Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

imprisoned ; the camp and the rivers polluted with blood ; and that a Roman general drags out a precarious existence at the mercy of men implacable and mad?

Wherefore, on the first day that I addressed you, did you wrest from me that sword which I was on the point of plunging into my heart ? Officious friends! Greater was the kindness of that man who proffered me a sword. At all events, I should have fallen ere I had become aware of the enormities committed by my army. You would have chosen a general who, though he might leave my death unatoned for, would yet avenge the massacre of Varus and his three legions. May that revenge be still reserved for the Roman sword? May the gods withhold from the Belgic states, though now they court the opportunity, the credit and renown of retrieving the Roman name, and of humbling the German nations ! May thy spirit, 0, deified Augustus ! which is received into heaven, thy image, my father Drusus ! prevail with these soldiers, who, even now, I see, are touched with a noble remorse! May your inspiration dispel the disgrace that sits heavy upon them; and may the rage of civil discord discharge itself on the enemies of Rome !

TACITUS.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

PART FOUR. — THE BEMA.*

I. - AGAINST BRIBERY.

It were better, O Athenians! to die ten thousand deaths, than to be guilty of a servile acquiescence in the usurpations of Philip. Not only is he no Greek, and no way allied to Greece, but he sprang from a part of the barbarian world unworthy to be named—from Macedonia, where formerly we could not find a slave fit to purchase! And why is it that the insolence of this man is so tamely tolerated ? Surely there must be some cause why the Greeks, who were once so jealous of their liberty, now show themselves so basely submissive. It is this, Athenians ! They were formerly impelled by a sentiment which was more than a match for Persian gold; a sentiment which maintained the freedom of Greece, and wrought her triumphs by sea and land, over all hostile powers. It was no subtle or mysterious element of success. It was simply this: an abhorrence of traitors; of all who accepted bribes from those princes who were prompted by the ambition of subduing, or the base intent of corrupting, Greece. To receive bribes was accounted a crime of the blackest die - a crime which called for all the severity of public justice. No petitioning for mercy, no pardon, was allowed. Those favorable conjunctures with which fortune oftentimes assists the supine against the vigilant, and renders men, even when most regardless of their interests, superior to those who exert their utmost efforts, could never be sold by orator or general, as in these degenerate days. Our mutual confidence, our settled hatred and distrust of all tyrants and barbarians, could not be impaired or turned aside by the force of money.

But now, opportunity, principles, private honor, and the public good, are exposed to sale as in a market; and in exchange we have that pernicious laxity which is destroying the safety, the very vitals, of Greece. Let a man receive a bribe, he is envied ; let him confess it, he provokes laughter; let him be convicted, he is pardoned ! His very accusation only awakens resentment, 80 thoroughly is public sentiment corrupted! Richer, more powerful, better prepared, than ever before, we lose all our advantages through these traffickers in their country's welfare.

• The Bema was a raised place, or step, from which the Athenian oratori spoko. We have included under this head a specimen of Roman oratory.

How was it formerly? Listen to the decree which your ances tors inscribed upon a brazen column erected in the citadel : "Let Arthmius of Zelia, the son of Pythonax, be accounted infamous, and an enemy to the Athenians and their allies, both he and all his race!” Then comes the reason of his sentence: “Because he brought gold from Media into Peloponnes'us." This is the decree. And now, in the name of all the gods, think upon it! Think what wisdom, what dignity, appeared in this action of our ancestors! This receiver of bribes they declare an enemy to them and their confederates, and that he and his posterity shall be infamous ! And the sentence imported something more; for, in the laws relating to capital cases, it is enacted, that “when the legal punishment of a man's crime can not be inflicted, he may be put to death." And it was accounted meritorious to kill him!

“Let not the infamous man,” says the law, “ be permitted to live;” implying that the citizen is free from guilt who executes this sentence! Such was the detestation in which bribery was held by our fathers! And hence was it that the Greeks were a terror to the barbarians - not the barbarians to the Greeks! Hence was it that wars were fair and open; that battles were fought, not with gold, but steel ; and won, if won at all, not by treachery, but by force of arms!

DEMOSTHENES,

II. - THE SUBVERSION OF THE CONSTITUTION.

THERE are those who may ask you, Athenians, “ What real advantage have we derived from the speeches of Demosthenes? He rises when he thinks proper; he deafens us with his harangues; he declaims against the degeneracy of present times; he tells us of the virtues of our ancestors; he transports us by his airy extravagance; he puffs up our vanity; and then he its down.”

But, Atheniang, could these my speeches produce but their due effect upon your minds, so incalculable would be the advanages conferred upon my country, that were I to attempt to speak them, they would seem visionary to many; yet still must I assume the merit of doing some service by accustoming you to hear salutary truths. From the inveterate habit of listening to falsehoods to every thing rather than your real interests — your ears have become distempered; and they must first be cured, if your counselors would be of any real service to you and your country.

My countrymen, vouchsafe me a patient hearing! It lately

[ocr errors]

INVECTIVE AGAINST DEMOSTHENES.

119

happened that certain persons broke into the treasury; whereupon your speakers all instantly exclaimed, “Our free constitution is overturned! Our laws are no more!” Impossible! I grant you, that those who are guilty of this crime justly deserve to die! But, by such offenders, our constitution is not overturned.

Again; some oars have been stolen from our arsenal “Stripes and tortures for the villain! Our constitution is subverted!” This is the general cry. But what is my opinion? This criminal, like the others, has deserved to die. But, if some are criminal, our constitution is not therefore subverted.

There has been no man who has dared openly and boldly to declare in what case our constitution is subverted. But I shall declare it. When you, Athenians, become a helpless rabble, without conduct, without property, without arms, without order, without unanimity; when neither general nor any other person has the least respect for your decrees; and when no man dares to inform you of this, your condition, to urge the necessary reformation, much less to exert his own efforts to effect it, then is your constitution subverted! And this has been your case !

And now, be sure, my countrymen, that it is by arms we are to subdue our enemies — by arms we are to defend our State. It is not by our decrees that we can conquer. Assume yourselves the conduct of your own affairs. Do an equal duty, and share an equal glory! In judgment, be ever humane? In action, be ever terrible !

IB.

III. - INVECTIVE AGAINST DEMOSTHENES.

To what causes, Athenians, is the prosperity or the calamity of a State to be ascribed ? To none so eminently as to its ministers and generals. Turn your eyes on the state of Thebes. It subsisted once. It was once great.

It had its soldiers and commanders. There was a time when Pelop'idas led the “sacred band; ” when Epaminon'das and his colleagues commanded the army. Then did the Thebans gain the victory at Leuctra. Then did they pierce into the territories of Lă-ce-de'mon, before deemed inaccessible. Then did they achieve many and noble deeds. For what is the great security of every state and nation? Good generals and able ministers !

Let this be duly and attentively considered, and let us no longer suffer by the corrupt and pernicious conduct of Demosthenes. Let it not be imagined that we shall ever want good men and faithful counselors. With all the generous severity of

our ancestors, let us punish the man whose bribery, whose treason, are unequivocally detected ; who could not resist the temptation of gold; who in war has proved himself a coward, in his civil conduct a busybody; who, when his fellow-citizens are called forth to meet their enemies in the field, flies from his post, and hides himself at home; when the danger is at home, and his aid is demanded here, pretends that he is an ambassador, and runs from the city!

Let this man no longer amuse you with airy hopes and false representations, and promises which he forgets as soon as uttered! Let not his ready tears and lamentations move you! Reserve all your pity for your country : your country, which his practices have undone - your country, which now implores you to save it from a traitor's hand. When he would waken all your sympathy for Demosthenes, then turn your eyes on Athens. Consider her former glory. Contrast it with her present degradation! And ask yourselves, whether Demosthenes has been reduced to greater wretchedness by Athens, or Athens by Demosthenes!

DINARCHUS.

IV. - AGAINST CATILINE. CONSCRIPT FATHERS, a camp is pitched against the Roman republic within Italy, on the very borders of Etruria. Every day adds to the number of the enemy. The leader of those enemies, the commander of that encampment, walks within the walls of Rome; takes his seat in this senate, the heart of Rome; and, with venomous mischief, rankles in the inmost vitals of the commonwealth. Catiline, should I, on the instant, order my lictors to seize and drag you to the stake, some men might, even then, blame me for having procrastinated punishment; but no man could criminate me for a faithful execution of the laws. They shall be executed. But I will neither act, nor will I suffer, without full and sufficient reason. Trust me, they shall be executed; and then, even then, when there shall not be found a man so flagitious, so much a Catiline, as to say you were not ripe for execution.

Was not the night before the last sufficient to convince you that there is a good genius protecting that republic, which a ferocious demoniac is laboring to destroy? I aver, that on that same night you and your complotters assembled. Can even your own tongue deny it? Yet secret! Speak out, man; for, if you do not, there are some I see around me who shall have an agonizing proof that I am true in my assertion.

« ForrigeFortsett »