Obrazy na stronie

republic. But you are mortal, and I mourn away what Dr. Middleton calls "the slantherefore, as well on account of its destiny derous atrocities of his enemies.” Motion as the shortness and limitation of your own in vacuo is well known to be surer and career.” The art of the oration was exqui- speedier than through a resisting medium, site, but the dissimulation was execrable. especially to imponderous bodies, among It is a mistake to say that Cæsar yielded to which certainly the doctor is not to be eloquence; he was too stern to be carried classed; but he disposes of the resistance away hy Cicero's beautiful declamation, but by jumping to conclusions without the emhe yielded to the unanimous wish of the barrassing annoyance of facts or principles; sepate, and, in paying a compliment to them and in the most comfortable frame of mind and to Cicero, he fortified his own power: possible decides that his ability as a statesHe was

as inaccessible to adulation as man was only equalled by his prodigious Cicero was accessible. In the Ligarius, powers as an orator. We have given him louches of the true patriot broke forth; the full credit for his eloquence-let us see dictator presided at the trial, resolved on whether he merits equal praise for his condemnation, but Cicero extorted a pardon, statesmanship. Backed by the senate, by not by flattery and hypocrisy, but the force the equestrian order, by the unanimous of feeling eloquence; he did not, as before, voice of the great majority of the citizens, meanly justify the triumph of Pharsalia ; he with all the resources of the empire, civil pathetically deplored it

, and Cæsar was and military, at his command and disposal, moved by truth, when he would have been he crushed the insane plot of a few deimmoveable to falsehoods Cicero took no bauched and abandoned nobles. His col. part in Cæsar's death, or the conspiracy, league Antony, with no brains, but with the ihough he must have been aware of its same resources, would have been just as existence. He was omitted after some deli- successful had he been as anxious in the beration,-Brulus, who knew him well, hav- cause. Cicero has trumpeted his renown ing objected to his introduction. Shakspeare until every echo of the Seven Hills was exhas very happily dramatised the opinions of hausted; he mounted on his consulship, and the leading conspirators as to his unfitness. thence directed his flight into regions of

flattery before unknown. Catiline, in fact, Cassius. But what of Cicero ? Shall we sound I think he will stand very strong with us. [him ?

turned his head. He certainly crushed the Cascai Let us not leave him out.

conspiracy with vigour, and had he proCinna.

No, by no means.

ceeded a step further, and by reforming Metellus. Oh, let us have him ; for his silver hairs the constitution brought it to a sound and Will purchase us a good opinion,

healthy state, he might have eulogised himAnd buy men's voices to commend our deeds ; self with more reason. But Cicero was It shall be said his judgment ruled our hands ; the very worst and most short-sighted of Our youths and wildness shall no whit appear, political physicians; instead of excising But all be buried in his gravity.

the evil, he forced it back into the blood, Brutus. O name him not; let us not break with and the whole system soon mortified beFor he will never follow anything [him, yond the hope of cure. That other men begin. Cassius. Then leave him out.

This conspiracy is the strangest in hisBrutus. Indeed he is not fit.

tory-Jet us inquire shortly into its causes.

Cicero hints that the people were as much Brutus has pithily sketched his character in to blame as the aristocracy for the diseased a single line; as he was not the head and state of society in his times. No doubt in front of the conspiracy, the chances were one sense they were, but their conduct was that his notorious indiscretion would have the natural and direct effect of a cause ori. defeated the whole business., With the ginated in the aristocracy themselves. The death of Cæsar his spirit rose. He openly old noblesse of France, debauched and opcharacterized it as divinum in rempublicam pressive as it was, when contrasted with beneficium," a godlike service to the com- the Roman, is the very model of purity. monwealth. He really thought so at the History is silent on their unparalleled infatime, although he must have changed his my, with the exception of Sallust

, who has opinions after, when he beheld the fearful left us a graphic outline of their criminalitumult and anarchy of which it was the ty. He has not gone deep into their vices, cause, and the final fall of the constitution for he was himself a voluptuary, and one in the self-raised triumvirate. - Cicero's en of the order; yet he gives us enough to arthusiasm was sincere; he was the first to rive at a true conception of their character. congratulate the deliverers when they de. Cicero too much feared or admired them, scended from the Capitol; he first suspect and was silent. Generally they were the ed the intentions of Antony; he bearded most contaminated and immoral mass that the tyrant with courage, and wound up a ever existed. They practised all manner long and eventful life with a death of dig- of vices, some of which it would be pollunity and glory.

tion to utter. The grossest offences against We violate historical order in not having nature were of every day occurrence, and noticed before Catiline's conspiracy, the such deep root did they take in the heart suppression of which, say Cicero's admir- of society, that the most distinguished of ers, was a piece of the most masterly Roman poets has warmly descanted on statesmanship, quite sufficient to purge them without shame or reproach. The Ro.

man nobility was not merely vicious by of a general usage, of the two sons of accident. We can well conceive how its Micipsa, ån old and faithful ally of Rome, social position may affect the habits of a Jugurtha murdered one, and deposed the class. The law-maker is often the law. other from his inheritance: they were his breaker. Men naturally good may become cousins. Atherbal appealed to the senate corrupt by the possession of privileges at for protection, and few of the readers of variance with popular rights; and there is Sallust but will remember his beautiful and but one step from the public extortioner to pathetic letter. The crafty Jugurtha was the private oppressor. We cannot trace before him in the market; he appealed to these changes in the Roman aristocracy; the nobles, through their insatiable avarice they were completely sui generis-base in -his ambassadors went publicly from public and in private, with no sentiments house to house, and purchased the support of virtue and honour, or even their sem- of honourable Romans with Numidian blance-the whole object of life was first gold. Atherbal's petition was defeatedto plunder, next to spend. Robbery was he had no hard cash. After much protheir motto, and when they had accumu- crastination, he obtained a hearing; and lated vast fortunes in the provincial govern- what does Sallust say of the aristocrats? ments, to which the acquisitions of our In- " They struggled for the guilt and baseness dian governors-general were trifles, they of another as they would have struggled were as anxious to lavish them dissolutely for their own glory, by their influence, their as to acquire them dishonestly. They vio- speeches, and all means within their powlated every compact—they were controlled er!" But the venerable Senate was just by no obligation—they set all law at defi- for once, and listened to the call of perseance, and recognized no limitation to their cuted humanity in an old and faithful ally licentiousness. They treated the plebeians of Rome! By no means. They knit their as slaves. By a succession of outrages they wrinkled brows, and stroked their beards drove them frequently into insurrection, with the utmost complacency, while they and then, with their troops of armed bravos rewarded the malefactor, whom they and gladiators, massacred them without should have deposed, with half the territomercy. Usury was another of their terri- ry of Micipsa. Commissioners were ap.

instruments of popular proscription. pointed to strike a boundary-ihe chairman Livy, aristocratic and prejudiced as he was, was Opimius, a very remarkable man, discould not suppress the fact, that every pa. tinguished for his general vices as well as trician house was a gaol for debtors; and the cowardly murder of the younger Gracthat in seasons of great distress, after every chus. Jugurtha, a keen observer, soon sitting of the courts, herds of sentenced discovered the failings of Opimius and the plebeians were led away in chains to the commissioners, and secured their good houses of nobles. The rate of interest was wishes by the prompt application of gold. long unrestricted, and the miserable people Their connivance at his flagitious treatment were frantic with joy when the law fixed it of Atherbal led to their deposition, and a at ten per cent. In° Cicero's time justice council of three was substituted, over which was openly bought and sold; the adminis-Scaurus, a man of some little virtue, pre. tration of the laws was as corrupt as the sided. The new commissioners remonminds and bodies of the aristocracy. No strated with Jugurtha on the siege of Cirta; wonder that the holdings of the constitu- but, confiding in Roman corruption, hé tion should rapidly give way, when law, soon put an end to further remonstrancewhich has a paramount influence on public captured the town, murdered Atherbal, and manners, should be so scandalously disre- massacred indiscriminately both natives garded. For money the prætor exiled the and Roman merchants who resided there innocent and discharged the guilty, abetted for commercial purposes. This soon arousvice and punished virtue, and set at defined the indignation of the people—the triance all public principle and morality. He bunes clamoured for vengeance-Roman received bribes on the judgment seat in citizens had been assassinated! The storm the open day. The civil wars were not the was too strong-Jugurtha's partizans were cause of this hideous profligacy-they forced to be silent, and war was reluctantsprang from it, not it from them. No doubt ly proclaimed ! Jugurtha, not daunted by the civil wars gave a tenfold intensity to all the intelligence, despatched his sons to kinds of vice, but the ulcerous infection had Rome, "to attack every man with money;" long raged in the bowels of the state, and but the public voice was overwhelmingby them was only brought sooner to the gold was unavailing, however anxious its surface. It existed long before the Oron- recipients to do Jugurtha a service, and he tes flowed into the Tiber;” and brought its was summoned to answer straightway for luxuries and effeminacy-long before Sylla his crimes. He did come, and escaped by and his corruptions. Sallust's vivid de favour of an immaculate tribune, who, not scriptions are familiar to every person. He being gold proof, like his betters, fingered tells us, as matters of history, facts which Numidian cash, and interposed' his veto. make us recoil, and wonder that in any Who does not remember Jugurtha's pithy community, civilized or savage, such mo- exclamation, on looking back at the city? ral enormities should not only be perpe- " Venal Rome! you will perish as soon as trated, but have even received the sanction you can find a purchaser."

Such being the state of the aristocracy-might and could have done so successfully, a state which has no parallel in history, had he been influenced by the dictates of and when to this are added the consequences wisdom or policy ; but where did he ever of the bloody broils of Sylla and Marius-act with either? In this system every perthe ferocity—the viciousness—the dissipa- son can see quite sufficient to justify the tion-the hopes of other proscriptions and co-operation of the people in any effort to reigns of terror that followed-can we feel improve their condition. Catiline calcu. surprised at the reckless audacity of Cati-, lated on the popular fermentation; but the line ? Let us look to the people, who, as people, with a wisdom which put to shame we have said, stood aloof from the conspi- the nefarious conduct of their rulers, took racy. We speak of the mass, for there no part in the conspiracy. The leaders, to were vagabonds among the people, as well a man, were of the aristocracy; it was as the peerage, ready to overthrow the gov- marked by the terrible name of the “paernment; but the majority continued true trician crime," and its active elements were to the love of country and social order. composed of debauched soldiers of Sylla, When we reflect on the causes that have and the well-fed slaves of the higher classes. always produced popular discontent, we Relief and revenge were promised to an are surprised at the forbearance of the citi- infuriated people; but, however hateful their zens of Rome in the Catiline crisis. They tyrants, and ungrateful the government, they were poor, for the higher classes had en nobly refused to sacrifice either, and when gulphed everything. They were for ever the consul expelled Catiline from the city, in debt ;-debt was the cause of the seces. he was followed to his house by the accla. sions, and of all the other outbreaks between mations of the multitude. them and the patricians. They had no We ask, again, where did Cicero exhibit means of subsistence-no commerce-no a more than ordinary sagacity? Was it manufactures-how were they to live ? The in the detection ? Surely not. Every per. Licinian rogations secured them a com-son within the walls of the city knew of its fortable means of living ; but the griping existence. Did not that very conspiracy avarice of the aristocracy soon put an end make himself consul? Was not, to use to this salutary provision, and, after dis- his own words, the public patience irritated possessing the rightful proprietors, filled by their daring conduct? They concealed their territory with shoals of slaves. The nothing—they acted openly, undisguisedly people were reduced to the most abject —they erected their banners in the heart of misery-hey were millions, and they had the city, and blew the trumpet of rebellion no bread. Gracchus sought to remedy the in the very forum. So exiraordinary has evil, and he was foully murdered. With been the conduct of Catiline and the conthat habitual despicable malice with which spirators, as described by Cicero and Salthe enemies of the memory of great men lust, that many have doubted its existence and great deeds get up reasons to depre- in the present historical shape; but, from all ciate, it is stated that, by the distribution of we have said, few will be surprised at the corn, Gracchus sought to corrupt the peo: gross audacity of Catiline and his patrician ple, and form a party. This has nestled brotherhood. We then praise Cicero, not itself in history, and Cicero is the main for detecting the conspiracy-that was no. cause of its belief; though he must have torious—but for his firmness in executing known that Gracchus, in his acts, never Lentulus and the others. Plutarch says he manifested such a design. He merely wished was instigated to this course by the boldto give efficacy to the Licinian law, which ness and energy of his wife Terentia ; be had fallen into desuetude from the rapacity that, however, as it may, he acted with of the nobles. He saw that it was neces- unusual courage. The suppression of the sary to provide for the growth of a city conspiracy did little to eradicate the corrupt populace, whose numbers were become matter that lurked deep in the constitution ; alarming, and whose squalid indigence, the remembrance of old feuds was renewed contrasting itself with the profuse extrava--the remaining links between the people gance of their oppressors, could not fail to and the government broken. Cæsar came produce dissensions, which every prudent in, and buried for ever the independence or humane statesman should be solicitous both of the senate and the people. Our to prevent. When the agrarian system was admiration of Cicero is very much qualified in operation, this evil was not perceptible ; —" he scotched the snake, not killed it,”— but during the century that preceded the the great mass of evil remained untouched.. Sempronian enactments, it developed itself It is not surprising that throughout all his in the most frightful manner. The poor-law works he displays the same unstatesmanof Gracchus, for such appears to be the lex like ignorance of great political principles. frumentaria, was only a temporary palli- One would imagine that the struggle of ative. From the time of the Gracchi down- mighty factions was the personal scuffle of ward, the condition of the populace was a few individuals. With him principles truly deplorable. Starving for want of the are nothing-men everything. necessaries of life, and hunted down by Let us now compare him with Demosillegal prosecutions, they at length grew thenes, and striking is his inferiority. They desperate, while the government made not have often been piited against each other, the slightest attempt to conciliate. Cicero land often to the detriment of Demosthenes

- let us see with what justice. From the expense, against the remonstrances of the beginning, it is evident, all the advantages citizens, and loud reprobation of the corrupt were on the side of Cicero. He had not to Demades and his gang of traitors. The contend with the numerous obstructions galleys sailed, the island was retaken, Philip which nature interposed between Demos. driven from his stronghold, and Athens thenes and success. He had not to spend saved for a season. Look to his embassies his youth in remedying defects-he was they were all on the most magnificent not borne down by the narrowness of his scale-not of cost but of design. He effected circumstances, nor his youthful energies the greatest confederacies, raised the most frittered away in an unequal contest with powerful armies, recruited the exhausted power and oppression. On the contrary, ireasury-all by his individual exertions. he had the choicest of opportunities, and The Theban league was a splendid piece of he worthily employed them in the acqui- policy, for which he took to himself the sition of his art. În one respect Demos- greatest credit, and justly. Their vicinity thenes had the superiority. When he ap- rendered them dangerous riyals-their power peared, the literature of his country had formidable enemies. They were under deep reached its greatest maturity : poetry, phi- obligations to Philip for his conduct in the losophy, and history, were in their most Phocian war, and all hope of dissevering divine perfection, and the Greek orator had the alliance appeared impracticable. Deonly to make a choice from the noblest mosthenes undertook the arduous task; he materials that ever moulded the youthful appealed to the national glory of Greece, to mind to excellence. Before Cicero, Roman the sense of common danger, and the neliterature was of the coldest and least in- cessity of common union; he reminded them viting character. Poetry was principally of their old struggles for liberty; and confined to the hard uncouthness of En touched them when he spoke of the gene. nius; history to the dulness of Fabius Pic- rosity of Athens to their exiled countrymen tor and the annalists; philosophy had no in the day of their distress. The Thebans representative, for the trite and puerile were overcome ; fear, caution, former atquestions discussed by Cato, whether the tachments were disregarded, and they joined summum bonum consists in the presence of the confederacy with enthusiasm. What pleasure or absence of pain, or in virtue like to this has Cicero accomplished—where along with riches and pleasure, or in virtue was his political sagacity exerted ? It may alone-are frivolities with which real philo- be said there was no room for it—that the sophy has no connection. No writer of foreign relations of Rome were very diffe. eminence existed on whom he could model rent from those of Athens. But was there his language, and it is much to his praise not abundant room in the state of parties at that he gave his country a literature, and home for address and skill? All society was himself a reputation. And here we may split into factions, warring with each other ask, what would he have been without and with the general good. Cicero just left Demosthenes, whose works he studied un- them where he found them, or rather he til he could almost repeat them line for displeased the nobility by his lenient but line? Cicero had a wider and far more ineffective nostrums to reconcile the people; splendid field — the Roman empire : its and he displeased the people by the fulsome strangely diversified history, the striking praises he lavished on such detestable chavirtues and vices of its citizens, supplied racters as Opimius, Nasica, and the other topics of the most unbounded interest; patrician butchers. Adversity is the only whereas many of Demosthenes' were on crucible to try the tempers of men. What subjects which necessarily narrowed and a melancholy picture does Cicero present to curbed his eloquence. Both were ambi- our view at the time of his exile! He aptious of power-both loved liberty-were plies to Pompey for assistance-his friend opposed to tyrants-were exiled-returned, flies through a back-door to escape his im. and fell when freedom quitted for ever the portunities. He applies to the consuls—they Capitol and Acropolis. The ambition of rudely repulse him i Behold him then tra. Demosthenes was much more exalted— versing the streets of Rome in a mourning

irected to an object glorious, be- garment, all tears and lamentations, suppli. yond example—the desence of free Greece cating every shoeless plebeian to take comagainst barbarian invaders, and he did passion on ihe saviour of his country! Rome defend it like a champion worthy of such was ungrateful, but Cicero was the weakest a charge. During his career of thirty years, or meanest of men. How dwindled must be every act was that of the most accomplished his authority, when such a ruffian as Clodius and consummate statesman ; he saw, al. could drive him into banishment, and raze most instinctively, the various combina- his dwelling to the ground! The fault was tions of interests necessary for the main- essentially his own; he petted Clodius until tenance of his country, and in the teeth of he destroyed him. In exile his heart was ancient animosities, of jealousies and ri- broken, and, imitating Demosthenes, he valries, where all were most successfully looked longingly towards Italy, as he em. cultivated, he neutralised their hostility, or barked for Dyrrachium. He sighed to secured their favour, by his address and return, because banishment was insupport. eloquence. He sent an armament to Eubæa able. Demosthenes in exile presents a difon his own responsibility, and at his own | ferent picture. All Plutarch's chit-chat about


the corruption of Demosthenes, in the case mory of Cæsar, or done something to mar of Harpalus, is partly composed of the lying the effect of his sublime invectives. Never sneers of his enemies, partly of his own gar- would Demosthenes have done so; he would rulity. Does any person believe that a man intrepidly have vindicated the dignity of of the firmness, virtue, and honour of De- freedom against him and all his legions. mosthenes, took a gold cup, worth a few Cicero wrote his second Philippic far retalents, from an open-mouthed Asiatic, who moved from all danger-Demosthenes spoke made no secret of his corrupt intentions, his crown oration when his life hung on the when he might have obtained from Philip a wink of Antipater; it was the heroic struggle thousand or ten thousand talents, and con- of Athens and freedom against Macedon and fided in his secrecy? The story throughout destiny. No man loves liberty or his country is a fiction; it bears internal evidence of who does not love him. Sirong with the falsehood. The character of Demosthenes strength of virtue and honour-borne up by shames, even out of the pretence of truth, the inherent dignity of his soul-discouraged such an absurd story as this;—that he came by the corruption of his fellow-citizens, he into the assembly with a woollen bandage still fought on the battle of Grecian liberty about his neck, and, when called upon to against triumphant oppression. He was speak, made signs that he had lost his voice! never depressed, for he was ever conscious It is the best proof of his innocence that he of having acted right. He scorned conbrought the affair before the Areopagus; he straint; for he had the greatest of human was convicted, not for having received the causes to defend : and though a free circulabribe, —he dared his enemies to the proof- tion of opinion ceased to exist, for judges but for having been silent when the objects and assembly were awed, and the expres. of the Persian were discovered. He left the sions of applause in his favour even were ungrateful city without regret, but its inte-dangerous, yet there is not the remotest rests were not forgotten. He did not esta- trace of despondency, no feebleness, no blish a school of rhetoric, like Cicero, to wandering, no uncertainty. No, not a sympraise up a generation of young orators. 'He tom. Proudly did he do his duty to his had loftier views than the philosophic country and his fame. It was not so with Roman, who vainly sought refuge from his Cicero; a vein of melancholy runs through sorrows in the retirement of his study. He his loftiest flights—the image of Antony was could not remain inactive while he might be continually before his eyes. He said with of service to his country. His last attempt truth, “ I scorned the swords of Catiline." to raise the liberty of Greece, exiled though The remainder was not so true; "I will not he was, had in it something more glorious fear yours.” The denial was peremptory, than all the rest. He sent forth his friend but the dread of the triumvir was in and and pupil, Leosthenes, and the cities of around him. If we compare their last moGreece once more rallied round his standard ments, how pitiful does Cicero appear! of revolt. He went forth, mingling, in his " How deplorable," says Plutarch, " to see powerful eloquence, pictures of by-gone an old man, for want of proper resolution, glory with the interests of individual states. suffering himself to be carried about by his The death of his friend broke up the confe- servants, endeavouring to hide himself from deracy, but the venerable patriot was re- death, which was a messenger that nature called. Cicero boasted that all Italy brought would soon have sent him, and overtaken him on her shoulders to Rome-Demosthenes, notwithstanding, and slaughtered by his with less vanity but more feeling, declared enemies !" himself happier than Alcibiades.

It was an outbreak of his old irresolution, Between Cicero's return and Cæsar's death which his real contempt of death, for he did there is one bright spot in Cicero's charac- contemn it, could not vanquish. Demostheter. His Cilician government was gentle and nes died as he had lived; he did not hold just: presents were offered him in abun- forth his venerable head to his assassinsdance--he refused all--affording a singular he knew how to fall with dignity; and if contrast to the general conduct of Roman ever suicide were justifiable in the eyes of magistrates, whose administrations were an heaven, Demosthenes was guiltless. undeviating course of public robbery and “Now," said he, swallowing the fatal private swindling. Once did he approach draught, "you may act the part of Creon in the stern patriotism of Demosthenes. The the play as soon as you please, and cast out Philippics every where abound with resolu- this carcass of mine unburied !" tion. The hand of Antony was on his throat, Cicero had great natural talents, and a as Antipater's was on the throat of Demos-most untiring industry, which, combined with thenes, but undismayed he threw the shield a singular capacity for information, supplied of his eloquence over expiring liberty. But the vast stores of intellectual wealth with giving him all the credit to which he is which his writings abound. His mind was eminently entitled, we should remember that peculiarly adapted to philosophy, much the boldest of his orations were spoken in more so than to eloquence, great as he was the absence of Antony, and while the senate in the latter. He seldom knocks powerfully yet continued to direct the government. We at the heart, but prefers winding his way cannot refrain from thinking, that if his into it by his elegant learning, his beautiful enemy had been present, his weakness would imagination, and the most fascinating livelihave tempted him to apostrophise the me-ness of manner. Not that he is deficient in



« PoprzedniaDalej »