« PreviousContinue »
an expensive war, and yet be frugal of public money; to oblige those to serve, whom it may be delicate to offend; to conduct, at the same time, a complicated variety of operations; to concert measures at home, answerable to the state of things abroad; and to gain every valuable end, in spite of opposition from the envious, the factious and the disaffected-to do all this, my countrymen, is more difficult than is generally thought.
But, besides the disadvantages which are common to me, with all others in eminent stations, my case is, in this respect, peculiarly hard-that whereas a commander of Patrician rank, if he is guilty of neglect or breach of duty, has his great connexions, the antiquity of his family, the important services of his ancestors, and the multitudes he has, by power, engaged in his interest, to screen him from condign punishment, my whole safety depends upon myself; which renders it the more indispensably necessary for me to take care, that my conduct be clear and unexceptionable. Besides, I am well aware, my countrymen, that the eye of the public is upon me; and that though the impartial, who prefer the real advantage of the commonwealth to all other considerations, favor my pretentions, the Patricians want nothing so much as an occasion against me. It is, therefore, my fixed resolution, to use my best endeavors, that you be not disappointed in me, and that their indirect designs against me may be defeated.
I have, from my youth, been familiar with toils and with danger. I was faithful to your interest, my countrymen, when I served you for no reward but that of honor. It is not my design to betray you, now that you have conferred upon me a place of profit. You have committed to my conduct the war against Jugurtha.--The Patricians are offended at this. But, where would be the wisdom of giving such a command to one of their honorable body? A person of illustrious birth, of ancient family, of innumerable statues-but of no experience ! What service would his long line of dead ancestors, or his multitude of motionless statues, do his country in the day of battle? What could such a general do but in his trepidation and inexperience, have recourse to some inferior commander for direction, in difficulties to
which he was not himself equal? Thus, your Patrician general would in fact, have a general over him; so that the acting commander would still be a Plebeian. true is this, my countrymen, that I have, myself, known those that have been chosen consuls, begin then to read the history of their own country, of which, till that time, they were totally ignorant; that is, they first obtained the employment, and then bethought themselves of the qualifications necessary for the proper discharge of it.
I submit to your judgment, Romans, on which side the advantage lies, when a comparison is made between Patrician haughtiness, and Plebeian experience. The very actions which they have only read, I have partly seen, and partly myself achieved. What they know by reading, I know by action. They are pleased to slight my mean birth: I despise their mean characters. Want of birth and fortune, is the objection against me; want of personal worth, against them. But are not all men of the same species? What can make a difference between one man and another, but the endowments of the mind? For my part, I shall always look upon the bravest man, as the noblest man. Suppose it were required of the fathers of such Patricians as Albinos and Bestia, whether if they had their choice, they would desire sons of their character, or of mine: What would they answer, but that they would wish the worthiest to be their sons? If the Patricians have reason to despise me, let them likewise despise their ancestors, whose nobility was the fruit of their virtue. Do they envy the honors bestowed upon me? Let them envy, likewise, my labore, my abstinence, and the dangers I have undergone for my country, by which I have acquired them. But those worthless men lead such a life of inactivity, as if they despised any honors you can bestow; whilst they aspire to honors as if they had deserved them by the most industrious virtue. They lay claim to the rewards of activity, for their having enjoyed the pleasures of luxury. Yet none can be more lavish than they are, in praise of their ancestors. Aud they imagine they honor themselves by celebrating their forefathers; whereas they do the very contrary; for, as much as their ancestors
were distinguished for their virtues, so much are they disgraced by their vices. The glory of ancestors casts a light indeed, upon their posterity; but it only serves to shew what the descendants are. It alike exhibits to public view, their degeneracy and their worth. I own I cannot boast of the deeds of my forefathers; but I hope I may answer the cavils of the Patricians, by standing up, in defence of what I have myself done.
Observe now, my countrymen, the injustice of the Patricians. They arrogate to themselves honors, on account of the exploits done by their forefathers, whilst they will not allow me the due praise, for performing the very same sort of actions in my own person. He has no statues, they cry, of his family. He can trace no venerable line of ancestors. What then? Is it matter of more praise to disgrace one's illustrious ancestors, than to become illustrious by one's good behaviour? What if I can show no statues of my family? I can show the standards, the armor and the trappings, which I have myself taken from the vanquished: I can show the scars of those wounds which I have received by facing the enemies of my country. These are my statues these are the honors I boast of. Not left me by inheritance, as theirs; but earned by toil, by abstinence, by valor; amidst clouds of dust and seas of blood; scenes of action, where those effeminate Patricians, whe endeavor, by indirect means, to depreciate me in your esteem, have never dared to show their faces.
VI.-Speech of Publius Scipio to the Roman Army, before the Battle of Ticin.
ERE you, soldiers, the same army which I had with me in Gaul, I might well forbear saying any thing to you at this time; for what occasion could there be to use exhortations to a cavalry, that had so signally vanquished the squadrons of the enemy upon the Rhone, or to legions by whom that same enemy, flying before them, to avoid a battle, did, in effect, confess themselves conquered? But as these troops, having been enrolled for Spain, are there with my brother Cneius, making war under my auspices (as was the will of the senate and people of Rome) I, that you might have a consul for
your captain against Hannibal and the Carthaginians, have freely offered myself for this war. You, then, have a new general, and I a new army. On this account a few words from me to you, will be neither improper nor unseasonable.
That you may not be unapprised of what sort of enemies you are going to encounter, or what is to be feared from them, they are the very same, whom in a former war, you vanquished both by land and sea; the same from whom you took Sicily and Sardinia, and who have been these twenty years your tributaries. You will not, I presume, march against these men with only that courage with which you are wont to face other enemies; but with a certain anger and indignation, such as you would feel if you saw your slaves on a sudden rise up in arms against you. Conquered and enslaved, it is not boldness, but necessity that urges them to battle; unless you could believe, that those who avoided fighting when their army was entire, have acquired better hope by the loss of two thirds of their horse and foot in the passage of the Alps.
But you have heard, perhaps, that though they are few in number, they are men of stout hearts and robust bodies; heroes of such strength and vigor, as nothing is able to resist Mere effigies! Nay, shadows of men ;wretches emaciated with hunger, and benumbed with cold! bruised and battered to pieces among the rocks and craggy cliffs! their weapons broken, and their horses weak and foundered! Such are the cavalry, and such the infantry, with which you are going to contend; not enemies, but the fragments of enemies. There is nothing which I more apprehend, than that it will be thought Hannibal was vanquished by the Alps, before we had any conflict with him. But perhaps, it was fitting it should be so; and that, with a people and a leader who had violated leagues and covenants, the gods themselves, without man's help, should begin the war, and bring it to a near conclusion: and that we, who, next to the gods, have been injured and offended, should happily finish what they have begun.
I need not be in any fear, that you should suspect me of saying these things merely to encourage you, while
inwardly I have a different sentiment. What hindered me from going into Spain? That was my province, where I should have had the less dreaded Asdrubal, not Hannibal, to deal with. But hearing, as I passed along the coast of Gaul, of this enemy's march, I landed my troops, sent my horse forward, and pitched my camp upon the Rhone. A part of my cavalry encountered and defeated that of the enemy. My infantry not being able to overtake theirs, which fled before us, I returned to my fleet; and with all the expedition I could use, in so long a voyage by sea and land, am come to meet them at the foot of the Alps. Was it then my inclination to avoid a contest with this tremendous Hannibal? And have I met with him only by accident and unawares? Or am I come on purpose to challenge him to the combat? I would gladly try, whether the earth, within these twenty years has brought forth a new kind of Carthaginians; or whether they be the same sort of men who fought at the Agates, and whom, at Eryx, you suffered to redeem themselves at eighteen denarii per head; whether this Hannibal, for labors and journies, be, as he would be thought, the rival of Hercules; or whether he be, what his father left him, a tributary, a vassal, a slave to the Roman people. Did not the consciousness of his wicked deed at Saguntum, torment him and make him desperate, he would have some regard, if not to his conquered country, yet surely to his own family, to his father's memory, to the treaty written with Amilcar's own hand. We might have starved him in Eryx; we might have passed into Africa with our victorious fleet, and in a few days have destroyed Carthage. At their humble supplication, we pardoned them; we released them when they were closely shut up without a possibility of escaping; we made peace with them when they were conquered. When they were distressed by the African war, we considered them, we treated them as a people under our protection. And what is the return they make for all these favors? Under the conduct of a hairbrained young man, they come hither to overturn our state, and lay waste our country. I could wish indeed, that it were not so; and that the war we are now engaged in,