Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors]

a

viction. Men are not in general so careful in word and evidence as they should be. To procure careful, wellweighed truthfulness of speech it is quite necessary to awaken the conscience, and to lead it to consider the serious consequences of causing a miscarriage of justice. Hence for men in general it is highly requisite that in courts held for the administration of law, oaths should be taken by witnesses and officials as an additional security for justice.-Q. P. L.

It is a sad fact, that in our courts of law oaths are often taken irreverently, and perjury is committed frequently. Bat is it not plain that if a solemn oath is unheeded, an ordinary affirmation would be still more carelessly observed ? Every one comprehends the difference between a lie and perjury. To abolish oath-taking would be to blot out the distinction in conscience between these two crimes. This will not do. Men are too ready to neglect the margin between sin and sin already, and need no help to make them worse, least of all from the law, for law is, in general, the measure of men's consciences, not religion.—EDWARD LUTON.

To live in the light of eternity, and to feel that the witness we bear is not a mere passing act whose end is when the words are uttered, is our duty. To insist that all evidence should be given in this light is the duty of Christian society. The policy of administering an oath in law proceedings may readily be justified by the felt necessity among all men of having some solemn mode of affirmation in all the important concerns of life. There may be men whose conscientious views are such that they cannot, consistently with their belief, take an oath ; for such, exceptional legislation is easy We only require to apply the penalties of perjury to the evidence, if found false, of all persons claiming exemption from oath-taking on conscientious grounds. But to abolish oath-taking altogether would seem to absolve the consciences of ordinary men from the true restraint of honesty of giving evidence, which the taking of

an oath in general is. The essential thing in courts of law is to get at truth. To get at that some call to conscience seems requisite, and the briefest as well as the most efficacious is an oath, which is, indeed, only a solemn averment that truth shall be spoken in the fear of God for the furtherance of holy ends.D. K.

A royal oath-commission has been appointed to examine the whole matter of oath-taking. This shows that the 'Topic of the month is one of present and pressing interest. We have no hesitation in saying that an oath is simply a solemn affirmation, and that in our courts of law-which ought also to be our courts of justice an oath is essential to the proper administration of law, and adjudication between man and man. Unless the evidence of witnesses is to be solemnly and deliberately given as a statement of the truth so far as they know, it is worthless, and worse. As a solemn averment it is of value; as a mere statement it is not only stripped of its dependability, but of its honest appearance. Legal evidence demands something more solemn and unequivocal than a simple declaration so-and-so; and whatever this is, it is to all intents and purposes an oath.-V. K.

Lying is a crime and a sin. As a crime, it opposes itself to the interests of society; as a sin, it opposes itself to the good of the church. In this country, Church and State are theoretically

On this account it is that the State claims the aid of the Church to aid it in doing justice. To abolish the administration of oaths would be to violate the constitution of Church and State as by law established. It ought not to be done.-A DERBYITE.

one.

NEGATIVE. No. For various reasons. 1. Many most conscientious Englishmen have strong objections to taking an oath. Their objections are such as claim consideration from their fellow-men. These objections are felt by many for whose veracity we need not the guarantee of an oath, therefore the law which com

ones.

pels such persons to do violence to their own consciences by taking an oath is an unjust law. Some would rather incur any penalty that is affixed to the refusal to be sworn, than take an oath. Good and upright British subjects ought not to be subjected to such vexations, and the law which subjects them thereto is an unjust law. 2. An oathi is no security to the public that a dishonest man will speak the truth. He who regards not his word is not likely to regard an oath. The fact that perjury is known to be committed corroborates this idea. 3. Oaths are of too solemn a nature to be trifled with, as they constantly are in courts of justice, by being taken in a merely mechanical, routine, thoughtless manner. 4. The same penalties can be affixed to the crime of making a false affirmation in a court of justice as are now affixed to the crime of perjury. This would obviate all necessity for oaths.-S. S.

I think oath-swearing ought to be entirely abolished, on account of the generally careless way in which oaths are administered and taken-dishonouring God, whose name is so irreverently called into question. There are many persons who think lightly about swearing, and the punishment might be made equally severe when witnesses give untruthful evidence, even if no oath were previously taken by them. As a substitute for affidavits, in all courts, a declaration or certificate, signed by the person making it, and attested by an authorized person, might be made equally binding. In truth, I dislike oath-swearing in any shape or form, and consider that it ought not to be insisted on by law, either in courts of justice or elsewhere.-R. D. ROBJENT, Bristol.

Perjury may be a sin. Law, however, has nothing to do with sin, but with crime; and hence has no right to compel anything except that which may be necessary to achieve its ends—the punishment of wrong-doing, and the encouragement of right. It has only, therefore, a claim to place its witnesses i

in the class of faulty men, not of sinful

If it constitutes false witness a crime punishable by statute in proportion to the evil effects resulting from the falsehood, oaths may safely be abolished, and law will hold its own limits. --J. M. H. S.

Law holds the keys of the prisons of the land. It ought not to assert that the keys of death and hell are given it to keep. Yet in asking, nay, compelling men, in certain circumstances, to take oaths, law is arrogating the right to condemn to perdition those who seek to escape from its enmity, or to help others to escape from it. Let law stick to earthly penalties, but do not let it pass beyond the earth in the stretch of its claim.-J. HARDIE.

An oath as at present administered is just a remnant of the old torture and terrorism of the courts. It ought not to be administered in any legal court, but it should be changed into an affirmation carrying penalties. — P. HAWKE.

Over infidels, atheists, and other professing unbelievers in any future state of being an oath can have no power; to a professing Christian an oath should seem to be an insult. To administer oaths to either is, therefore, useless. A great number of men are of neither class, because too thoughtless to inquire, or too regardless to love the right. These take an oath with the equanimity of a person drinking a cup of cold water. But it has no effect on their heart or conduct.

Oaths are therefore injudicious at least, if not sinful, when they are administered in courts of law.-C. S. L.

To exclude men from giving evidence, and thus by law to cause a miscarriage of justice by enacting that they must hold a definite creed regarding God and

the great day of judgment,” is unwise. This is often the result of making the taking of an oath imperative on a witness; for every oath implies at once & possession and a confession of faith.T. H. ARTHUR.

The Inquirer.

QUESTIONS REQUIRING ANSWERS.

635. I have been told that the Poles have a wonderful system of mnemonics or artificial memory, especially applicable to the study of history ; and that there has been an adaptation of that method published in England recently. It would be a favour could, any information on these points be supplied to A WORKING STUDENT.

what is known regarding its place in
literature, its authorship, and the age in
which it was written?- INQUIRER.

644. What is the history of the
"Eton Latin Grammar "?-A KING
EDWARD'S SCHOLAR.

645. How did the Barebones Parliament get its name?-T. L. B.

646. What was “ The battle of the Herrings''?—T. L. B.

[ocr errors]

636. What is meant by “ Plutarch's 647. I have lately met with the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

66 The

Banquet"? Has it any relation to the word snow-sheen, which I do not undersaying intended to denote“ dinnerless," stand and cannot find in my dictionary:

dining with Duke Humphrey”?-A. can you tell me its meaning ?-A. COUNTRY LAD.

M. B. 637. Who is the author of the 648. Oblique Narration in Latin aphorism, “ Man equal to man, man translation troubles me much.

Can the brother of man, Christianity made the rationale of it be readily explained law”?_QUERIST.

to-A DULL BOY? 638. The word proletarian” has 649. Could you favour with an outpuzzled me much: what does it mean? line of the career and literary labours in such a phrase, for instance, as of the George Bancroft who, in euloProletarian of Nazareth”?--J. T. gizing President Lincoln, traduced PreBUCKHAVEN.

mier Lord John Russell and the British 639. Is Cudworth's

" Intellectual

people? He is surely one whom we System of the Universe” a book on the ought to know something about in these arguments from design for the existence days of general information.-N. E. of the Deity ?-ANNA.

640. How does it happen that in Shakspere’s “King John” no mention is made of Magna Charta ?-P. B. K.

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS. 641. Galileo is said to have written 619. Harvard College was founded at a diary giving an account of his dis- Cambridge, Massachusetts, about three coveries, and all the impressions they miles from Boston, in 1636, and is the made on him from day to day: has oldest collegiate institution in the such a work been published 2-STAR- United States of America. The colony, GAZER.

which was founded in 1630, granted 642. A notice of the life and works £800, payable in three instalments, for of H. T. Buckle, the “ Historian of its erection; but the Rev. John Harvard, Civilization," would be gratifying, in 1639, the same year as the first not only to the subscriber, but to printing-press was set up in America, several friends of his.-JOHN D. having gifted the college with £700, INVERNESS.

had the honour conferred upon him of 643. Can any one give, or refer to, being for ever remembered as its earliest

“ Exposition of the Book of Job,” benefactor by the attachment of his which explains its purpose, general

Dame to it. In 1640 it was opened meaning, and supplies an outline of under Rev. Henry Dunster, who died

an

in 1659. It is worthily endowed now. A scientific department was provided for by Abbot Lawrence in 1848. It has now 33 professors, 18 tutors, nearly 1,000 students, and a library of 150,000 vols. It is governed by a president, five fellows, a treasurer, and a board of sixteen overseers. The overseers are appointed by the State legislature. The religious teaching hitherto given has been chiefly distinguished for its leaning towards Unitarianism, but it is not necessarily so—indeed, is not likely to be permanently so from the powers of the state implied in its choice of so many as sixteen of those to whom its management is entrusted.

It is justly celebrated for the number of eminent men who have issued from its classrooms.- ELLIOT.

626. “Student's" query is one which shows well the advantage of these querists' columns; for this modern proverb, which has become quite an axiom in Sociology, is only about twenty-eight years old. It was contained in a letter written by Captain Thomas Drummond, R.E., to the magistrates of Tipperary, on 23rd May, 1838. Captain Drum

mond was born at Edinburgh, October, 1797, where, as well as at Woolwich and Chatham, he was educated. He was employed in the trigonometrical survey of Great Britain in 1820, and in 1826 he projected the lime, or Drummond light. He was

at the head of the commission which fixed the boundaries of the Boroughs of the Reform Bill, 1832. He was private Secretary to Lord Althorpe, when Chancellor of the Exchequer; and was Under-Secretary of Ireland during the Viceroyalty of Lord Mulgrave, in the execution of which duty he wrote the letter containing the famous aphorism in question, which goes like a flash of “Drummond light "into moral science, -"Property has its duties as well as its rights." His labours in regard to Irish railways overpowered his vitality, and though he tried a journey on the Continent, he never rallied. He died 15th April, 1840. A statue of him, by Hogan, is to be seen in the Royal Exchange, Dublin. He was a man of notable mind, and if for nothing but this one saying deserves the world's remembrance.-S. N.

The Societies' Section.

REPORTS OF MUTUAL IMPROVEMENT SOCIETIES. Oswestry Institute.—At a meeting of ing extract, containing words of wisthe members of this prosperous institute, dom and of weight, may be serviceMr. E. Woodall, who had acted as hon. ably laid before the readers of this sec. for three years, with good results to Section: the institute, was presented with a gold "It is the mind of a town which is watch, a silver inkstand, the works of the life of a town, and as our Institution Tennyson and of Shakspere. At the aims at keeping the mind intelligently request of the members the presentation awake, and in its literary resources was made by Edmund Wright, Esq., of possesses the means of doing so, it canHalston (who has been a liberal donor not fail to impart that mental activity of books to the institute), which he did which is the very soul of business, and in an able speech, from which the follow- of almost all improvement. I hope the

[ocr errors]

intellectual activity which our Institute is calculated to foster will have a vivifying influence upon us, and ever preserve us from falling into a state of stupidity and dulness. I hope it will assist its members to form for themselves à sound, independent tone of thought. Now I am aware that the expression 'independence of thought' is full of fearful meaning to some minds; they consider it almost a revolutionary expression, and though it does not strike ine in that light, I think perhaps I had better qualify it a little. We must remember that when a strong manha mentally strong man, I mean-leads a weak man, if he lead him astray, some part of the responsibility, at least, must rest with this mentally strong man; but if the weak man should undertake to guide himself, and he should go astray, the responsibility is his own, wholly so. The independence of thought, then, to which I allude, must be based on thoughtfulness, and a certain sense of responsibility must attach to it. I will illustrate what I mean by supposing that a landsman, ignorant of nautical inatters, were to talk very confidently on the management of a ship at sea. We will suppose that he abused the captain for want of self-possession, and the mate for foolhardiness, and the sailors for being here and there and everywhere except where they ought to be.

Now it appears to me that the best cure for this man's over-confident assertion would be to place him at the helm of a ship in a storm at sea-confront him at once with the responsibility from which there is no escape, and then, I think, he would speak with rather less confidence on the subject. This everpresent sense of responsibility will guard our independence of thought from falling into anything like presumptuousness, and, so far from emasculating, it will tend to invigorate it. So understood, and so fortified, I am indeed most anxious that a manly, independent tone of thought should be cultivated within these walls. It will not, I think, lead us to despise tradition, though it may tell us not

necessarily to take it on trust, but to examine it for ourselves, and try to find out whether it be a true light, guiding us to practical and beneficent purposes and to eternal truths, or whether it be a mere ignis fatuus, enticing as over bogs and quagmires after myths of no practical importance whatever. Still less do I think it will lead us to resist authority—though I do hope it will lead us to inquire for ourselves on what authority rests; if on truth, and love, and justice, why, then we shall reverence it; but if on falsehood, and hate, and injustice, why, then, I will not say that we shall despise and pity it, though I might indeed use these terms, but simply that we really cannot reverence it. Thus shall we render to authority, not so much a blind, unreasoning homage, as a clear-sighted and reasonable service. So far I have spoken of the independence of thought of each individual man amongst us; in the community at large I hope it will take the form of a robust, manly, vigorous, and sound public opinion; and if this Institute can only assist in securing this for the town of Oswestry, I know of few greater advantages which it could confer. Again, I think it of immense advantage that this Institution is likely to promote & spirit of progress amongst us. Here again I have used an expression which conjures up dismal phantoms in some minds. Spirit of progress sounds quite as bad as independence of thought to certain people, who will insist on seeing something dreadfully political in it, though in point of fact there need not be the remotest connection between it and any political question whatever. Indeed, I can see no reason why we, members of the Institute, should not put 'Hall of Progress' over our doors here, if we were so minded. If we did so, no man on that account could with reason say that there was anything political about us. Progress, indeed, is a law of our being, of our healthy being I mean, —there is no standing still ; we must be moring, either opwards or downwards, forwards or backwards, and

« PreviousContinue »