Aeschines, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [Aeschin.].
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I could wish, indeed, fellow citizens, that the Senate of Five Hundred and the assemblies of the people were properly conducted by those who preside over them, and the laws enforced which Solon enacted to secure orderly conduct on the part of public speakers; for then it would be permitted to the oldest citizen, as the law prescribes, to come forward to the platform first, with dignity, and, uninterrupted by shouting and tumult, out of his experience to advise for the good of the state and it would then be permitted to all other citizens who wished, one by one in turn, in order of age, to express their opinion on every question; for so, I think, the state would be best governed, and least litigation would arise.


But now all our standards of orderly procedure have been set aside; there are men who do not hesitate to make illegal motions, and other men who are ready to put these motions to the vote—not men who have been chosen by right and lawful allotment to preside, but men who hold the position by trickery; and if any other senator does actually obtain the presidency by lot, and does honestly declare your votes, he is threatened with impeachment by men who no longer regard citizenship as a common right, but as their own private perquisite; men who are making slaves of the common people, and arrogating lordship to themselves;


men who have set aside the lawful processes of the courts, and carry their verdicts in the assembly by appeal to passion. [Note] The result of all this is that we have ceased to hear that wisest and most judicious of all the proclamations to which the city was once accustomed, “Who of the men above fifty years of age wishes to address the people,” and then who of the other Athenians in turn. The disorder of the public men can no longer be controlled by the laws, nor by the prytanes, nor by the presiding officers, nor by the presiding tribe, the tenth part of the city. [Note]


Under such circumstances, and in a political situation the gravity of which you yourselves understand, only one part of the constitution is left to us—if I too may lay claim to some discernment—the suits against illegal motions. But if you shall annul these also, or give way to those who are trying to annul them, I warn you that before you know it you will step by step have surrendered your rights to a faction.


There are, as you know, fellow-citizens, three forms of government in the world tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy. Tyrannies and oligarchies are administered according to the tempers of their lords, but democratic states according to their own established laws. Let no man among you forget this, but let each bear distinctly in mind that when he enters a court-room to sit as juror in a suit against an illegal motion, on that day he is to cast his vote for or against his own freedom of speech. This is why the lawgiver placed first in the jurors' oath these words, “I will vote according to the laws.” For he well knew that if the laws are faithfully upheld for the state, the democracy also is preserved.


This you ought always to remember, and to hate those who make illegal motions, and to hold no such offence as trivial, but every one as serious indeed. And you ought to let no man rob you of this right of yours, whether through the intercession of the generals, who by their cooperation with certain public men have this long time been outraging the constitution, or through petitions of foreigners, whom some bring in here, and so escape the courts, when their whole political career has been in defiance of the laws. But as each man of you would be ashamed to desert the post to which he had been assigned in war, so now you should be ashamed to desert the post to which the laws have called you, sentinels, guarding the democracy this day.


And another thing you have to remember: today your fellow citizens as a body have put the city and the constitution into your hands as a solemn trust. Some of them are present, listening to this case; others are absent, busy with their personal affairs. Respect them therefore, and remember the oaths which you have sworn, and the laws; and if I convict Ctesiphon of having made a motion that is illegal, false, and injurious to the state, annul the illegal motion, fellow citizens; confirm the democratic government for our state; punish those whose policies are opposed to the laws and to your interests. If in this spirit you listen to the words which are about to be spoken, I am sure that your verdict will be just, faithful to your oath, and salutary alike to yourselves and to the commonwealth.


I hope now that what I have said is a sufficient introduction to my complaint as a whole but I wish to speak briefly about the laws themselves which govern the rendering of account by public officers, the laws which are in fact violated by Ctesiphon's resolution.

In former times certain men who held the highest offices and administered the revenues—yes, and betrayed their every trust for money—would attach to themselves the public speakers of the senate-house and the assembly, and thus anticipate their day of accounting long in advance, with votes of thanks and with proclamations. The result was that when the time came for them to render their account, those who had charges to prefer fell into very great embarrassment, and this was even more the case with the jurors.

Aeschines, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [Aeschin.].
<<Aeschin. 3.1 Aeschin. 3.5 (Greek) >>Aeschin. 3.13

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