Cicero, pro Plancio (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. Planc.].
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Do you think your temperance, your industry, your attachment to the republic, your virtue, your innocence, your integrity, and your exertions disregarded and despised and trampled on, just because you have not been made aedile? See, O Laterensis, how greatly I differ from you in opinion. If, I declare to God, there were only ten virtuous, and wise, and just, and worthy men in this state who had pronounced you unworthy of the aedileship, I should think that decision a much more unfavourable one to you than this has been, on account

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of which you fear that this may seem to be the opinion of the people. For in the comitia the people does not invariably act in obedience to its judgment; but it is usually influenced by interest, or it yields to entreaties and it elects those by whom it has been canvassed with the greatest assiduity. And lastly if it does proceed according to its judgment, still it is not led to form that judgment by any careful selection, or by wisdom, but more frequently by impulse and what I may even call a sort of precipitation. For there is no wisdom in the common people, no method, no discrimination, no diligence, and wise men have at all times considered the things which the people may have done necessary to be endured, but not at all invariably necessary to be praised. So that when you say that you ought to have been elected aedile, it is the people you are finding fault with, and not your competitor.

10 Allow that you were more worthy than Plancius (though that point I will contest with you presently, though without at all disparaging your pretensions or character,) still allow that you were more worthy, yet it is not your competitor by whom you have been defeated, but the people by whom you have been passed over, that is in fault.

And in this affair you ought to recollect that at all comitia, and especially at those held for the election of aediles, it is the party spirit of the people, and not their deliberate judgment which bears sway, that their votes are coaxed out of them not extorted by merit, that the voters are more apt to consider what obligations they themselves are under to each individual, than what benefits the republic has received at his hands. But if you insist on it that it is their deliberate judgment, then you must not annul it but bear it.

11 The people has decided wrongly. Still it has decided. It ought not to have decided so. Still it had the power. I will not bear it. But many most illustrious and wise citizens have borne it. For this is the inalienable privilege of a free people, and especially of this the chief people of the world, the lord and conqueror of all nations, to be able by their votes to give or to take away what they please to or from any one. And it is our duty,—ours, I say, who are driven about by the winds and waves of this people, to hear the whims of the people with moderation, to strive to win over their affections when alienated from us, to retain them when we have won them,

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to tranquilize them when in a state of agitation. If we do not think honours of any great consequence, we are not bound to be subservient to the people; if we do strive for them, then we must be unwearied in soliciting them.

ch. 5


I proceed now to take on myself the part of the people, so as to argue with you in their language rather than in my own. If the people then could meet you, and speak with one voice, it would say this-—“I, O Laterensis, have not preferred Plancius to you; but, as you were both equally virtuous men, I have conferred my favours on him who entreated me for them, rather than on him who had not solicited me with any great humility.” You will reply, I suppose, that you relied on your high character, and the antiquity of your family, and did not think it necessary to canvass very laboriously. But the people will remind you of its own established principles, and of the precedents of its ancestors. It will say that it has always chosen to be asked for these honours, and to be solicited eagerly. It will tell you that it preferred Marcus Seius, a man who was unable to keep even his dignity as a knight undamaged by an adverse decision in a court of justice, to a man of the highest rank, most unimpeachable, and most eloquent Marcus Piso. It will tell you that it preferred to Quintus Catulus, a man of the most illustrious family, a most wise and admirable man, I will not say Caius Seranus a most foolish man, for nevertheless he was a noble; nor Caius Fimbria, a new man, for he was a magnanimous man and a wise counselor; but Cnaeus Mallius, a man not only of no rank or family at all, but utterly destitute of virtue and ability, and of contemptible and sordid habits of life. —

13“My eyes,” says the people, “looked in vain for you when you were at Cyrene; for I should have preferred reaping the benefit of your virtue myself to letting your companions have it all to themselves; and the more it was an object to me to do so, the more did you keep aloof from me. At all events, I did not see you. Then you deserted and abandoned me, though thirsting for your virtue; for you had begun to offer yourself as a candidate for the tribuneship of the people at a time which was especially in need of your eloquence and virtue; and when you abandoned your canvass for that office, if you intimated by so doing that in such a stormy time you could not take the helm, I had reason to doubt your courage;

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but if you did so because you did not then choose to assume so much responsibility, then I had grounds for questioning your attachment to me. But if the truth was, as I rather believe, that you reserved yourself for other times, I too,” the Roman people will say, “have now recalled you to the time for which you had of your own accord reserved yourself. Offer yourself, then, now for that magistracy in which you can be of great use to me. Whoever the aediles are, I shall have the same games prepared for me; but it is of the greatest consequence who are the tribunes of the people. Either, then, give me those exertions of yours which you encouraged me to hope for, or, if your heart is most set on what is of the least consequence to me, how can you expect that I will give you the aedileship, especially when you ask for it with such indifference? But if you wish to gain the most distinguished honours, as most suited to your worth, then learn, I pray you, to solicit them of me with a little more earnestness.”

ch. 6

Cicero, pro Plancio (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. Planc.].
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