Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECT. V.: Venal Men, with what ill Grace they complain of any ill Conduct, or Corruption, in him who bought them: People once corrupted, how abandoned to all Corruption. - The Works of Sallust (Gordon's Discourses, Cicero's Orations against Catiline)
Return to Title Page for The Works of Sallust (Gordon’s Discourses, Cicero’s Orations against Catiline)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
SECT. V.: Venal Men, with what ill Grace they complain of any ill Conduct, or Corruption, in him who bought them: People once corrupted, how abandoned to all Corruption. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain. It was scanned and originally put online by one of the collaborators in the Internet Archive project [archive.org] for scholarship and research purposes. We have added tables of contents, pagination, and other educational aids where appropriate.
Fair use statement:
Venal Men, with what ill Grace they complain of any ill Conduct, or Corruption, in him who bought them: People once corrupted, how abandoned to all Corruption.
THOSE who have sold themselves, ought no longer to consider themselves as their Own: No; they are His who bought them. What is it that gives us Property in a Bondman, but paying the Price for him; and then he is ours, whether he consents to be so, or no? When People set themselves to Sale, the Title will be presumed still clearer, as Consent at least strengthens Property. For what do they take Money? Is it for their Votes? Then, he who has bought them, means to make the best of his Bargain; since for this End only he made it. They may mean what they please; but thus, generally, the Purchaser will reason, and thus act. He will not reckon himself beholden to Them, but to his Money; he will not consider himself entering upon a Trust, but taking Possession of a Purchace; and that, if He had not made it, Another would. He who commits a Trust, parts only with the Administration, and is intitled to a just Account how it is administred. But he who sells a Trust, parts with it intire, and for ever; at least, he is at the Mercy of the Buyer, and leaves him Power to raise his Money again how he can, and with whatever Improvements he pleases. He who hath got Possession, is the strongest Man; and it is odds but he will argue and behave like the strongest.
Others, indeed, such as are uncorrupt, may justly blame and reproach him, for taking such dishonest Advantages even of venal Men: But they, whose Venality have enabled him to oppress them, cannot well wonder at It, nor upbraid Him for it. What was the Multitude to Him? Perhaps he knew not One in a Thousand amongst them: He wanted only their Votes, for which they took his Money; and, as They applied That to their own Use, so did He Those to his. It was not in his Thoughts, to impoverish Himself merely to enrich Them; nor yet to purchase Leave, at a great Price, to drudge in carrying on their Interest and Affairs, or to be continually annoyed with their Noise and Folly: No; he bought their Voices, in order to ride upon their Necks; to make them the Instruments of his Fortune, and to set him above wanting them any more.
Caius Pontius the Samnite was so sensible, that a State of Corruption was a State of Decay, and saw it so evidently in the Roman Commonwealth, that he wished, ‘That Fortune had appointed him his Time of Life in those Days when the Roman People began first to take Gifts and Bribes: For then, said he, I would have borne their Empire no longer.’ He seems to have judged soundly; for, as they were longer in subduing the Little free State of the Samnites, than in conquering all the Great Kings in Europe, Asia, and Africa, it is almost demonstrable, that, had their Love to their Country, and, consequently, their Bravery in fighting for it, been weakened by Venality, the Samnites must have vanquished them.
‘I ask, (says Cicero) whether they who left us this Commonwealth so gloriously established, seem to have had one Thought towards feeding Avarice, by the Gratifications of Gold and Silver; or Vanity, by splendid Furniture; or Voluptuousness, by delicious Banquets; or a Passion for Pleasure, by Indulgence and Luxury?’ But the Vices of the Romans were then as glaring and common, as the Virtues of their Ancestors formerly had been; and they were not ashamed to be boasting of their Ancestors, and quoting the Examples of their Forefathers, whilst they were doing every thing unworthy of their Forefathers, and disgraceful and ruinous to themselves: Nor were they ever louder in their Cries for Liberty, than when they were following Those, selling themselves to Those, who purposed to enthrall them, and to destroy their boasted Liberty: Nay, such as meditated nothing but absolutely to rule them, and, consequently, to enslave them, were always most popular with them. Whoever fed them with Money, or Provision, or Flattery, was their Darling; though, by all his Bounty, and Soothing, and Noise for Liberty, he aimed only at being their Tyrant. Even the detestable Catiline was popular, and considered by them as a great Champion for Liberty, because he talked loudly about it, and was a known Enemy to those who were then uppermost in the State; Men who, whatever Faults they had, were, in comparison with him, virtuous and unblameable.
Even whilst Cicero was Consul, one of the ablest and most upright Magistrates that ever honoured or protected any Government; and whilst that Parricide continued to pursue his inhuman Conspiracy against Rome, and all that was valuable and sacred in it; the People, tho’ they could have no Objection to Cicero, but that he was in the Interest of the Senate, that is, was for preserving the Senate, and his Country, yet still admired and followed Catiline, till, by the Discovery of his Plot and Designs, it appeared that he was about to have extirpated, by the universal Rage of Fire and Sword, the very Being of their City and Commonwealth. Then, indeed, they were shocked, and cried, Horror! They had all along imagined, that he only meant to have changed the Magistrates, whom they disliked; or, at worst, to have begun a Civil War, in which they had little to lose, and a Chance to get (which Chance was dearer to them, than public Tranquillity, and their Country): But, in the Burning and Destruction of Rome, they would have met their own Destruction; and so far they detested the Views of Catiline.
That the Roman Populace were governed, upon this Occasion, by a Spirit of Corruption and Blindness, (two Qualities generally following one another) and not by Judgment or Honesty, appears from hence; that Catiline, whom they applauded, and from whom they hoped so much, was, and ever had been, a notorious Profligate, black with all Crimes, detestable in his private Life, abandoned, corrupt, and lawless, in Office: So that, if they expected from him nothing but public Disorders and Revolutions, (as what else could they expect?) they were corrupt, utterly corrupt, and lost to all Public Spirit, to all Sense of Honour and Virtue: If they depended upon him for any public Good or Reformation, they were blind. It is, in truth, evident, that they considered him as a public Plague, as a ready Instrument of general Confusion and War; and, as such, warmly espoused and encouraged him. Sallust declares it explicitly: Omnino cuncta plebes, novarum rerum studio, Catilinæ incepta probabat. Id adeo, &c.
‘The Commonalty, in a Body, from a Passion for public Changes, approved the Pursuits of Catiline; and, in doing so, seemed but to follow their usual Bent: For, in this our City, all they who are destitute of Place and Substance, ever repine at the Enjoyments and Distinction of virtuous Men; ever extol the Vicious; hate the old Ways; long for Noveltics and Change; and, from Disgust to their own Condition, labour to introduce universal Confusion. In popular Commotions and Discord, they find their Subsistence without Pains and Care; since Poverty, which never has any thing to lose, is, upon such Occasions, readily supported.’
Now such Fondness for Civil Disorders, and for the wicked Authors of such, is, by this Account, intirely derived from the depraved Spirit and Disposition of the People; and not imputable to the Misconduct of the Magistrates, however faulty they might be: Nay, the best, the most strict and steady Administration must have been the most disliked and unpopular, when the People were passionate for the worst Calamities, such as Civil Dissentions and War; and for the wickedest Men, such as promoted those Calamities, and because they promoted them; even for Catiline, Cethegus, and every great Traitor and Incendiary.
Could there be a more tempting Opportunity than this, offered to the Ambition of Cæsar, for pursiting the great Aim of his Life, that of usurping the Government of Rome? And, perhaps, it is the most plausible Defence that can be made for him, (for no solid Defence will his Crimes bear) that, seeing them the Dupes and blind Followers of every audacious and desperate Demagogue, He, who was a more powerful and able, at least a more fortunate Demagogue, than all the rest, judged it politic to enslave them Himself, rather than let any other enslave Them and Him too; though the more honourable Task would have been, what was also his Duty, to have rescued and reformed them, and to have struggled against their extravagant Corruption and Folly: This would have been an Undertaking worthy of his great Abilities, and indefatigable Spirit, had his Heart been as good as his Head: But he found them bad, and made them worse, in order to make them his own.