Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECT. II.: The Plebeians, long oppressed, obtain a Remedy by Force; but a Remedy dangerous to the State. - The Works of Sallust (Gordon's Discourses, Cicero's Orations against Catiline)
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SECT. II.: The Plebeians, long oppressed, obtain a Remedy by Force; but a Remedy dangerous to the State. - Gaius Sallustius Crispus (Sallust), The Works of Sallust (Gordon’s Discourses, Cicero’s Orations against Catiline) 
The Works of Sallust, translated into English with Political Discourses upon that Author. To which is added, a translation of Cicero’s Four Orations against Catiline (London: R. Ware, 1744).
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The Plebeians, long oppressed, obtain a Remedy by Force; but a Remedy dangerous to the State.
THE Plebeians, who would have still submitted to the Patricians as their Magistrates, would not tamely suffer them as Oppressors: And, since they had such Heads, who thus unnaturally used and tortured the Limbs, they were advised and resolved to find other Heads, or, which is the same thing, Protectors, who were more nearly interested in the Preservation of the Body.
This will ever be the Case and Event, whilst Men are Men; all who are oppressed, will, where they can, relieve themselves from Oppression. If Magistrates will not be content with their proper Character, the Office of Protecting, but stretch that Office into Rigour and Violence, they who feel it will seek a Remedy, and, perhaps, find and apply one stronger than the Disease; and so cure a great Evil by one as great or greater. This is the natural Progress and Consequence of popular Reformations. The People seldom think of any, till they are quite inflamed; and then they are not fit to make any. The Roman Populace, with all the Merit that any People could have, had suffered as much as People could suffer, before they retired, and held a common Consultation, how to redress themselves. Every body knows the Story of their proposing and carrying the Establishment of Magistrates of their own, Tribunes of the People; Officers who avenged them, indeed, amply upon the Patricians, but who were likewise almost continually misleading them, violating the public Tranquillity; and who, though they helped to aggrandize, yet ruined the State.
This Reward had the Nobles, for their extravagant Pride and Contempt; for their engrossing all Power to Themselves, and exerting it without Bounds over the Commons. It was a strange Error in the Nobles, to think, that the Roman People, who made Laws and Magistrates, would not only remain without any Share in the Execution of the Laws, and any Lot or Advantage in their Choice of Magistrates, but even tamely bear the violent Abuse of Law, from Magistrates of their own Creation. Was it likely, that They, who had the legislative Power, would be content with an intire Exclusion from the Administration; and be Slaves to Officers created by Themselves? Upon the Expulsion of Tarquin, as it was a new State, new and proper Regulations should have been made; and an equal Administration settled, equally interesting to the whole Community; with a Set of Magistrates alike concerned for Nobles and Commons, without exclusive Views and Qualifications, and Names and Offices of Strife; such as the Tribunes of the People proved, extraordinary Officers, vested with the whole Authority of the People, and set up professedly to oppose and controul the whole Administration; which, at last, by this Authority, at first intirely negative, they usurped and swayed.
From hence it appears, that Governments are seldom equally balanced and perfect: They are, for the most part, Patch-work, seldom formed at once upon an honest, universal, and rational Scheme; but, generally, so established, at first, as to answer the ambitious Views of One, or a Few; or altered afterwards, according to present Necessity, and by extemporary Remedies; such as rather serve to give momentary Ease, and remove some glaring Symptoms, than to eradicate the Disease. The People, with whom instant Relief generally passes for a complete Cure, are apt to trust implicitly to the Skill and Management of the State-Physicians of the Time; whilst these Physicians contrive how to make the best Advantage of their Patients, and the Distemper; and, by flattering Medicines, and magnificent Promises, get the intire Direction of their Persons and Purses.
This may, indeed, at last, provoke the People to look out for other Doctors, and other Remedies, when they find themselves still sick and disordered, and, perhaps, worse, rather than better. But, as, where-ever they turn and apply, they must trust Somebody, they are not sure of being better used, or more effectually cured, by their new Physicians and Patrons; who, in order to serve them, must be trusted by them; and will thence have an Opportunity (which they seldom will neglect) of serving themselves at the Expence of such as employ them.
For the People are, generally, gained by the same Snares and Professions; and let them be ever so angry at one Man, or Party of Men, for abusing the Trust which they had reposed in them without Reserve, they are still ready to commit the same Trust, with equal Blindness, to their new Favourites; who, perhaps, have acquired their Confidence by deceiving them, and, in Requital for having acquired it, are determined to deceive them still more.
Thus the Roman People, finding themselves oppressed by Tarquin, heartily concurred with the Patricians in dethroning and expelling him, without taking any due Precautions against Oppression from the Patricians, in whose Hands the Kingly Power still continued. The poor Populace saw no farther than the Name, and the Man; and, both these being gone, they perceived nothing to hurt them, and, therefore, nothing to fear. But, as Power and Ambition seldom sleep, what they perceived not at first, they amply felt afterwards. The Patricians, delivered from the Tyranny of Tarquin, forgetting how insupportable they had found Tyranny to Themselves, as also, by whose Aid and Courage they had shaken it off, began to exercise it over the Plebeians without Mercy or Bounds. The Plebeians, finding, at length, that they had only changed One severe Master for Many, roused by ill Usage, and listening to their own Demagogues, sought Redress and Protection from the Creation of Plebeian Officers; who, afterwards, abused their Power, and, consequently, The People, as much as ever the Patricians had done; as will fully appear, when I come to discourse of the popular Tribunes.
This, however, excuses not the Patricians; who might easily have foreseen what their rigorous Rule would produce, amongst a People so magnanimous and determined. Their bearing it, in many Instances, and for some Time, proved not, that they would always bear it; but only, that they were not yet desperate. They, indeed, wanted but One Spark to set so many inflamed Spirits on a Blaze: This Spark was administered by Volero; and one more effectual could not have happened.
It might have seemed reasonable, that the Roman Soldiers, that is to say, the Commonalty of Rome, who were daily venturing their Lives against the public Enemies, and bringing home continual Victories, should have shared in the good Fortune of the State; and that they, who were the Authors and Instruments of public Safety, and public Honour, should have enjoyed Ease and Esteem at home. But they found a very different Lot and Recompence; and, in Return for Triumphs and Laurels, won by them for the Commonwealth, and as a Reward for Inlargement of her Territory, and Revenue, and Strength, they were treated with Whips and Gaols, and found themselves Slaves, for having, by the Price of their Blood, preserved their Country free. Such just Cause had they to ask as they did, ‘Were we in the Power of our Enemies, whom we have so often vanquished, could They treat us worse than these our Fellow-Citizens treat us?’
In the midst of such bitter Usage on one Side, and of such grievous Complaints on the other, the sad Sight, and mournful Tale, of a miserable Man, in the public Place, whither he had just broke from Chains and Stripes, drew the whole Body of Plebeians thither, and filled up the Measure of their Resentment and Horror: He was an antient Man, covered with all the Marks of Wretchedness, and barbarous Usage; his Apparel old and nasty; his Body emaciated; his Countenance wan and meagre; his Eyes hollow; his Hair matted and staring; all together a Figure frightful and shocking. The doleful Impressions which his Appearance made, were greatly heightened by what he said; ‘That, whilst he was serving his Country, in the War against the Sabines, his Grounds were utterly wasted and ruined by the Enemy, and produced him no Harvest; his Farm itself was burned; all his Goods plundered; and his Stock of Cattle carried off: Besides, having the public Assessment to pay, he had been forced to borrow: To discharge this Debt, increased by monstrous Usury, he had parted, first, with the Estate left him by his Ancestors; then, with what other Effects he had; at last, to complete his Calamity, had surrendered up his Body: That his Creditors, not satisfied with holding him in Servitude, had doomed him to Irons and Torture.’ Next, he made his Back bare, and there shew’d the recent Gashes and Impressions of the Lash; whilst upon his Breast there appeared large Sears of Wounds from the public Enemy, all thus honourable received before. Add, that he was well known by some of the Spectators; who said, that they had seen him bravely engaged as an Officer at the Head of his Men, and distinguished for his noble Exploits in War. Such were the Merits, such the Sufferings, of Volero.
What needed there more to blow up general Discontent into a Flame? Nothing was seen in Rome, but Dissention and Uproar. Yet the Plebeians were quieted, for the present, by some reasonable Condescensions, which were very little observed, and by fair Promises, never made good: So that the old Grievances, returning or continuing, revived the old Complaints and Disaffection; and the People, who would have been satisfied with very moderate Concessions honestly fulfilled, quite weary of trusting to Words, and utterly provoked by false Dealings, insisted upon, and obtained the Creation of such a new Power in the Commonwealth, as, by altering the old Balance, formed as it were another and a new Commonwealth, and terribly diminished the Authority of the Patricians, as well as mortified their Pride. It was but the Course of Things: They who domineer when they are uppermost, cannot be surprised, nor ought to complain, when they are undermost, to find Others domineer over Them. Every Man has a like Right to injure another; that is, no Right at all: But whoever begins the Exercise of Injustice, has the least Right or Pretence to cry out when he suffers it.
Of the Institution and Power of the popular Tribunes.