Page images

would hermetically seal the lips of calumny. But that great work is not to be accomplished by trifling verdicts. A nation is not to be saved by an oblation of pence. Trivial damages may exasperate, but cannot intimidate malice. The times require exemplary verdicts and mercy to individuals is treason against the nation. This is not the cause of individual against individual only. The nominal parties to this suit dwindle into comparative unimportance; and the American nation rears her august form, entreating to be saved from her worst enemy,-to be saved from licentiousness. This is the cause of man against the worst passion of man; it is the cause of virtue against vice. I address myself to you, gentlemen, as the grand inquest of the nation. I appeal to you as the Areopagus of America. I invoke you as that only power which can bind in fetters, and cast out from amongst us, the destroying demon of licentiousness. The spirit of our beloved country looks to you. You are convened in the justly proud metropolis of the land of freedom. What you are about to do will be "recorded as a precedent." In the eyes of the nation, in the eyes of a world, you are this day to pronounce the value of American character. The honour of our city-the honor of the nationyour own honor is at stake. Act worthy of the dig nity of your station-act worthy of yourselves.


Cicero's Oration against Verres.

AN opinion has long prevailed, not only here at home, but likewise in foreign countries, both dangerous to you, and pernicious to the state, viz. that in prosecutions, men of wealth are always safe, however clearly convicted. There is now to be brought

upon his trial before you, to the confusion, I hope, of the propagators of this slanderous imputation, one, whose life and actions condemn him in the opinionof all impartial persons; but who, according to his own reckoning, and declared dependence upon his riches, is already acquitted; I mean Caius Verres. I have undertaken this prosecution (fathers) at the general desire, and with the great expectation of the Roman people, not that I might draw envy upon that illustrious order of which the accused happens to be; but with the direct design of clearing your justice and impartiality before the world. For I have brought upon his trial, one, whose conduct has been such, that, in passing a just sentence upon him, you will have an opportunity of re-establishing the credis of such trials; of recovering whatever may be lost of the favor of the Roman people; and of satisfying foreign states and kingdoms in alliance with us, or tributary to us. I demand justice of you (fathers) upon the robber of the publie treasury, the oppressor of Asia Minor and Pamphylia, the invader of the rights and privileges of Romans, the scourge and curse of Sicily. If that sentence is passed upon him which his crimes deserve, your authority will be venerable and sacred in the eyes of the public. But if his great riches should bias you in his favour, I shall still gain one point, viz. to make it apparent to all the world, that what was wanting in this case was not a criminal nor a prosecutor ; but justice, and adequate punishment.

For, as those acts of violence, by which he has got his exorbitant riches, were done openly, so have his. attempts to pervert judgement, and escape due punishment, been public, and in open defiance of decency. He has accordingly said, that the only time he ever was afraid, was when he found the prosecution commenced against him by me; lest he should not have pre

time enough to dipose of a sufficient number o

sents in proper hands. Nor has he attempted to secure himself by the legal way of defence upon his

trial. And, indeed, where is the learning, the eloquence, or the art, which would be sufficient to qualify any one for the defence of him, whose whole life has been a continued series of the most atrocious crimes? To pass over the shameful irregularities of his youth, what does his quæstorship, the first public employment he held, what does it exhibit, but one continued scene of villanies; Cneius Carbo plundered of the public money by his own treasurer: a consul stripped and betrayed; an army deserted and reduced to want; a province robbed; the civil and religious rights of a people violated. The employrent he held in Asia Minor and Pamphylia, what did it produce, but the ruin of those countries; in which, houses, cities, and temples where robbed by him.. There he acted over again the scene of his quæstorship, bringing by his bad practices, Cneius Dolabella, whose substitute he was, into disgrace with the people, and then deserting him; not only deserting, but even accusing and betraying him. What was his conduct in his prætorship here at home? Let the plundered temples, and public works neglected, that he might embezzle the money intended for carrying them on, bear witness. How did he discharge the office of a judge? Let those, who suffered by his injustice, answer. But his prætorship in Sicily, crowns all his works of wickedness, and finishes a lasting monument to his infamy. The mischiefs done by him in that unhappy country, during the three years. of his iniquitous administration, are such, that many years under the wisest and best of prætors, will not be sufficient to restore things to the condition, in which he found them. For it is notorious, that, during the time of his tyranny, the Sicilians neither enjoyed the protection of their own original laws, of the regulations made for their benefit by the Roman senate, upon their coming under the protection of the commonwealth, nor of the natural and unalienable rights of men. No inhabitant of that ruined country has been able to keep possession of any thing, but

what has either escaped the rapaciousness, or been neglected by the satiety of that universal plunderer. Ilis nod has decided all causes in Sicily for these three years. And his decisions have broke all law, all precedent, all right. The sums he has, by arbitrary taxes, and unheard-of impositions, extorted from the industrious poor, are not to be computed. The most faithful allies of the commonwealth have been treated as enemies. Roman citizens have, like slaves, been put to death with tortures. The most atrocious criminals, for money, have been exempted from the deserved punishments; and men of the most unexceptionable characters condemned and banished unheard. The harbours, though sufficiently fortified, and the gates of strong towns, opened to pirates and ravagers. The soldiery and sailors, belonging to a province, under the protection of the commonwealth, starved to death. Whole fleets, to the great detriment of the province, suffered to perish. The ancient monuments of either Sicilian or Roman great-ness, the statues of heroes and princes, carried off; and the temples stripped of their images. And these his atrocious crimes have been committed in so public a manner, that there is no one, who has heard of his name, but could reckon up his actions. ·

Now, Verres, I ask what you have to advance against this charge? Will you pretend to deny it? Will you pretend, that any thing false, that even any thing aggravated, is alledged against you? Had any prince, or any state, committed the same outrage against the privileges of Roman citizens, should we not think we had sufficient ground for declaring immediate war against them? What punishment ought, then, to be inflicted upon a tyrannical and wicked prætor, who dared, at no greater distance than Sicily, within sight of the Italian coast, to put to the infamous death of crucifixion, that unfortunate and innocent citizen, Bublius Gavius Cosanus, only for his having asserted


[ocr errors]

his privilege of citizenship, and declared his intention of appealing to the justice of his country against a cruel oppressor, who had unjustly confined him in prison at Syracuse, from whence he had just made his escape ? The unhappy man arrested, as he was going to embark for his native country, is brought before the wicked prætor. With eyes darting fury, and a countenance distorted with cruelty, he orders the helpless victim of his rage to be stripped and rods to be brought; accusing him, but without the least shadow of evidence, or even of suspicion, of having come to Sicily as a spy. It was in vain, that the unhappy man cried out, "I am a Roman citizen, I have served under Lucius Pretius, who is now at Panormus, and will attest my innocence." The blood-thirsty prætor, deaf to all he could urge in his own defence, ordered the infamous punishment to be inflicted. Thus, fathers, was an innocent Roman citizen publicly mangled with scourging; whilst the only words he uttered amidst his cruel sufferings, were, "I am a Roman citizen." With these he hoped to defend himself from violence and infamy.. But of so little service was this privilege to him, that while he was thus asserting his citizenship, the order was given for his execution-for his execution upon the cross!

O liberty!-0 sound once delightful to every Roiman ear!-0 sacred privilege of Roman citizenship! Once sacred! now trampled upon !-But what then! Is it come to this? Shall an inferior magistrate, a governor, who holds his whole power of the Roman people, in a Roman province, within sight of Italy, bind, scourge, torture with fire and red hot plates of iron, and at last put to the infamous death of the cross, a Roman citizen? Shall neither the cries of innocence expiring in agony, nor the tears of pitying spectators, nor the majesty of the Roman commonwealth, nor the fear of the justice of his country, restrain the licentious and wanton cruelty of a monster,

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »