While Appius urged such frivolous arguments as these, which carried no conviction whatever, the other said, “Behold, Romans, the offspring of that Appius, who being created decemvir for one year, created himself for a second; and who, during a third, without being created even by himself or by any other, held on the fasces and the government though a private individual;
nor ceased to continue in office, until the government itself, ill acquired, ill administered, and ill retained, overwhelmed him in ruin.
This is the same family, Romans, by whose violence and injustice ye were compelled to banish yourselves from your native city, and seize on the Sacred mount;
the same, against which ye pro- [p. 606]
vided for yourselves the protection of tribunes; the same, on account of which two armies of you took post on the Aventine;
the same, which violently opposed the laws against usury, and always the agrarian laws; the same, which broke through the right of intermarriage between the patricians and the commons; the same, which shut up the road to curule offices against the commons: this is a name, more hostile to your liberty by far, than that of the Tarquins.
I pray you, Appius Claudius, though this is now the hundredth year since the dictatorship of Mamercus Aemilius, though there have been so many men of the highest characters and abilities censors, did none of these ever read the twelve tables?
none of them know, that, whatever was the last order of the people, that was law? Nay, certainly they all knew it; and they therefore obeyed the Aemilian law, rather than the old one, under which the censors had been at first created; because it was the last order;
and because, when two laws are contradictory, the new always repeals the old. Do you mean to say, Appius, that the people are not bound by the Aemilian law?
Or, that the people are bound, and you alone exempted? The Aemilian law bound those violent censors, Caius Furius and Marcus Geganius, who showed what mischief that office might do in the state; when, out of resentment for the limitation of their power, they disfranchised Mamercus Aemilius, the first man of the age, either in war or peace.
It bound all the censors thenceforward, during the space of a hundred years. It binds Caius Plautius your colleague, created under the same auspices, with the same privileges.
Did not the people create him with the fullest privileges with which any censor ever was created? Or is yours an excepted case, in which this peculiarity and singularity takes place?
Shall the person, whom you create king of the sacrifices, laying hold of the style of sovereignty, say, that he was created with the fullest privileges with which any king was ever created at Rome? Who then, do you think, would be content with a dictatorship of six months? who, with the office of interrex for five days? Whom would you, with confidence, create dictator, for the purpose of driving the nail, or of exhibiting games?
How foolish, how stupid, do ye think, those must appear in this man's eyes, who, after performing most important services, abdicated the dictatorship within the twentieth day; or who, [p. 607]
being irregularly created, resigned their office? Why should I bring instances from antiquity?
Lately, within these last ten years, Caius Maenius, dictator, having enforced inquiries, with more strictness than consisted with the safety of some powerful men, a charge was thrown out by his enemies, that he himself was infected with the very crime against which his inquiries were directed; —now Maenius, I say, in order that he might, in a private capacity, meet the imputation, abdicated the dictatorship.
I expect not such moderation in you; you will not degenerate from your family, of all others the most imperious and assuming; nor resign your office a day, nor even an hour, before you are forced to it.
Be it so: but then let no one exceed the time limited. It is enough to add a day, or a month, to the censorship. But Appius says, I will hold the censorship, and hold it alone, three years and six months longer than is allowed by the Aemilian law. Surely this is like kingly power.
Or will you fill up the vacancy with another colleague, a proceeding not allowable, even in the case of the death of a censor?
You are not satisfied that, as if a religious censor, you have degraded a most ancient solemnity, and the only one instituted by the very deity to whom it is performed, from priests of that rite who were of the highest rank to the ministry of mere servants.
[You are not satisfied that] a family, more ancient than the origin of this city, and sanctified by an intercourse of hospitality with the immortal gods, has, by means of you and
your censorship, been utterly extirpated, with all its branches, within the space of a year, unless you involve the whole commonwealth in horrid guilt, which my mind feels a horror even to contemplate.
This city was taken in that lustrum in which Lucius Papirius Cursor, on the death of his colleague Julius, the censor, rather than resign his office, substituted Marcus Cornelius Maluginensis. Yet how much more moderate was his ambition, Appius, than yours! Lucius Papirius neither held the censorship alone, nor beyond the time prescribed by law. But still he found no one who would follow his example; all succeeding censors, in case of the death of a colleague, abdicated the office.
As for you, neither the expiration of the time of your censorship, nor the resignation of your colleague, nor law, nor shame restrains you. You make fortitude to consist in arrogance, in boldness, in a contempt of gods and men.
Appius Claudius, in consideration of the dignity and respect due to that office which you have borne, I should be sorry, not only to offer you personal violence, but even to address you in language too severe.
With respect to what I have hitherto said, your pride and obstinacy forced me to speak. And now, unless you pay obedience to the Aemilian law, I shall order you to be led to prison.
Nor, since a rule has been established by our ancestors, that in the election of censors, unless two shall obtain the legal number of suffrages, neither shall be returned, but the election deferred, —will I suffer you, who could not singly be created censor, to hold the censorship without a colleague.” Having spoken to this effect, he ordered the censor to be seized, and borne to prison.
But, although six of the tribunes approved of the proceeding of their colleague, three gave their support to Appius, on his appealing to them, and he held the censorship alone, to the great disgust of all ranks of men.