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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 64: Elections.[449 BC]
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This victory of the tribunes and the plebs very nearly led to a dangerous abuse of power. A secret understanding was come to amongst the tribunes that they should all be reappointed and to prevent their factious purpose from being too noticeable they were to secure a continuance of the consuls in office also. They alleged as a reason the agreement of the senate to undermine the rights of the plebs by the slight they had cast on the consuls: "What," they argued, "would happen if, before the laws were yet securely established, the patricians should attack fresh tribunes through consuls belonging to their own party? For the consuls would not always be men of the stamp of Valerius and Horatius, who subordinated their own interests to the liberty of the plebs." |
By a happy chance it fell to the lot of Marcus Duillius to preside over the elections. He was a man of sagacity, and foresaw the obloquy that would be incurred by the continuance in office of the present magistrates. On his declaring that he would accept no votes for the former tribunes his colleagues insisted that he should either leave the tribes free to vote for whom they chose, or else resign the control of the elections to his colleagues who would conduct them according to law rather than at the will of the patricians. As a contention had arisen, Duillius sent for the consuls and asked them what they intended to do about the consular elections. They replied that they should elect fresh consuls. Having thus gained popular supporters for a measure by no means popular, he proceeded in company with them into the Assembly. Here the consuls were brought forward to the people and the question was put to them, "If the Roman people, remembering how you have recovered their liberty for them at home, remembering, too, your services and achievements in war, should make you consuls a second time, what do you intend to do?" They declared their resolution unchanged, and Duillius, applauding the consuls for maintaining to the last an attitude totally unlike that of the decemvirs, proceeded to hold the election. Only five tribunes were elected, for owing to the efforts of the nine tribunes in openly pushing their canvass, the other candidates could not get the requisite majority of votes. He dismissed the Assembly and did not hold a second election, on the ground that he had satisfied the requirements of the law, which nowhere fixed the number of tribunes, but merely enacted that the office of tribune should not be left vacant. He ordered those who had been elected to co-opt colleagues, and recited the formula which governed the case as follows: "If I require you to elect ten tribunes of the plebs; if on this day you have elected less than ten, then those whom they co-opt shall be lawful tribunes of the plebs by the same law, in like manner as those whom you have this day made tribunes of the plebs." Duillius persisted in asserting to the last that the common-wealth could not possibly have fifteen tribunes, and he resigned office, after having won the goodwill of patricians and plebeians alike by his frustration of the ambitious designs of his colleagues.
|Haec uictoria tribunorum plebisque prope in haud salubrem luxuriam uertit, conspiratione inter tribunos facta ut iidem tribuni reficerentur, et, quo sua minus cupiditas emineret, consulibus quoque continuarent magistratum. Consensum patrum causabantur, quo per contumeliam consulum iura plebis labefactata essent. Quid futurum nondum firmatis legibus, si nouos tribunos per factionis suae consules adorti essent? Non enim semper Valerios Horatiosque consules fore, qui libertati plebis suas opes postferrent. Forte quadam utili ad tempus, ut comitiis praeesset potissimum M. Duillio sorte euenit, uiro prudenti et ex continuatione magistratus inuidiam imminentem cernenti. Qui cum ex ueteribus tribunis negaret se ullius rationem habiturum, pugnarentque collegae ut liberas tribus in suffragium mitteret aut concederet sortem comitiorum collegis, habituris e lege potius comitia quam ex uoluntate patrum, iniecta contentione Duillius consules ad subsellia accitos cum interrogasset quid de comitiis consularibus in animo haberent, respondissentque se nouos consules creaturos, auctores populares sententiae haud popularis nactus in contionem cum iis processit. Vbi cum consules producti ad populum interrogatique, si eos populus Romanus, memor libertatis per illos receptae domi, memor militiae rerum gestarum, consules iterum faceret, quidnam facturi essent, nihil sententiae suae mutassent, conlaudatis consulibus quod perseuerarent ad ultimum dissimiles decemuirorum esse, comitia habuit; et quinque tribunis plebi creatis cum prae studiis aperte petentium nouem tribunorum alii candidati tribus non explerent, concilium dimisit nec deinde comitiorum causa habuit. Satisfactum legi aiebat, quae numero nusquam praefinito tribuni modo ut relinquerentur sanciret et ab iis qui creati essent cooptari collegas iuberet; recitabatque rogationis carmen in quo sic erat: 'Si tribunos plebei decem rogabo, si qui uos minus hodie decem tribunos plebei feceritis, tum ut ii quos hi sibi collegas cooptassint legitimi eadem lege tribuni plebei sint ut illi quos hodie tribunos plebei feceritis.' Duillius cum ad ultimum perseuerasset negando quindecim tribunos plebei rem publicam habere posse, uicta collegarum cupiditate pariter patribus plebeique acceptus magistratu abiit.|