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first advances to the conqueror, experienced his clemency, and was immediately admitted into his confidence. The latter was obtained by revealing, I will not call it betraying, whatever he had been able to learn of Pompey's designs.* He then left Cæsar to follow the pursuit he had pointed out, and entertained himself with an agreeable tour through the cities of Greece and Asia. In a few months he returned to Rome, resigned himself to the calm studies of history and rhetoric, and passed many of his leisure hours in the society of Cicero and Atticus. Their literary conversations were sometimes interrupted by complaints of the melancholy situation of public affairs.t
At a time when Cicero was in retirement, Marcellus in voluntary exile, I and Cato in arms, we might at least expect that the nephew of Cato would have declined any political connexion with the usurper. When Cæsar set out for the African war, Brutus accepted at his hands the government of the Cisalpine Gaul;9 a command of
* Plutarch. in Brut. Some casuists, Spaniards and others, have attempted to justify this conduct. (See Bayle, Dictionnaire, à l'Article Brutus.) The feelings of a man of honour are the best confutation of such sophistry.
+ See Cicero's two Treatises De Claris Oratoribus and De Orator. both which he dedicated to Brutus about this time. The latter gave rise to a celebrated controversy between them.
1 He retired to Mytilene and refused to accept the victor's clemency. His letters (see ad Familiar. L. iv.) are full of noble sentiments, and bis behaviour does not appear to have disgraced them.
Ś Plutarch. in Brut. Appian. de B. C. L. ij. p. 477. Cicer. ad Famil. L. xiji. p. 10, &c.
infinite infinite importance from its vicinity to the capital, and from the legions always stationed in that province to protect the frontiers of Italy from the unconquered Rhætians. The same legions gave the governor of the Cisapline Gaul an almost decisive weight in every civil commotion, as a march of a few days brought him to the gates of Rome. * Experience had already acquainted Cæsar with this advantage, and by thus appointing Brutus his Lieutenant during his absence, he shewed the most implicit confidence in his fidelity. Suppose that Rome had attempted to break her chains; suppose the sons of Pompey from Spain, or Cato from Africa, had made a diversion in Italy, what could have been the conduct of the patriot Brutus? His station must have forced him into action, and by his action he must have betrayed either his trust or his country. Into this fatal dilemma had he wantonly thrown hiinself.
When Cæsar, on his return from the conquest of Africa, visited a part of Gaul, his obsequious governor went out to meet him with the respectful attention of an experienced courtier, and attended him on his way to the triumph, in which a picture of Cato tearing out his own bowels was exposed to the eyes of the Roman people.f I wish not however to conceal that about the same time, Brutus gave some proofs of regard for his uncle's
* Montesquieu bas already remarked the importance of that province. Considérations sur la Grandeur, &c. c. xi. † Plutarch. in Brut. Appian, L. ii. p. 491.
memory, by marrying his cousin Portia,* and by composing a Treatise on the life and character of Cato; an honourable, rather than a dangerous undertaking; since even the prudence of Cicero permitted him to publish a work on the same subject. The dictator disdained to employ the arms of power, when those of eloquence were sufficient. He appealed to the tribunal of the public, and in a severe and masterly censure of the conduct of Cato, he treated the persons of his two literary antagonists, Cicero and Brutus, with every expression of regard and esteem.f.
This polite controversy was so far from leaving any unfavourable impressions in Cæsar's mind, that a few months afterwards he named Brutus the first of the sixteen Prætors with the honourable department of the city jurisdiction, and with a promise of the consulship for one of the ensuing years. I Could Brutus accept, could he solicit the honours of the state from a master who had abolished the freedom, and who scarcely preserved the forms of elections ?
---- Tinget solennia campi,
Decantatque tribus, et vanâ versat in urna ; * Plutarch. Cicer. ad Attic. xii. 9.
+ Cicer. ad Attic. xii. 21. xiii. 46. Cæsar paid a compliment to these two pieces in favour of Cato; but his compliment is obscure and equivocal. He probably meant it should be so. 1 Plutarch, in Brut. Velleius Paterculus, ii. 56.
The common editions read dirimit, which puzzles all the commentators. Diribere was a term peculiar to the comitia and signifies to poll the votes in the regular divisions.
Nec coelum servare licet; tonat augure surdo;
Et lætæ jurantur aves, bubone sinistro.* I have heard much of the heroic spirit of Brutus; of his glorious sacrifice of gratitude to patriotism. True patriotism would have instructed him not to cancel, but to refuse obligations of such a nature from the declared enemy of Cato and the liberty of Rome.
Nay more, by soliciting these honours, Brutus solicited a public occasion of engaging his fidelity to the person and government of Cæsar by a solemn and voluntary oath of allegiance.t “ A few days before the execution of their fatal purpose, these patriots all swore fealty to Cæsar, and protesting to hold his person ever sacred, they touched the altar with those hands which they had already armed for his destruction." Antiquity has not preserved the oath, but we may suppose that it was not very different from the warm but faithless professions of Cicero. “ We exhort, we beseech you to guard your safety against the secret dangers, which you seem to suspect. We all promise (that I may express for others what I feel for myself) not only to watch over your precious life with the most anxious vigilance, but to oppose our own bodies, our own breasts to the impending stroke.") Relying on these assurances the dictator
* Lucan. Pharsal. v. 391.
dismissed his Spanish guards,* and neglected every precaution. He could not persuade himself that those whom he had conquered would be brave enough, or those whom he had pardoned base enough, to shorten a life already sufficient either for nature or for glory.t By those men he was flattered and assassinated. Such solemn perjury cannot be justified except by the dangerous maxim, that no faith is to be kept with tyrants. I
It was only for usurping the power of the people that Cæsar could deserve the epithet of tyrant. He used the power witli more moderation and ability than the people was capable of exerting; and the Romans already began to experience all the happiness and glory compatible with a monarchical form of government. To this government Brutus had yielded his obedience and services during three years before he lifted his dagger against Cæsar's life. What new crime had Cæsar committed, which so suddenly || transformed his minister into an assassin ? He aspired to the title of king, and that odious name called upon the
* Sueton. in Cæsar. c. 86. + Cicero pro Marcel. c. 8.
I Appian. L. ii. p. 515. This maxim is introduced in a speech of Brutus to the people; but the speech is evidently manufactured by the historian.
§ See some of Cæsar's vast and beneficial designs in Suetonius, C. 44. The reformation of the calendar still remains a small specimen of them.
|| Brutus took the oath of allegiance, about seventy-five days before the execution of the conspiracy.