Cicero, pro Flacco (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. Flac.].
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21 But even suppose those documents were not tampered with in their own city, still what authority or what credit can they now have here? The law orders them to be brought to the praetor within three days, and to be sealed up with the seals of the judges; they are scarcely brought within thirty days. In order that the writings may not be easily tampered with, therefore the law orders that after they have been sealed up they shall be kept in a public office; but these are sealed up after they have been tampered with. What difference, then, does it make, whether they are brought to the judges so long after the proper time, or whether they are not brought at all?

ch. 10

What shall we say if the zeal of the witnesses is in partnership, as it were, with the prosecutor? shall they still be considered witnesses? What then, is become of that expectation which ought to have a place in courts of justice? For formerly, when a prosecutor had said anything with bitterness and vehemence, and when the counsel for the defence had made a supplicatory and submissive reply, the third step expected was the appearance of the witnesses who either spoke without any partisanship at all, or else they in some degree concealed their desires. But what is the case here?

22 They are sitting with the prosecutor; they rise up from the prosecutor's bench; they use no concealment; they feel no apprehension. Do I complain of where they sit? They come with him from his house, if they trip at one word, they will have no place to return to. Can any one be a witness, when the prosecutor can examine him without any anxiety and have not the slightest fear of his giving him any answer which he is unwilling to hear? Where, then, is the oratorical skill, which formerly used to be looked for either in the prosecutor or in the counsel for the defence? “He examined the witness cleverly; he came up to him cunningly; he scolded him; he led him where he pleased; he convicted him and made him dumb.”

23 Why need you ask a man questions, Laelius, who, even before you have pronounced the words “I ask you,” will pour out more assertions than you enjoined him before you left home? And why should I, the counsel for the defence, ask him questions, since the course to be taken with respect to witnesses is either to invalidate their testimony or to impeach their characters? But by what discussion can I refute the evidence of men who say “We gave,” and no more? Am I then to make a speech against the man, when my speech can find no room for argument? What can I say against an utter stranger? I must then be content with complaining and lamenting, as I have been some time doing, the general iniquity of the whole prosecution, and, in the first place, the whole class of witnesses; for that nation is the witness which is the least scrupulous of all in giving evidence. I come nearer;—I say that that is not evidence which you yourself call decrees; but that it is only the grumbling of needy men, and a sort of random movement of a miserable Greek

-- 436 --

assembly. I will come in still further,—he who has done it is not present; he who is said to have paid the money is not brought hither; no private letters are produced; the public documents have been retained in the power of the prosecutors. The main point of my argument concerns the witnesses. These men are living with our enemies, they come into court with our adversaries, they are dwelling in the same house with our prosecutors.

24 Do you think that this is an examination and an inquiry into the truth, or an endeavour to fix a stain, and bring ruin upon innocence? for there are many things of such a sort, O judges, that even if they deserve to be neglected, as far as the individual whom they more immediately affect is concerned, are still to be dreaded, because of the state of facts of which they betoken the existence, and because of the precedents which they afford.

ch. 11

If I were defending a man of the lowest rank, of no splendour of reputation, and recommended by no innocence of character, still, relying on the rights of common humanity and mercy, I should beg from citizens, on behalf of another citizen, that you would not give up your fellow-citizen and your suppliant to witnesses who are strangers to you; who are urged on to give their evidence; who are the companions, and messmates, and comrades of the prosecutor; to men who from their fickleness are Greeks, but who, as far as cruelty goes, are barbarians: I should entreat you not to leave posterity so dangerous a precedent for their imitation.

25 But when the interests of Lucius Flaccus are at stake, a man of whom I may say that the first man who was made consul of his family [Note] was the first man that was ever consul in this city; a man by whose valour the kings were banished, and liberty was established in this republic; a family which has endured to this time with a continued series of honours and commands, and of glorious achievements; and when Lucius Flaccus has not only not degenerated from this everlasting and well-attested virtue of his ancestors, but as praetor has especially devoted himself to the glory of asserting the liberty of his country, seeing that that was the especial glory and characteristic of his family,—can I fear lest any mischievous precedent be established in the case of this defendant when, even if he had committed any slight fault, all good men would think that they ought rather to connive at it?

26 That, however, I not only do not request, but I beg and entreat you, O judges, to scrutinise the whole case most vigilantly, with all your eyes, as they say. None of the charges will be found borne witness to with conscientiousness, or founded in truth, or extorted by indignation; but, on the contrary, you will see that it is all redolent of lust, passion, party spirit, bribery, and perjury.

ch. 12



Cicero, pro Flacco (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. Flac.].
<<Cic. Flac. 17 Cic. Flac. 23 (Latin) >>Cic. Flac. 29

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