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By this and frequent Struggles of this Sort, which the People
had made before, they at length obtained the Establishment of the Tribuneship, which consisted of two Oficers annually cholen out of the Order of the Plebeians, with Authority ta prevent the Injustices that might be done to the People, and ta defend their Interests both public and private, Rome, by this Establishment, made a great Advance towards a new Change in the Form of her Government. It had passed before from the Monarchic State, to a kind of Aristocracy; for upan the Expulsion of Tarquin, the whole Authority did really and in fact devolve upon the Senate and the Great : But now, by the Creation of the Tribunes, a Democracy began to take place, and the People, by insensible Degrees, and under different Pretences, got Poletion of the much greater Share in the Government. A Famine which raged at Rome, foon after the Establishment of this Office, occasions great Com plaints amongst the People; and a large Supply of Corn being procured from Sicily by the Patricians, Coriolanus, a young Senator, who had done great Services to the State as a General, is for taking Advantage of the People's Distress, to get the Tribuneship abolished, which he proposes in the Senate. The Tribunes and the People, enraged at this, determine ta prosecute Coriolanus, and, after much Altercation, defire ta be heard by the Senate in relation to their Charge against him; where Decius, one of the Tribunes, makes the following Speech.
V OU know, Conscript Fathers, that having by our Al
sistance expelled Tarquin, and abolished the Regal Power, you established in the Republic the Forin of Government which is now observed in it, and of which we do not complain. But neither can you be ignorant, that in all the Differences which any poor Plebeians had afterwards with wealthy Patriciaus, those Plibeians constantly lost their Causes, their Adverfaries being their Judges, and all the Tribunals being filled with Patricians only. This Abuse was what made Valerius Poplicola, tha: wise Consul and excellent Citizen, establish the Law which granted an Appeal to the People, from the Decrees of the Senate, and the Judgments of the Consuls.
Such is the Law called Valeria, which has always been looked upon as the Basis and Foundation of the public Liberty. It is to this Law that we now fly for Redress, if you refuse us the Justice we demand upon a Man, black with the greatest Crime that it is possible to commit in a Republic. It is not a single Plebeian complaining, it is the whole Body of the Roman People, demanding the Condemnation of a Tyrant, who would have destroyed his Fellow-Citizens by Famine, has violated our Magistracy, and forcibly repulsed our Officers, and the Ædiles of the Commonwealth. Coriolanus is the Man we accuse of having proposed the Abolition of the Tribuneship, a Magistracy made sacred by the most solemn Oaths. What need is there of a Senatus.Confultum to profecute a Criminal like this? Does not every Man know that those particular Decrees of the Senate, are requisite only in unforeseen and extraordinary Affairs, and for which the Laws have as yet made no Provision? But in the present Case, where the Law is so direct, where it expressly devotes to the infernal Gods those that infringe it, is it not to become an Accomplice in the Crime to hesitate in the least? Are you not apprehenfive that these affected Delays, this Obstruction you throw in the Way of our Proceedings against the Criminal, by the pretended Necessity of a previous Decree of the Senate, will make the People inclined to believe that Coriolanus only spoke the Sentiments of you all ?
I know that several among you complain it was merely by Violence that we extorted your Consent for the Abolition of the Debts, and the Establishment of the Tribuneship. I will even suppose that in the high Degree of Power to which you had raised yourselves after the Expulsion of Tarquin, it was neither convenient nor honourable for you to yield up Part of it in Favour of the People ; but you have done it, and the whole Senate is bound by the most folemn Oaths never to undo it. After the Establishment of those facred Laws, which render the Persons of your Tribunes inviolable, will you in compliance with the first ambitious Man that arises, attempt to revoke what makes the Security and Peace of the State ? Certainly you never will; and I dare answer for you, so long as I behold in this Assembly those venerable Magistrates who had so great a Share in the Treaty made upon the Mons Sacer. Ought you to suffer a Matter like this to be so much as brought into Deliberation ? Coriolanus is the first, who by his seditious Advice has endeavoured to break those sacred Bonds which, strengthened by the Laws, unite the several Orders of the State. It is he alone who is
hlace wole, Order of the Nealth. Granari Token ;
for destroying the Tribunitian Power, the People's Asylum, the Bulwark of our Liberty, and the Pledge of our Re-union. In order to force the People's Consent, in order to perpetrate one Crime, he attempts another much greater. He dares even in a holy Place,' and in the midst of the Senate, propose to let the People die of Hunger. Cruel and unthinking Man at the same Time ! Did he not consider, that this People whom he meant to exterminate with so much Inhumanity, and who are more numerous and powerful than he could wish, being reduced to Despair, would have broken into the Houses of the Rich, forced open those Granaries, and those Cellars which conceal so much Wealth, and would either have fallen under the Power of the Patricians, or have totally rooted out that whole Order? Could he imagine that an enraged Populace would in such a Case have hearkened to any Law, but what was dictated by Necessity and Resentinent?
For that you may not be unacquainted with the Truth, we would not have perished by a Famine brought upon us by our Enemies : but having called to witness the Gods, Revengers of Injustice, we would have filled Rome with Blood and Slaughter. Such had been the fatal Consequences of the Counsels of that perfidious Citizen, if some Senators, who had more Love for their Country, had not hindered them from taking Effect. It is to you, Conscript Farbers, that we address our just Complaints. It is to your Aid, and to the Wisdom of your Decrees, that we have recourse, to oblige this public Enemy to appear before the whole Roo man People, and answer' for his pernicious Counsels. It is there, Coriolanus, that thou must defend thy former Sentiments, if thou darest so to do, or excuse them as proceeding from want of Thought. Take my Advice; leave thy haughty and tyrannical Maxims; make thyself less; become like us; nay put on a Habit of Mourning, so suitable to thy present Fortune. Implore the Pity of thy Fellow-Citizens, and perhaps thou may'st obtain their Favour, and the Forgiveness of thy Faults.
When Decius left of Speaking, all the Senators waited, some
with impatient Defire, others with unealy Apprehenfons, to hear how Appius Claudius would declare himself. This Appius was one of those Patricians who had always the most violently opposed the Iribunitial power. At its first Eftablishment he foretold the Senate, that they were suffering a Tribunal to be set up, which by Degrees would rise agains their Authority, and at length diftroy it. When it came to his Turn to speak, he deliver'd himself thus.
V OU know, Confcript Fathers, that I have long op
I posed, and frequently alone, that too great Easiness with which you grant the People whatever they demand. Perhaps I made myself troublesome, when I so frankly laid before you the Misfortunes which I presaged would follow, from our Re-union with the Deserters from the Commonwealth. The Event however has but too well justified my Apprehenfions. That Share of Power which you yielded up to those seditious Men, is now turned against yourselves. The People punish you by means of your own Benefactions; they take Advantage of your Favour to ruin your Authority. 'Tis in vain for you to attempt to hide from yourselves the Danger which the Senate is in ; you cannot but see there is a Design to change the Form of our Government: The Tribunes make gradual Advances to the Tyranny. At first the only Demand was the Abolition of the Debts; and this People, who are now so haughty, and who endeavour to make themselves the supreme Judges of the Senators, then thought they stood in need of a Pardon, for the disrespectful Manner in which they sued for that Concession.
Your Easiness gave occasion to new Pretensions ; the People would have their particular Magistrates. You know how earnestly I opposed these Innovations; but in spight of all I could do, you assented in this Point also; you allowed the People to have Tribunes, that is to say, perpetual Ringleaders of Sedition. Nay, the People intoxicated with Fury, would have this new Magistracy consecrated in a particular Manner, such as had never been practifed, not even in favour of the Consulship, the first Dignity in the Republic. The Senate consented to every thing, not so much out of
Kindness for the People, as want of Resolution; the Persons of the Tribunes were declared sacred and inviolable, and a Law made to that Effect. The People required that it should be confirmed by the most folemn Oaths; and that Day, O Fathers! you swore upon the Altars the Destruction of yourselves and Children. What has been the Fruit of all these Favours? They have only served to make you contemptible in the Eyes of the People, and to increase the Pride and Insolence of their Tribunes, who have made to themselves new Rights and Prerogatives. These modern Magistrates, who ought to live as mere private Men, take upon them to convene the Assemblies of the People, and without our Privity procure Laws to be enacted by the Voices of a base Rabble.
It is to so odious a Tribunal that they now summon a Patrician, a Senator, a Citizen of your Order; in a word, Corolianus, that great Captain, and withal that good Man, yet more illustrious for his Adherence to the Interests of the Senate, than for his Valour. They presume to make it a Crime in a Senator to speak his Opinion in full Senate, with that Freedom fo becoming a Roman; and if yourselves had not been his Buckler and Defence, they had affassinated him , even in your Presence. The Majeity of the Senate was just going to be violated by this Murder; the Respect due to your Dignity was forgot, and you yourselves were losing both your Empire and your Liberty
The Resolution and Courage which you thewed upon this last Occasion, in some measure awakened these Madmen from their drunken Fit. They seein now to be ashamed of a Crime which they could not compleat; they defift from violent Methods, because they have found them unsuccessful, and they seemingly have recourse to Justice, and the Rules of Law.
But what is this Justice, immortal Gods! which these Men of Blood would introduce? They endeavour, by Appearances of Submission, to surprize you into a Senatus-Confultum, which may give thein Power to drag the best Citizen of Rome to Punishment. They alledge the Lex Valeria as the Rule of your Conduct; but does not every body know, that this Law, which allows of Appeals to the Assembly of the People, relates only to such poor Plebeians, as being destitute of all other Protection, might be oppressed by the Credit of a strong Cabal ? The Text of the Law is plain; it expressly fays, that a Citizen condemned by the Confuls shall have Liberty to appeal to the People. Poplicola, by this Law, only provided a Refuge for those unhappy Men, who had Reason to complain of having þeen condemned by prejudiced Judges. The Design of the