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Darius, where his sage counsel, that the Persian should avoid an engagement with Alexander, provoked the haughty and capricious tyrant to put him to death.
During Alexander's famous expedition into Asia, and the progress of his stupendous victories, Greece enjoyed a sort of calm, and the Athenians found leisure to decide the contest between their rival statesmen. The parties now appeared before a number of judges, probably not less than five hundred, and these chosen from the citizens at large, men of lively and warm imaginations, and of all others most susceptible of the impressions made by the force and artifice of popular eloquence. The partisans of each side crowded round, to assist and support their friend; and the tribunal was surrounded, not only by the citizens of Athens, but by vast numbers from all parts of Greece, curious to hear two so celebrated speakers, upon a subject so engaging as the late national transactions, and to be witnesses of the decision of a cause, which had been, for some years, the object of general attention and expectation.
THE ORATION OF ÆSCHINES
AGAINST CTESIPHON You see, ATHENIANS! what forces are prepared, what numbers formed and arrayed, what soliciting through the assembly, by a certain party; and all this, to oppose the fair and ordinary course of justice in the state. As to me, I stand here in firm reliance, first on the immortal gods, next on the laws, and you; convinced that faction never can have greater weight with you, than law and justice.
It were to be wished, indeed, that the presidents of our senate, and of our popular assembly, would attend with due care to the order of their debates; that the laws ordained by Solon, to secure the decency of public speaking, might still preserve their force; that so, our elder citizens might first arise in due and decent form, (as these laws direct), without tumult or confusion; and each declare, in order, the salutary counsets of his sage experience; that, after these, our other citizens who chose to speak, might severally, and in order, according to their ages, propose their sentiments on every subject. Thus, in my opinion, would the course of government be more exactly regulated; and thus would our assemblies be less frequently engaged in trials. But now, when these institutions, so confessedly excellent, have lost their force; when men propose illegal resolutions, without reserve or scruple; when others are found to put them to the vote, not regularly chosen to preside in our assemblies, but men who have raised themselves to this dignity by intrigue; when, if any of the other senators on whom the lot of presidency hath fairly fallen, should discharge his office faithfully, and report your voices truly, there are men who threaten to impeach him, men who invade our rights, and regard the administration as their private property; who have secured their vassals, and raised themselves to sovereignty; who have suppressed such judicial procedures as are founded on established laws, and, in the decision of those appointed by temporary decrees, consult their
passions; now, I say, that most sage and virtuous proclamation is no longer heard: “WHO IS DISPOSED TO SPEAK OF THOSE ABOVE FIFTY YEARS OLD ?” and then, “Who OF THE OTHER CITIZENS IN THEIR TURNS?" Nor is the indecent license of our speakers any longer restrained by our laws, by our magistrates; no, nor by the presiding tribe, which contains a full tenth part
a of the community.
If such be our situation, such the present circumstances of the state, and of this you seem convinced; one part alone of our polity remains; (as far as I may presume to judge); prosecutions of those who violate the laws. Should you suppress these; should you permit them to be suppressed; I freely pronounce your fate; that your government must be gradually and imperceptibly given up to the power of a few. You are not to be informed, ATHENIANS! that there are three different modes of government established in the world; the monarchical, the government of the few, and the free republic. In the two former, the administration is directed by the pleasure of the ruling powers; in free states, it is regulated by established laws. It is then a truth, of which none shall be ignorant, which every man should impress deeply on his mind; that when he enters the tribunal, to decide a case of violation of the laws, he that day gives sentence on his own liberties. Wisely therefore hath our legislator prescribed this, as the first clause in the oath of every judge: "I WILL GIVE MY VOICE AGREEABLY TO THE LAW;” well knowing, that when the laws are preserved sacred in every state, the freedom of their constitution is most effectually secured. Let these things be ever kept
1 Any citizen might commence a prosecution against the author of any decree or public resolution, which he deemed of pernicious tendency, or repugnant to established laws. The mover of any new law was also liable to the like prosecution. And this was necessary in a constitution like that of Athens, where all decisions were made in large and tumultuous assembles. Here, a few leaders might easily gain an absolute authority, and prevail upon the giddy multitude to consent to any proposition whatever, (if enforced by plausible arguments) unless they were restrained by the fear of being called to account for the motions they had made, and the resolutions passed at their instances.
in memory, that your indignation may be kindled against all those whose decrees have been illegal. Let not any of their offences be deemed of little moment, but all of the greatest importance; nor suffer your rights to be wrested from you, by any power; neither by the combinations of your generals, who, by conspiring with our public speakers, have frequently involved the state in danger; nor by the solicitations of foreigners, who have been brought up to screen some men from justice, whose administration hath been notoriously illegal. But as each man among you would be ashamed to desert from his post in battle; so think it shameful to abandon the post this day assigned to you by the laws, that of guardians of the constitution.
Let it also be remembered, that the whole body of our citizens hath now committed their state, their liberties, into your hands. Some of them are present, awaiting the event of this trial; others are called away to attend on their private affairs. Shew the due reverence to these; remember your oaths and your laws; and if we convict Ctesiphon of having proposed decrees illegal, false, and detrimental to the state, reverse these illegal decrees, assert the freedom of your constitution, and punish those who have administered your affairs in opposition to your laws, in contempt of your constitution, and in total disregard of your interest. If, with these sentiments impressed upon your minds, you attend to what is now to be proposed, you must, I am convinced, proceed to a decision just and religious, a decision of the utmost advantage to yourselves, and to the state.
As to the general nature of this prosecution, thus far have I premised, and, I trust, without offence. Let me now request your attention to a few words about the laws relative to persons ACCOUNTABLE to the public, which have been violated by the decree proposed by Ctesiphon.
In former times there were found magistrates of the most
1 To perceive the whole force and artifice of this similitude, the reader is to recollect, that at the battle of Chæronea, Demosthenes betrayed the utmost weakness and cowardice, a matter of great triumph to his enemies, and a constant subject of their ridicule.
distinguished rank, and entrusted with the management of our revenues, who in their several stations were guilty of the basest corruption, but who, by forming an interest with the speakers in the senate, and in the popular assembly, anticipated their accounts by public honours, and declarations of applause. Thus, when their conduct came to a formal examination, their accusers were involved in great perplexity, their judges in still greater. For many of the persons thus subject to examination, though convicted, on the clearest evidence, of having defrauded the public, were yet suffered to escape from justice; and no wonder. The judges were ashamed that the same man, in the same city, possibly in the same year, should be publicly honoured in our festivals, that proclamation should be made, that the people had conferred a golden crown upon him, on account of his integrity and virtue;" that the same man, I say, in a short time after, when his conduct had been brought to an examination, should depart from the tribunal, condemned of fraud. In their sentence, therefore, the judges were necessarily obliged to attend, not to the nature of those offences, but to the reputation of the state.
Some of our magistrates observing this, framed a law, (and its excellence is undeniable) expressly forbidding any man to be honoured with a crown, whose conduct had not yet been submitted to the legal examination. But, notwithstanding all the precaution of the framers of this law, pretences were still found of force sufficient to defeat its intention. Of these you are to be informed, lest you should be unwarily betrayed into error.
Some of those who in defiance of the laws have moved, that men who yet stood accountable for their conduct, should be crowned, are still influenced by some degree of decency (if this can with propriety be said of men who propose resolutions directly subversive of the laws) : they still seek to cast a kind of veil upon their shame. Hence are they sometimes careful to express their resolutions in this manner, “that the man whose conduct is not yet submitted to examina
1 Those who were appointed to revise the laws, and to propose the amendment or abrogation of such as were found inconvenient, as well as such new laws as the public interest seemed to demand.