It was argued in reply that, though the guilt of a few ought to be
the ruin of the men themselves, there should be no diminution of the
rights of the entire class. “For it was,” they contended, “a widely
diffused body; from it, the city tribes, the various public functionaries,
the establishments of the magistrates and priests were for the most
part supplied, as well as the cohorts of the city-guard; very many
too of the knights and several of the senators derived their origin
from no other source. If freedmen were to be a separate class, the
paucity of the freeborn would be conspicuously apparent. Not without
good reason had our ancestors, in distinguishing the position of the
different orders, thrown freedom open to all. Again, two kinds of
enfranchisement had been instituted, so as to leave room for retracting
the boon, or for a fresh act of grace. Those whom the patron had not
emancipated with the freedom-giving rod, were still held, as it were,
by the bonds of slavery. Every master should carefully consider the
merits of each case, and be slow to grant what once given could not
be taken away.”

This view prevailed, and the emperor replied to the Senate that, whenever
freedmen were accused by their patrons, they were to investigate each
case separately and not to annul any right to their common injury.
Soon afterwards, his aunt Domitia had her freedman Paris taken from
her, avowedly by civil law, much to the emperor’s disgrace, by whose
direction a decision that he was freeborn was obtained.

Still there yet remained some shadow of a free state. A contest arose
between Vibullius, the praetor, and Antistius, a tribune of the people;
for the tribune had ordered the release of some disorderly applauders
of certain actors, whom the praetor had imprisoned. The Senate approved
the imprisonment, and censured the presumption of Antistius. Tribunes
were also forbidden to usurp the authority of praetors and consuls,
or to summon from any part of Italy persons liable to legal proceedings.
It was further proposed by Lucius Piso, consul-elect, that tribunes
were not to try any case in their own houses, that a fine imposed
by them was not to be entered on the public books by the officials
of the exchequer, till four months had expired, and that in the meantime
appeals were to be allowed, which the consuls were to decide.

Restrictions were also put on the powers of the aediles and a limit
fixed to the amount of bail or penalty which curule and plebeian aediles
could respectively exact. On this, Helvidius Priscus, a tribune of
the people, followed up a personal quarrel he had with Obultronius
Sabinus, one of the officials of the exchequer, by insinuating that
he stretched his right of confiscation with merciless rigour against
the poor. The emperor then transferred the charge of the public accounts
from these officers to the commissioners.

The arrangement of this business had been variously and frequently
altered. Augustus allowed the Senate to appoint commissioners; then,
when corrupt practices were suspected in the voting, men were chosen
by lot for the office out of the whole number of praetors. This did
not last long, as the lot strayed away to unfit persons. Claudius
then again appointed quaestors, and that they might not be too lax
in their duties from fear of offending, he promised them promotion
out of the usual course. But what they lacked was the firmness of
mature age, entering, as they did, on this office as their first step,
and so Nero appointed ex-praetors of approved competency.

During the same consulship, Vipsanius Laenas was condemned for rapacity
in his administration of the province of Sardinia. Cestius Proculus
was acquitted of extortion, his accusers dropping the charge. Clodius
Quirinalis, having, when in command of the crews at Ravenna, caused
grievous distress to Italy by his profligacy and cruelty, just as
if it were the most contemptible of countries, forestalled his doom
by poison. Caninius Rebilus, one of the first men in legal knowledge
and vastness of wealth, escaped the miseries of an old age of broken
health by letting the blood trickle from his veins, though men did
not credit him with sufficient resolution for a self-inflicted death,
because of his infamous effeminacy. Lucius Volusius on the other hand
died with a glorious name. There was his long life of ninety-three
years, his conspicuous wealth, honourably acquired, and his wise avoidance
of the malignity of so many emperors.
The Annals by Tacitus