CHARACTER AS A POLITICIAN AND AN ORATOR. Cicero shared very largely in the feeling which is common to all men of ambition and energy,--a desire to stand well not only with their own generation, but with posterity. It is a feeling natural to every man who knows that his name and acts must necessarily become historical. If it is more than usually patent in Cicero's case, it is only because in his letters to Atticus we have more than usual access to the inmost heart of the writer; for surely such a thoroughly confidential correspondence has never been published before or since. "What will history say of me six hundred years hence?" he asks, unbosoming himself in this sort to his friend. More than thrice the six hundred years have passed, and, in Cicero's case, history has hardly yet made up its mind. He has been lauded and abused, from his own times down to the present, in terms as extravagant as are to be found in the most passionate of his own orations; both his accusers and his champions have caught the trick of his rhetorical exaggeration more easily than his eloquence. Modern German critics like Drumann and Mommsen have attacked him with hardly less bitterness, though with more decency, than the historian Dio Cassius, who lived so near his own times. Bishop Middleton, on the other hand, in those pleasant and comprehensive volumes which are still to this day the great storehouse of materials for Cicero's biography, is as blind to his faults as though he were himself delivering a panegyric in the Rostra at Rome. Perhaps it is the partiality of the learned bishop's view which has produced a reaction in the minds of sceptical German scholars, and of some modern writers of our own. It is impossible not to sympathise in some degree with that Athenian who was tired of always hearing Aristides extolled as "the Just;" and there was certainly a strong temptation to critics to pick holes in a man's character who was perpetually, during his lifetime and for eighteen centuries after his death, having a trumpet sounded before him to announce him as the prince of patriots as well as philosophers; worthy indeed, as Erasmus thought, to be canonised as a saint of the Catholic Church, but for the single drawback of his not having been a Christian. On one point some of his eulogists seem manifestly unfair. They say that the circumstances under which we form our judgment of the man are exceptional in this--that we happen to possess in his case all this mass of private and confidential letters (there are nearly eight hundred of his own which have come down to us), giving us an insight into his private motives, his secret jealousies, and hopes, and fears, and ambitions, of which in the case of other men we have no such revelation. It is quite true; but his advocates forget that it is from the very same pages which reveal his weaknesses, that they draw their real knowledge of many of those characteristics which they most admire--his sincere love for his country, his kindness of heart, his amiability in all his domestic relations. It is true that we cannot look into the private letters of Caesar, or Pompey, or Brutus, as we can into Cicero's; but it is not so certain that if we could, our estimate of their characters would be lowered. We might discover, in their cases as in his, many traces of what seems insincerity, timidity, a desire to sail with the stream; we might find that the views which they expressed in public were not always those which they entertained in private; but we might also find an inner current of kindness, and benevolence, and tenderness of heart, for which the world gives them little credit. One enthusiastic advocate, Wieland, goes so far as to wish that this kind of evidence could, in the case of such a man as Cicero, have been "cooked", to use a modern phrase: that we could have had only a judicious selection from this too truthful mass, of correspondence; that his secretary, Tiro, or some judicious friend, had destroyed the whole packet of letters in which the great Roman bemoaned himself, during his exile from Rome, to his wife, to his brother, and to Atticus. The partisan method of writing history, though often practised, has seldom been so boldly professed. But it cannot be denied, that if we know too much of Cicero to judge him merely by his public life, as we are obliged to do with so many heroes of history, we also know far too little of those stormy times in which he lived, to pronounce too strongly upon his behaviour in such difficult circumstances. The true relations between the various parties at Rome, as we have tried to sketch them, are confessedly puzzling even to the careful student. And without a thorough understanding of these, it is impossible to decide, with any hope of fairness, upon Cicero's conduct as a patriot and a politician. His character was full of conflicting elements, like the times in which he lived, and was necessarily in a great degree moulded by them. The egotism which shows itself so plainly alike in his public speeches and in his private writings, more than once made him personal enemies, and brought him into trouble, though it was combined with great kindness of heart and consideration for others. He saw the right clearly, and desired to follow it, but his good intentions were too often frustrated by a want of firmness and decision. His desire to keep well with men of all parties, so long as it seemed possible (and this not so much from the desire of self-aggrandisement, as from a hope through their aid to serve the commonwealth) laid him open on more than one occasion to the charge of insincerity. There is one comprehensive quality which may be said to lave been wanting in his nature, which clouded his many excellences, led him continually into false positions, and even in his delightful letters excites in the reader, from time to time, an impatient feeling of contempt. He wanted manliness. It was a quality which was fast dying out, in his day, among even the best of the luxurious and corrupt aristocracy of Rome. It was perhaps but little missed in his character by those of his contemporaries who knew and loved him best. But without that quality, to an English mind, it is hard to recognise in any man, however brilliant and amiable, the true philosopher or hero. The views which this great Roman politician held upon the vexed question of the ballot did not differ materially from those of his worthy grandfather before-mentioned. The ballot was popular at Rome,--for many reasons, some of them not the most creditable to the characters of the voters; and because it was popular, Cicero speaks of it occasionally, in his forensic speeches, with a cautious praise; but of his real estimate of it there can be no kind of doubt. "I am of the same opinion now", he writes to his brother, "that ever I was; there is nothing like the open suffrage of the lips". So in one of his speeches, he uses even stronger language: "The ballot", he says, "enables men to open their faces, and to cover up their thoughts; it gives them licence to promise whatever they are asked, and at the same time to do whatever they please". Mr. Grote once quoted a phrase of Cicero's, applied to the voting-papers of his day, as a testimony in favour of this mode of secret suffrage--grand words, and wholly untranslatable into anything like corresponding English--"_Tabella vindex tacitae libertatis_"--"the tablet which secures the liberty of silence". But knowing so well as Cicero did what was the ordinary character of Roman jurors and Roman voters, and how often this "liberty of silence" was a liberty to take a bribe and to vote the other way, one can almost fancy that we see upon his lips, as he utters the sounding phrase, that playful curve of irony which is said to have been their characteristic expression. Mr. Grote forgot, too, as was well pointed out by a writer in the 'Quarterly Review', that in the very next sentence the orator is proud to boast that he himself was not so elected to office, but "by the living voices" of his fellow-citizens. [Footnote 1: See p. 3.] [Footnote 2: No bust, coin, or gem is known which bears any genuine likeness of Cicero. There are several existing which purport to be such, but all are more or less apocryphal.] [Footnote 3: Quart. Rev., lxi. 522.] The character of his eloquence may be understood in some degree by the few extracts which have been given from his public speeches; always remembering how many of its charms are necessarily lost by losing the actual language in which his thoughts were clothed. We have lost perhaps nearly as much in another way, in that we can only read the great orator instead of listening to him. Yet it is possible, after all, that this loss to us is not so great as it might seem. Some of his best speeches, as we know--those, for instance, against Verres and in defence of Milo--were written in the closet, and never spoken at all; and most of the others were reshaped and polished for publication. Nor is it certain that his declamation, which some of his Roman rivals found fault with as savouring too much of the florid Oriental type, would have been agreeable to our colder English taste. He looked upon gesture and action as essential elements of the orator's power, and had studied them carefully from the artists of the theatre. There can be no doubt that we have his own views on this point in the words which he has put into the mouth of his "Brutus", in the treatise on oratory which bears that name. He protests against the "Attic coldness" of style which, he says, would soon empty the benches of their occupants. He would have the action and bearing of the speaker to be such that even the distant spectator, too far off to hear, should "know that there was a Roscius on the stage". He would have found a French audience in this respect more sympathetic than an English one. His own highly nervous temperament would certainly tend to excited action. The speaker, who, as we are told, "shuddered visibly over his whole body when he first began to speak", was almost sure, as he warmed to his work, to throw himself into it with a passionate energy. [Footnote 1: Our speakers certainly fall into the other extreme. The British orator's style of gesticulation may still be recognised, _mutatis mutandis_, in Addison's humorous sketch of a century ago: "You may see many a smart rhetorician turning his hat in his hands, moulding it into several different cocks, examining sometimes the lining and sometimes the button, during the whole course of his harangue. A deaf man would think that he was cheapening a beaver, when he is talking perhaps of the fate of the British nation".] He has put on record his own ideas of the qualifications and the duties of the public speaker, whether in the Senate or at the bar, in three continuous treatises on the subject, entitled respectively, 'On Oratory', 'Brutus', and 'The Orator', as well as in some other works of which we have only fragments remaining. With the first of these works, which he inscribed to his brother, he was himself exceedingly well satisfied, and it perhaps remains still the ablest, as it was the first, attempt to reduce eloquence to a science. The second is a critical sketch of the great orators of Rome: and in the third we have Cicero's view of what the perfect orator should be. His ideal is a high one, and a true one; that he should not be the mere rhetorician, any more than the mere technical lawyer or keen partisan, but the man of perfect education and perfect taste, who can speak on all subjects, out of the fulness of his mind, "with variety and copiousness". Although, as has been already said, he appears to have attached but little value to a knowledge of the technicalities of law, in other respects his preparation for his work was of the most careful kind; if we may assume, as we probably may, that it is his own experience which, in his treatise on Oratory, he puts into the mouth of Marcus Antonius, one of his greatest predecessors at the Roman bar. "It is my habit to have every client explain to me personally his own case; to allow no one else to be present, that so he may speak more freely. Then I take the opponent's side, while I make him plead his own cause, and bring forward whatever arguments he can think of. Then, when he is gone, I take upon myself, with as much impartiality as I can, three different characters--my own, my opponent's, and that of the jury. Whatever point seems likely to help the case rather than injure it, this I decide must be brought forward; when I see that anything is likely to do more harm than good, I reject and throw it aside altogether. So I gain this,--that I think over first what I mean to say, and speak afterwards; while a good many pleaders, relying on their abilities, try to do both at once". [Footnote 1: De Oratore, II. 24, 72.] He reads a useful lesson to young and zealous advocates in the same treatise--that sometimes it may be wise not to touch at all in reply upon a point which makes against your client, and to which you have no real answer; and that it is even more important to say nothing which may injure your case, than to omit something which might possibly serve it. A maxim which some modern barristers (and some preachers also) might do well to bear in mind. Yet he did not scorn to use what may almost be called the tricks of his art, if he thought they would help to secure him a verdict. The outward and visible appeal to the feelings seems to have been as effective in the Roman forum as with a British jury. Cicero would have his client stand by his side dressed in mourning, with hair dishevelled, and in tears, when he meant to make a pathetic appeal to the compassion of the jurors; or a family group would be arranged, as circumstances allowed,--the wife and children, the mother and sisters, or the aged father, if presentable, would be introduced in open court to create a sensation at the right moment. He had tears apparently as ready at his command as an eloquent and well-known English Attorney-General. Nay, the tears seem to have been marked down, as it were, upon his brief. "My feelings prevent my saying more", he declares in his defence of Publius Sylla. "I weep while I make the appeal"--"I cannot go on for tears"--he repeats towards the close of that fine oration in behalf of Milo--the speech that never was spoken. Such phrases remind us of the story told of a French preacher, whose manuscripts were found to have marginal stage directions: "Here take out your handkerchief;"--"here cry--if possible". But such were held to be the legitimate adjuncts of Roman oratory, and it is quite possible to conceive that the advocate, like more than one modern tragedian who could be named, entered so thoroughly into the spirit of the part that the tears flowed quite naturally. A far less legitimate weapon of oratory--offensive and not defensive--was the bitter and coarse personality in which he so frequently indulged. Its use was held perfectly lawful in the Roman forum, whether in political debate or in judicial pleadings, and it was sure to be highly relished by a mixed audience. There is no reason to suppose that Cicero had recourse to it in any unusual degree; but employ it he did, and most unscrupulously. It was not only private character that he attacked, as in the case of Antony and Clodius, but even personal defects or peculiarities were made the subject of bitter ridicule. He did not hesitate to season his harangue by a sarcasm on the cast in the prosecutor's eye, or the wen on the defendant's neck, and to direct the attention of the court to these points, as though they were corroborative evidence of a moral deformity. The most conspicuous instance of this practice of his is in the invective which he launched in the Senate against Piso, who had made a speech reflecting upon him. Referring to Cicero's exile, he had made that sore subject doubly sore by declaring that it was not Cicero's unpopularity, so much as his unfortunate propensity to bad verse, which had been the cause of it. A jingling line of his to the effect that "The gown wins grander triumphs than the sword" had been thought to be pointed against the recent victories of Pompey, and to have provoked him to use his influence to get rid of the author. But this annotation of Cicero's poetry had not been Piso's only offence. He had been consul at the time of the exile, and had given vent, it may be remembered, to the witticism that the "saviour of Rome" might save the city a second time by his absence. Cicero was not the man to forget it. The beginning of his attack on Piso is lost, but there is quite enough remaining. Piso was of a swarthy complexion, approaching probably to the negro type. "Beast"--is the term by which Cicero addresses him. "Beast! there is no mistaking the evidence of that slave-like hue, those bristly cheeks, those discoloured fangs. Your eyes, your brows, your face, your whole aspect, are the tacit index to your soul". [Footnote 1: "Cedant arma togae, concedat laurea linguae".] [Footnote 2: Such flowers of eloquence are not encouraged at the modern bar. But they were common enough, even in the English law-courts, in former times. Mr. Attorney-General Coke's language to Raleigh at his trial--"Thou viper!"--comes quite up to Cicero's. Perhaps the Irish House of Parliament, while it existed, furnished the choicest modern specimens of this style of oratory. Mr. O'Flanagan, in his 'Lives of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland', tells us that a member for Galway, attacking an opponent when he knew that his sister was present during the debate, denounced the whole family--"from the toothless old hag that is now grinning in the gallery, to the white-livered scoundrel that is shivering on the floor".] It is not possible, within the compass of these pages, to give even the briefest account of more than a few of the many causes (they are twenty-four in number) in which the speeches made by Cicero, either for the prosecution or the defence, have been preserved to us. Some of them have more attraction for the English reader than others, either from the facts of the case being more interesting or more easily understood, or from their affording more opportunity for the display of the speaker's powers. Mr. Fox had an intense admiration for the speech in defence of Caelius. The opinion of one who was no mean orator himself, on his great Roman predecessor, may be worth quoting: "Argumentative contention is not what he excels in; and he is never, I think, so happy as when he has an opportunity of exhibiting a mixture of philosophy and pleasantry, and especially when he can interpose anecdotes and references to the authority of the eminent characters in the history of his own country. No man appears, indeed, to have had such a real respect for authority as he; and therefore when he speaks on that subject he is always natural and earnest". [Footnote 1: Letter to G. Wakefield--Correspondence, p. 35.] There is anecdote and pleasantry enough in this particular oration; but the scandals of Roman society of that day, into which the defence of Caelius was obliged to enter, are not the most edifying subject for any readers. Caelius was a young man of "equestrian" rank, who had been a kind of ward of Cicero's, and must have given him a good deal of trouble by his profligate habits, if the guardianship was anything more than nominal. But in this particular case the accusation brought against him--of trying to murder an ambassador from Egypt by means of hired assassins, and then to poison the lady who had lent him the money to bribe them with--was probably untrue. Clodia, the lady in question, was the worthy sister of the notorious Clodius, and bore as evil a reputation as it was possible for a woman to bear in the corrupt society of Rome--which is saying a great deal. She is the real mover in the case, though another enemy of Caelius, the son of a man whom he had himself brought to trial for bribery, was the ostensible prosecutor. Cicero, therefore, throughout the whole of his speech, aims the bitter shafts of his wit and eloquence at Clodia. His brilliant invectives against this lady, who was, as he pointedly said, "not only noble but notorious", are not desirable to quote. But the opening of the speech is in the advocate's best style. The trial, it seems, took place on a public holiday, when it was not usual to take any cause unless it were of pressing importance. "If any spectator be here present, gentlemen, who knows nothing of our laws, our courts of justice, or our national customs, he will not fail to wonder what can be the atrocious nature of this case, that on a day of national festival and public holiday like this, when all other business in the Forum is suspended, this single trial should be going on; and he will entertain no doubt but that the accused is charged with a crime of such enormity, that if it were not at once taken cognisance of, the constitution itself would be in peril. And if he heard that there was a law which enjoined that in the case of seditious and disloyal citizens who should take up arms to attack the Senate-house, or use violence against the magistrates, or levy war against the commonwealth, inquisition into the matter should be made at once, on the very day;--he would not find fault with such a law: he would only ask the nature of the charge. But when he heard that it was no such atrocious crime, no treasonable attempt, no violent outrage, which formed the subject of this trial, but that a young man of brilliant abilities, hard-working in public life, and of popular character, was here accused by the son of a man whom he had himself once prosecuted, and was still prosecuting, and that all a bad woman's wealth and influence was being used against him,--he might take no exception to the filial zeal of Atratinus; but he would surely say that woman's infamous revenge should be baffled and punished.... I can excuse Atratinus; as to the other parties, they deserve neither excuse nor forbearance". It was a strange story, the case for the prosecution, especially as regarded the alleged attempt to poison Clodia. The poison was given to a friend of Caelius, he was to give it to some slaves of Clodia whom he was to meet at certain baths frequented by her, and they were in some way to administer it. But the slaves betrayed the secret; and the lady employed certain gay and profligate young men, who were hangers-on of her own, to conceal themselves somewhere in the baths, and pounce upon Caelius's emissary with the poison in his possession. But this scheme was said to have failed. Clodia's detectives had rushed from their place of concealment too soon, and the bearer of the poison escaped. The counsel for the prisoner makes a great point of this. "Why, 'tis the catastrophe of a stage-play--nay, of a burlesque; when no more artistic solution of the plot can be invented, the hero escapes, the bell rings, and--the curtain falls! For I ask why, when Licinius was there trembling, hesitating, retreating, trying to escape--why that lady's body-guard let him go out of their hands? Were they afraid lest, so many against one, such stout champions against a single helpless man, frightened as he was and fierce as they were, they could not master him? I should like exceedingly to see them, those curled and scented youths, the bosom-friends of this rich and noble lady; those stout men-at-arms who were posted by their she-captain in this ambuscade in the baths. And I should like to ask them how they hid themselves, and where? A bath?--why, it must rather have been a Trojan horse, which bore within its womb this band of invincible heroes who went to war for a woman! I would make them answer this question,--why they, being so many and so brave, did not either seize this slight stripling, whom you see before you, where he stood, or overtake him when he fled? They will hardly be able to explain themselves, I fancy, if they get into that witness-box, however clever and witty they may be at the banquet,--nay, even eloquent occasionally, no doubt, over their wine. But the air of a court of justice is somewhat different from that of the banquet-hall; the benches of this court are not like the couches of a supper-table; the array of this jury presents a different spectacle from a company of revellers; nay, the broad glare of sunshine is harder to face than the glitter of the lamps. If they venture into it, I shall have to strip them of their pretty conceits and fools' gear. But, if they will be ruled by me, they will betake themselves to another trade, win favour in another quarter, flaunt themselves elsewhere than in this court. Let them carry their brave looks to their lady there; let them lord it at her expense, cling to her, lie at her feet, be her slaves; only let them make no attempt upon the life and honour of an innocent man". The satellites of Clodia could scarcely have felt comfortable under this withering fire of sarcasm. The speaker concluded with an apology--much required--for his client's faults, as those of a young man, and a promise on his behalf--on the faith of an advocate--that he would behave better for the future. He wound up the whole with a point of sensational rhetoric which was common, as has been said, to the Roman bar as to our own--an appeal to the jurymen as fathers. He pointed to the aged father of the defendant, leaning in the most approved attitude upon the shoulder of his son. Either this, or the want of evidence, or the eloquence of the pleader, had its due effect. Caelius was triumphantly acquitted; and it is a proof that the young man was not wholly graceless, that he rose afterwards to high public office, and never forgot his obligations to his eloquent counsel, to whom he continued a stanch friend. He must have had good abilities, for he was honoured with frequent letters from Cicero when the latter was governor of Cilicia. He kept up some of his extravagant tastes; for when he was Aedile (which involved the taking upon him the expense of certain gladiatorial and wild-beast exhibitions), he wrote to beg his friend to send him out of his province some panthers for his show. Cicero complied with the request, and took the opportunity, so characteristic of him, of lauding his own administration of Cilicia, and making a kind of pun at the same time. "I have given orders to the hunters to see about the panthers; but panthers are very scarce, and the few there are complain, people say, that in the whole province there are no traps laid for anybody but for them". Catching and skinning the unfortunate provincials, which had been a favourite sport with governors like Verres, had been quite done away with in Cilicia, we are to understand, under Cicero's rule. His defence of Ligarius, who was impeached of treason against the state in the person of Caesar, as having borne arms against him in his African campaign, has also been deservedly admired. There was some courage in Cicero's undertaking his defence; as a known partisan of Pompey, he was treading on dangerous and delicate ground. Caesar was dictator at the time; and the case seems to have been tried before him as the sole judicial authority, without pretence of the intervention of anything like a jury. The defence--if defence it may be called--is a remarkable instance of the common appeal, not to the merits of the case, but to the feelings of the court. After making out what case he could for his client, the advocate as it were throws up his brief, and rests upon the clemency of the judge. Caesar himself, it must be remembered, had begun public life, like Cicero, as a pleader: and, in the opinion of some competent judges, such as Tacitus and Quintilian, had bid fair to be a close rival. "I have pleaded many causes, Caesar--some, indeed, in association with yourself, while your public career spared you to the courts; but surely I never yet used language of this sort,--'Pardon him, sirs, he has offended: he has made a false step: he did not think to do it; he never will again'. This is language we use to a father. To the court it must be,--'He did not do it: he never contemplated it: the evidence is false; the charge is fabricated'. If you tell me you sit but as the judge of the fact in this case, Caesar,--if you ask me where and when he served against you,--I am silent; I will not now dwell on the extenuating circumstances, which even before a judicial tribunal might have their weight. We take this course before a judge, but I am here pleading to a father. 'I have erred--I have done wrong, I am sorry: I take refuge in your clemency; I ask forgiveness for my fault; I pray you, pardon me'.... There is nothing so popular, believe me, sir, as kindness; of all your many virtues none wins men's admiration and their love like mercy. In nothing do men reach so near the gods, as when they can give life and safety to mankind. Fortune has given you nothing more glorious than the power, your own nature can supply nothing more noble than the will, to spare and pardon wherever you can. The case perhaps demands a longer advocacy--your gracious disposition feels it too long already. So I make an end, preferring for my cause that you should argue with your own heart, than that I or any other should argue with you. I will urge nothing more than this,--the grace which you shall extend to my client in his absence, will be felt as a boon by all here present". The great conqueror was, it is said, visibly affected by the appeal, and Ligarius was pardoned.