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Such is the feeling which Cicero desired to evoke. He spoke for Cornelius as he spoke against Verres, as Whiteside spoke for O'Connell, in the pursuit of professional distinction, and to establish his growing fame as an unrivalled speaker and pleader. Quintus, in his Commentariolum Petitionis, is never tired of urging the vast importance of a reputation as a speaker. Yet modern historians see in these speeches evidence that Cicero at first attached himself to the democratic party, which he was bribed to abandon by the promised support of the Optimates in his canvass for the consulship. This charge would certainly have been met and rebutted by Cicero in some of his works if it had ever been made against him in his own time. He would doubtless have been astonished if he could have foreseen that this would be one of the verdicts of history for which,' as he says,* 'I feel much more reverence than for the chit-chat of the present age. We may well exclaim, as did the orator himself in this same speech, O callidos homines, O rem excogitatam, O ingenia metuenda.
I should not have thought it necessary to refer to the calumnies which beset Cicero on the very threshold of public life, but that it is so very important to show how futile is the appeal to his forensic speeches as evidence for Cicero's political opinions. For these we must go firstly to his private letters, and secondly to his philosophical and rhetorical works. That we are not to look in these speeches for his personal opinions, we have his own evidence in a most important passage in his speech for Cluentius (139) :.
Errat vehementer, si quis in orationibus nostris, quas in iudiciis habuimus, auctoritates nostras consignatas se habere arbitratur. Omnes enim illae orationes, causarum ac temporum sunt, non hominum ipsorum aut patronorum. Nam, si caussae ipsae pro se loqui possent, nemo adhiberet oratorem. Nunc adhibemur, ut ea dicamus, non quae nostra auctoritate constituantur, sed quae ex re ipsa caussaque ducantur.
Moreover, we have the same circumstances viewed from opposite, or at least very different, points of view in different speeches, as no one can fail to observe who reads the pro Sulla with the
* Quid vero historiae de nobis ad annos DC praedicarint ? Quas quidem ego multo migis vereor quam eorum hominum qui hodie vivunt rumusculos, Att. ii. 5, 1.
speeches against Catiline, or who, after admiring the denunciations hurled on Verres for his oppression of Sicily, takes up the defence of M. Fonteius, charged with malversation in Gaul-a speech delivered the year after the Verrines were written.* And such contrasts, no doubt, would far more frequently appear if Cicero had oftener been a prosecutor. Hence Cicero's personal opinions should never be sought in his forensic speeches. Even in his political speeches one must not expect a too accurate record of his real convictions. Who, for instance, could for a moment believe that in the speech against the wise and moderate Agrarian Law of Rullus f Cicero was speaking otherwise than as an advocate? And hence we may estimate the priceless value of the private letters and the works on philosophy and rhetoric. As an instance of his unprejudiced expression of his real opinion in his rhetorical treatises, one recalls his high praise of Sulpicius, whose defection from the ranks of the Optimates must have made him politically very distasteful to one whose ideal statesmen were Metellus Numidicus, § and Q. Lutatius Catulus. || That the public letters are by no means so trustworthy might be expected a priori; and we have among them letters in which one can hardly believe that the expressed sentiment is sincere—for instance, the letter to Antonius (Att. xiv. 136), in which he uses such very temperate expressions to describe his feelings towards his old enemy Clodius.
In his private letters, however, we may expect to find his real opinions. But his private letters, though a fountain of light to
• Compare also with the language of the Catilinarian speeches the very temperate portrait of Catiline in the pro Caelio.
† This Law was conceived in the best spirit of wise and moderate statesmanship. But the principle of drafting off the idle population of Rome as colonists of the public domain was the pet scheme of the Gracchi, and was identified with the democratic programme. Cicero, therefore, as an optimate, was bound to oppose it, and he has shown amazing adroitness in turning the passions of the people against a scheme with which he must to a great extent have sympathised. Surely the etiquette of party government must have rendered every Englishman familiar with such acts. And nowhere can we find a closer analogy to Roman politics than in our own party struggles. After in 694, when it was not a party question, he spoke strongly in favour of unilar Agrarian Law proposed by Flavius.-Att. i. 19, 4.
De Orat. i. 131-2, iii. 31. Brut. 183, 203. Pro Sest. 101. Pro Planc. 89. | Att. i. 20, 3. De Orat. iii. 9.
those who read them with intelligence and without a theory, may be made the source of a formal acte d'accusation against the whole character and life of Cicero in the hands of a theorist who insists on reading letters which (never intended to be published) reflect every passing light or shade which falls across the disc of the writer's mind, as so many chapters of a history which registers and stereotypes at each page the political convictions of a statesman. M. Gaston Boissier, in his admirable study of Roman society in the last days of the Republic called Cicéron et ses amis, points out how the man of the world is really more fitted to read the letters of Cicero aright than the German professor. I think I shall not do ill in giving this passage in Boissier's own words :
Ces faiblesses d'un moment, ces soupçons ridicules qui naissent d'une blessure d'amour-propre, ces courtes violences qui se calment dès qu'on réfléchit, ces injustices qu'arrache le dépit, ces bouffées d'ambition que la raison s'empresse de désavouer, une fois qu'on les a confiées à un ami, ne périssent plus. Un jour, un commentateur curieux étudiera ces confidences trop sincères, et il s'en servira pour tracer de l'imprudent qui les a faites un portrait à effrayer la postérité. Il prouvera, par des citations exactes et irréfutables, qu'il était mauvais citoyen et méchant ami, qu'il n'aimait ni son pays ni sa famille, qu'il était jaloux des honnêtes gens et qu'il a trahi tous les partis. Il n'en est rien cependant, et un esprit sage ne se laisse pas abuser par l'artifice de ces citations perfides. Il sait bien qu'on ne doit pas prendre à la lettre ces gens emportés ni croire trop à ce qu'ils disent. Il faut les défendre contre eux-mêmes, refuser de les écouter quand la passion les égare, et distinguer surtout leurs sentiments véritables et persistants de toutes ces exagérations qui ne durent pas. Voilà pourquoi tout le monde n'est pas propre à bien comprendre les lettres; tout le monde ne sait pas les lire comme il faut. Je me défie de ces savants qui, sans aucune habitude des hommes, sans aucune expérience de la vie, prétendent juger Cicéron d'après sa correspondance. Le plus souvent ils le jugent mal. Ils cherchent l'expression de sa pensée dans ces politesses banales que la société exige et qui n'engagent pas plus ceux qui les font qu'elles ne trompent ceux qui les reçoivent. Ils traitent de lâches compromis ces concessions qu'il faut bien se faire quand on veut vivre ensemble. Ils voient des contradictions manifestes dans ces couleurs différentes qu'on donne à son opinion suivant les personnes auxquelles on parle. Ils triomphent de l'imprudence de certains aveux ou de la fatuité de certains éloges, parce qu'ils ne saisissent pas la fine ironie qui les tempère. Pour bien apprécier toutes ces nuances, pour rendre aux choses leur importance véritable, pour être bon juge de la portée de ces phrases qui se disent avee un demi-sourire et ne signifient pas toujours tout ce qu'elles semblent dire, il faut avoir plus d'habitude de la vie qu’on n'en prend d'ordinaire dans une université d'Allemagne. S'il faut dire ce que je pense, dans cette appréciation délicate, je me fierais peutêtre encore plus à un homme du monde qu'à un savant.*
It is misleading-nay absolutely false—to say that Cicero made overtures to democracy. He exercised on every cause entrusted to him his unrivalled abilities as a pleader; but he who says that the author of the speech pro Cornelio was coquetting with democracy might as well say that the author of the speech pro Sulla was intriguing with the Catilinarian conspirators. His projected defence of Catiline is put forward as an advance towards the popular party. But on what evidence ? Catiline was not, at the time of his trial for his malversation in Africa, in any sense the accredited successor of Gracchus or Saturninus, of Sulpicius or Cinna. It was not till the year 691 (b. c. 63) that Catiline came forward as a popular champion. The chief charge which Cicero brought against him as his opponent for the consulship was the charge of his murder of M. Marius Gratidianus, a near relation of C. Marius, in the Sullan proscriptions. Cicero in one passage says that Catiline at one time nearly imposed on himself, and that he quite suddenly discovered the desperado's designs, having previously hardly harboured a suspicion of him.* Of course these words are to some extent the pleas of the advocate of Caelius, but they could not have been used to the jury if Catiline had always stood in a menacing attitude.
* pp. 14-21. I may fitly add here, as connected with this point of view, the same brilliant writer's estimate of the German detractors of Cicero, such as Drumann and Mommsen— Drumann surtout ne lui passe rien. Il a fouillé ses euvres et sa vio avec la minutie et la sagacité d'un homme d'affaires qui cherche les éléments d'un procès. C'est dans cet esprit de malveillance consciencieuse qu'il a dépouillé toute sa correspondance. Il a courageusement résisté au charme de ces confidences intimes qui nous font admirer l'écrivain et aimer l'homme malgré ses faiblesses, et, en opposant l'un à l'autre des fragments détachés de ses lettres et de ces discours, il est parvenu à dresser un acte d'accusation en règle où rien n'est omis, et qui tient presque un volume, J. Mommsen n'est guère plus doux, seulement il est moins long. Comme il voit les choses de haut, il ne se perd pas dans le détail. En deux de ces pages serrées et pleines de faits, comme il sait les écrire, il a trouvé moyen d'accumuler plus d'outrages pour Cicéron que n'en contient tout le volume de Drumann. On y voit notamment que ce prétendu homme d'Etat n'était qu'un égoïste et un myope, et que ce grand écrivain ne se compose que d'un feuilletoniste et d'un avocat. Voilà bien la même plume qui vient d'appeler Caton un don Quichotte et Pompée un caporal. Comme il est toujours préoccupé du présent dans ses études du passé, on dirait qu'il poursuit dans l'aristocratie romaine les hobereaux de la Prusse et qu'il salue d'avance dans César ce despote populaire dont la main ferme peut seule donner à l'Allemagne son unité.'Pp. 26, 27.
Cicero never coquetted with democracy, though he accepted the brief of Roscius and Cornelius, and entertained the idea of defending Catiline. He could win his way to distinction in public life only by his position at the Bar; and a high position at the Bar was not to be made by the picking and choosing of briefs. Had he defended Catiline he would have spoken for him as he did for Fonteius, charged with a similar offence, and his act would not have been looked on as an overture to the democratic party, even if Catiline had been the acknowledged leader of that partya position which, I submit, Catiline did not hold, or even claim, at the time of his trial. Cicero might of course have served the interests of his canvass by defending Catiline, who could hardly have acted very strenuously against his own advocate, and who would probably have made common cause with Cicero against Antonius. It is pretty certain that as a matter of fact Cicero did not actually defend Catiline. The oratio in toga candida may be regarded as decisive on that point.
In that speech Cicero reproachfully recalls to the memory of Antonius some slight services done to him when Antonius was candidate for the praetorship, and he upbraids Q. Mucius, a tribune, with his unfriendly conduct, reminding him how he, Cicero, had defended him on a charge of peculation. Is it, then, possible that if Cicero had really defended Catiline he would have failed to twit him with the fact? Again, if Cicero had really defended Catiline, could he possibly have used the words which are found in the very same oration, miser qui non sentias illo iudicio te non
* Or. pro Cael. 14, “Me ipsum, me, inquam, quondam paene ille decepit, cum et civis mihi bonus et optimi cuiusque cupidus et firmus amicus ac fidelis videretur : cuius ego facinora oculis prius quam opinione, manibus ante quam suspicione deprehendi: cuius in magnis catervis amicorum si fuit etiam Caelius, magis est ut ipse moleste ferat errasse se sicuti non numquam in eodem homine me quoque erroris mei paenitet, quam ut istius amicitiae crimen reformidet."