa, Lucius Tarquinius, and Servius Tullius?
Or, should such appear, shall we not suffer him to meddle with the helm of government? or shall we have consuls like the decemvirs, the most abandoned of mortals, who were, however, all patricians, rather than like the best of kings, though new men?