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would still be a Plebeian. So true is this, my countrymen, that I have, myself, known those who have been chosen consuls, begin then to read the history of their own country, of which, till that time, they were totally ignorant; that is, they first obtained the employment, and then bethought themselves of the qualifications necessary for the proper discharge of it.
I submit to your judgment, Romans, on which side the advantage lies, when a comparison is made between Patrician haughtiness and Plebeian experience. The very actions, which they have only read, I have partly seen, and partly myself achieved. What they know by reading, I know by action. They are pleased to slight my mean birth; I despise their mean characters. Want of birth and fortune is the objection against me; want of personal worth, against them. But are not all men of the same species? What can make a difference between one man and another, but the endowments of the mind? For my part, I shall always look upon the bravest man as the noblest man. Suppose it were enquired of the fathers of such Patricians as Albinus and Bestia, whether, if they had their choice, they would desire sons of their character, or of mine; what would they answer but that they should wish the worthiest to be their sons? If the Patricians have reason to despise me, let them likewise despise their ancestors; whose nobility was the fruit of their virtue. Do they envy the honours bestowed upon me ? Let them envy, likewise, my labours, my abstinence, and the dangers I have undergone for my country, by which I have acquired them. But those worthless men lead such a life of inactivity, as if they despised any honours you can bestow, whilst they aspire to honours as if they had deserved them by the most industrious virtue. They lay claim to
the rewards of activity, for their having enjoyed the pleasures of luxury; yet none can be more lavish than they are in praise of their ancestors: and they imagine they honour themselves by celebrating their forefathers; whereas they do the very contrary: for, as much as their ancestors were distinguished for their virtues, so much are they disgraced by their vices. The glory of ancestors casts a light, indeed, upon their posterity; but it only serves to show what the descendants are. It alike exhibits to public view their degeneracy and their worth. I own, I cannot boast of the deeds of my forefathers; but I hope I may answer the cavils of the Patricians, by standing up in defence of what I have myself done.
Observe now, my countrymen, the injustice of the Patricians. They arrogate to themselves honours, on account of the exploits done by their forefathers; whilst they will not allow me the due praise, for performing the very same sort of actions in my own person. He has no statues, they cry, of his family. He can trace no venerable line of ancestors.-What then? Is it matter of more praise to disgrace one's illustrious ancestors, than to become illustrious by one's own good behaviour? What if I can shew no statues of my family? I can shew the standards, the armour, and the trappings, which I have myself taken from the vanquished; I can shew the scars of those wounds which I have received by facing the enemies of my country. These are my statues. These are the honours I boast of. Not left me by inheritance, as theirs but earned by toil, by abstinence, by valour; amidst clouds of dust, and seas of blood : scenes of action, where those effeminate Patricians, who endeavour by indirect means to depreciate me in your esteem, have never dared to shew their faces.
INVECTIVE AGAINSt Yerres.
THE time is come, Fathers, when that which has long been wished for, towards allaying the envy your order has been subject to, and removing the imputations against trials, is (not by human contrivance but superior direction) effectually put in our power. An opinion has long prevailed, not only here at home, but likewise in foreign countries, both dangerous to you and pernicious to the state, viz., that in prosecutions, men of wealth are always safe, however clearly convicted. There is now to be brought upon his trial before you, to the confusion, I hope, of the propagators of this slanderous imputation, one whose life and actions condemn him in the opinion of all impartial persons, but who, according to his own reckoning, and declared dependence upon his riches, is already acquitted; I mean Caius Verres. If that sentence is passed upon him which his crimes deserve, your authority, Fathers, will be venerable and sacred in the eyes of the public: but if his great riches should bias you in his favour, I shall still gain one point, viz., to make it apparent to all the world, that what was wanting in this case was not a criminal nor a prosecutor, but justice and adequate punishment.
To pass over the shameful irregularities of his youth, what does his quæstorship, the first public employment he held, what does it exhibit but one continued scene of villainies? Cneius Carbo plundered of the public money, by his own treasurer, a consul stripped and betrayed, an army deserted and reduced to want, a province robbed, the civil and religious rights of a people violated. The employment he held in Asia Minor and Pamphilia, what did it
produce but the ruin of those countries? in which houses, cities, and temples were robbed by him. What was his conduct in his prætorship here at home? Let the plundered temples, and public works neglected, that he might embezzle the money intended for carrying them on, bear witness. But his prætorship in Sicily crowns all his works of wickedness, and finishes a lasting monument to his infamy. The mischiefs done by him in that country during the three years of his iniquitous administration, are such, that many years, under the wisest and best of prætors, will not be sufficient to restore things to the condition in which he found them. For it is notorious that, during the time of his tyranny, the Sicilians neither enjoyed the protection of their own original laws, of the regulations made for their benefit by the Roman senate upon their coming under the protection of the commonwealth, nor of the natural and unalienable rights of men. His nod has decided all causes in Sicily for these three years; and his decisions have broke all law, all precedent, all right. The sums he has, by arbitrary taxes and unheard-of impositions, extorted from the industrious poor, are not to be computed. The most faithful allies of the commonwealth have been treated as enemies. Roman citizens have, like slaves, been put to death with tortures. The most atrocious criminals, for money, have been exempted from the deserved punishments; and men of the most unexceptionable characters condemned, and banished, unheard. The harbours, though sufficiently fortified, and the gates of strong towns, opened to pirates and ravagers: the soldiery and sailors belonging to a province under the protection of the commonwealth, starved to death: whole fleets, to the great detriment of the province, suffered to perish: the ancient monuments of either Sicilian or Roman greatness, the statues of heroes and princes, carried off and the temples stripped of the
images. The infamy of his lewdness has been such as decency forbids to describe. And these his atrocious crimes have been committed in so public a manner, that there is no one who has heard of his name, but could reckon up his actions. Having, by his iniquitous sentences, filled the prisons with the most industrious and deserving of the people, he then proceeded to order numbers of Roman citizens to be strangled in the gaols; so that the exclamation, “I am a citizen of Rome!" which has often, in the most distant regions, and among the most barbarous people, been a protection, was of no service to them, but, on the contrary, brought a speedier and more severe punishment upon them.
I ask now, Verres, what you have to advance against this charge? Will you pretend to deny it ? Will you pretend that anything false, that even anything aggravated, is alleged against you? Had any prince, or any state, committed the same outrage against the privilege of Roman citizens, should we not think we had sufficient ground for declaring immediate war against them? What punishment ought then to be inflicted upon a tyrannical and wicked prætor, who dared, at no greater distance than Sicily, within sight of the Italian coast, to put to the infamous death of crucifixion that unfortunate and innocent citizen, Publius Gavius Cosanus, only for his having asserted his privilege of citizenship, and declared his intention of appealing to the justice of his country against a cruel oppressor, who had unjustly confined him in prison at Syracuse, from whence he had just made his escape? The unhappy man, arrested as he was going to embark for his native country, is brought before the wicked prætor. With eyes darting fury, and a countenance distorted with cruelty, he orders the helpless victim of his rage to be stripped, and rods to be brought; accusing him, but without the least shadow of evidence, or even of