Page images
PDF
EPUB

3

[ocr errors]

The inviolable respect which children owe to their parents, even when they treat them with rigour and injustice, makes some conjunctures very difficult, in which they are obliged to speak against their parents; , and it is on these occasions that true rhetoric furnishes turns and artful strokes, which give to paternal authority whatever is it's due, without lofing any of the advantages of the cause. h It must then be inculcated, that nothing but indispenfible necessity can force, from the mouths of children, complaints which their hearts would suppress; and that even through those complaints, not only a fund of respect may be discovered, but one of love and tenderness also. A fine example of this precept may be seen in the pleading for Cluentius, whom his mother treated with unheard of cruelty.

The rule I have now touched upon regards every inferior, who has any just pretensions against a superior, whom we ought to respect and honour.

There are some occasions where interest or decency will not permit us to exlpain ourselves in exprefs terms k, but in which we would, at the same time, infinuate to the judge fome things we dare not speak openly. A fon, for example, cannot gain his suit with out discovering a crime of which his father is guilty. ? The things themselves, says Quintilian, must lead the judge insensibly to guess at what the parties are unwilling to declare; that, every other motive being laid afide, he may be forced, as it were, to see the only one which remains; and which the respect for a father

[ocr errors]

* Hoc illis commune remedium Res ipfæ perducant judicem ad eft; fi in tota actione æqualicer ap- fufpicionem, & amiliamur cxo pareat, non bonor modò, fed etiain tera, ut hoc solum fuperfit: in quo caricas: præterca causa fut nobis multum etiam affectus juvant, & justa siç dicendi; neque id modem interrupta filentio dictio, & cunce ratè tantùm faciamus, sed eriam taciones. Sic enim fiet, ui judex neceffariò. Quint. l. 11. C. 1. quærat illud nescio quid, quod ipse i N. 12. & 17.

fortasse non crederet, G'audiret : Io quo per quandam suspici- & ei, quod à se invenrum existionem, quod non dicimus accipi vo

mat, ciedat. Ibid. lumus, Quinc. 1.9.c. 2.

hinders

k

hinders him from discovering. And then, the son’s speech being suspended and interrupted from time to time, as it were, by a forced silence and a warm sense of tenderness, must explain the violence he does himfelf, to prevent his letting words drop, which the force of truth would seemingly extort from him. By this, the judge is inclined to enquire after that inexpresible fomething, which he would not perhaps have believed,

had it been discovered to him ; but which he now is ! fully convinced of, from the belief that he has difcovered it by his own enquiry.

There are likewise fome persons of so venerable a character and so universal a reputation, that their very names are enough to bear down their adversaries. Such was Cato in his contest with Murena; and we cannot make youth too sensible of the surprising art with which Cicéro deprived Cato of some part of his authority and credit, by the picture he drew of the fect of the Stoicks, which he turned into ridicule with fo much wit and humour, that Cato himself could not for bear laughing at it ; and this, without saying any thing derogatory to his person, which was to be, in a manner, facred to him, and was certainly inacceffible, and impregnable to any kind of censure.

Was there ever a nicer or more difficult affair than that which Cicero undertook, in opposing the levelling or Agrarian law, for so they called the law which appointed lands to be distributed among the poorest of people? That law had at all times served the tribunes as a bait to gain the populace, and to fix them in their interest. It appeared indeed to be very much in their favour, by procuring them repose, and a safe retreat. However Cicero undertakes to make the people themselves reject it, just after they had chosen him consul with unparallelled marks of distinction. Had he begun with speaking openly against that law, the whole people

m Quàm molli autem articulo fius vitio, fed Stoicæ fectæ, quitractavit. Catonem, cujus natu- busdam in rebus factam duriorem tam fummè admiratus, non ip- videri volebat. Quindi di 11.c.

would

I 5

would have exclaimed and rose against him. He was too wise, and too well acquainted with men to act after that manner. It deserves our admiration, to see how long he keeps his auditors in suspense, without letting them discover what party he had taken, or what opinion he intended to inculcate. He employs at first all the power of his eloquence, to shew the people the lively sense he had of the very fignal favour he had lately received from them. He carefully heightens all the circumstances of it, which reflected so much honour upon him. He afterwards takes notice of the duties and obligations, which so unanimous a consent of the people in chusing him consul, had laid him under. He declares, that as he is obliged to them for all his honours and dignities, he shall always have the popular interest at heart, not only during the continuance of his office, but during his life. But he takes notice, that the word popular requires explanation ; and after shewing its various acceptations, after he had discovered the secret intrigues of the tribunes, who concealed their ambitious designs under that plausible name; after he had highly applauded the Gracchi, who were zealous defenders of the Agrarian law, and whose memory, for that reason, was so dear to the Roman people; after he had thus infinuated himself by degrees into the minds of the auditors, and gained them entirely; he does not, however, dare yet attack openly the law in question, but contents himself with protesting, that in case the people, after hearing him, don't acknowledge that this law, under a deceitful outside, gives in effect a blow to their quiet and their liberty, he then will join them, and submit to their opinion. This is a perfect model of what we call an inlinuatory exordium in the schools; and methinks one Such passage as this is sufficient for forming the understanding of youth, and teaching them the dextrous and respectful way of combating the opinions of those who are not to be opposed directly on the score of acknowledgment and submiflion. This discourse had all

the

the effect which was expected from it; and the people being undeceived by the eloquent discourse of their consul, repealed the Agrarian law.

n The passage in Cicero's oration for Ligarius, where an enquiry is made what people ought to think of Pompey's party, required to be handled with great nicety. Tubero had declared those to be criminal who bore arms against Cæsar. Cicero heightens and condemns the harshness of that expression, and after recapitulating the different names given to the conduct of those who had declared for Pompey, as error, fear, lust, paffion, prepossession, intoxication, rashness: “ For my part, says he, if people ask me, what

is the proper and true name which ought to be given

to our misfortune, methinks 'tis a fatal influence " that has blinded men, and forced them along, in

spite of all their endeavours to the contrary; fo " that we must not wonder to see the unsurmount" able will of the Gods prevail over the counsels of

men.” * Ac mihi quidem, fi proprium & verum 1:0men noftri mali quæratur, fatalis quædam calamitas izcidise videtur, & improvidas hominum mentes occupavise : ut nemo mirari debeat, humana conflia divina necessitate elle superata. There was nothing in this definition injurious to Pompey's party; and so far from offending Cæsar, it pleased him very much.

Such of our writers as have treated of the last civil wars of France, seem to have had the above-mientioned passage of Cicero in view ; but then they have very much improved upon the original.

•“ Alas, unhappy France! though thou gottest “ rid of that enemy, were there not still enough re“ maining, without turning thine arnis against thy" self? What fatal influence could induce thee to thed “ so much blood ? Why cannot we obliterate those "s melancholy years from history, and keep them from “ the knowledge of our pofterity? But since 'tis im“ poffible to pass over things, which the shedding of s Pro Ligar. n. 171.

• Mascar, M. de Turrene's funeral oration:

I 6

o

so much blood has too strongly recorded, let us re« veal them at least, like that artful painter who inC vented the profile, in order to conceal the blemithes « in a face. Let us remove from our fight that dark

ness of mind, that fatal night, which being formed “ in the confusion of publick affairs by so many diffe« rent interests, made even those go astray who fought o for the right path.

p" Do you, gentlemen, remember that period of “ disorder and confusion, when the gloomy Spirit of “ discord confounded justice and right with pasfon,

duty with interest, the good cause with the bad; when “ most of the brightest stars fuffered some eclipse, and “the most faithful subjects faw themselves invo“ luntarily drawn away by the torrent of parties, like

those pilots, who finding themselves surprised by a " storm in the midst of the ocean, are obliged to change “their course, and abandon themselves for a time to " the winds and the tempeft? Such is God's justice;

such is the natural infirmity of men: but the wife " man easily recovers himself, and there is both in po« liticks and in religion, a kind of repentance more “ glorious than innocence itself, which makes an ad

vantageous reparation for a little frailty by extraor“ dinary virtues, and a continual fervor.

q“ What shall I say? God suffered the winds and

waves to roar and toss, and the storm arose. A fel" tiferous air of factions and insurrections won the heart c of the state, and extended itself to the most diftant

parts. The passions, which our sins had kindled, « broke down the fences of justice and reason; and the “ wisest men being drawn away by the unhappiness of

engagements and conjunctures, against their own in

clinations, found they had ftrayed beyond the bounds 4 of their duty, before they preceived it

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

» Fléchier, in M. Turenne's fur meral oration.

a M. Fléchier, in M. de Telli, er's funeral oration.

ARTI.

« PreviousContinue »