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nations; the proud dominion of the church in its proudest day, when it trod on the neck of kings, and lifted its head against Heaven itself, was never free from salutary danger. I dislike the cry of fear. when I find it attempted to be raised by the weak against the strong; but when I find the strong cry out fear against the weak, I always know it is the preamble for some grand injustice; for never was any system of injustice long conducted in the world, without setting up for itself some grim idol of terror, an object expressed by some frightful indefinite word, that can mean at the same thne every thing, any thing, or nothing, as best suits the purpose of those who use it.
GRATTAN. Speech for Reform in Irish House of Commons.
THERE is no disposition that clings so close to despotism as incessant terror and alarm. What else gave birth to the armies of spies and the numerous state prisons under the late government of France? The eye of the tyrant is never closed. How numerous are the precautions and jealousies that these terrors dictate? No man can go out or come into the country but he is watched. The press must issue no productions that have not the imprimatur of government. All coffee houses and places of public resort are objects of attention. Twenty people cannot be collected together, unless for the purposes of superstition, but it is immediately suspected that they may be conferring about their rights. No picture can be more disgustful, no state of mankind more depressing, than that in which
which a whole nation is held in obedience by the mere operation of fear, in which all that is most eminent among them, and that should give example to the rest, is prevented, under the severest penalties, from expressing its real sentiments, and, by necessary consequence, of forming any sentiments that are worthy to be expressed.
WHOEVER considers the number of absurd and ridiculous oaths necessary to be taken at present in most countries, on being admitted into any society or profession whatever, will be less surprised to find prevarication still prevailing, where perjury has led the way.
While good faith reigned upon the earth, a simple promise was sufficient to insure confidence. Oaths owe their origin to perfidy. Man was not required to call upon the God that heard him to witness his veracity, till he deserved no longer to be believed. Magistrates and sovereigns, to what do your regulations tend? You either oblige the man of probity to lift up his hand, and call heaven to witness, which with him is a requisition as in'jurious as it is useless; or you compel an oath from the mouth of a reprobate. Of what value can the oath of such a man appear to you? If the oath be contrary to his own security, it is absurd. If it be consonant with his interest, it is superfluous. Does it argue a knowledge of the human. heart,
heart, to give the debtor his choice between his ruin and a falsehood; or the criminal his option between death and perjury? Will the man whom motives of revenge, interest, or wickedness, have determined to give a false testimony, be deterred by the fear of committing one crime more? Is he not apprised, before he is brought up to the tribunal of justice, that this formality will be required of him? And has he not from the bottom of his heart despised it, before he complied with it? Is it not a species of impiety to introduce the name of God in our wicked disputes? Is it not a singular mode of making heaven, as it were, an accomplice in the guilt, to suffer, that heaven to be called upon, which never has contradicted nor ever will contradict the oath? How intrepid, therefore, must the false witness become, when he has with impunity called down the divine vengeance on his head, without the fear of being convicted? Oaths seem to be so much debased and prostituted by their frequency, that false witnesses are grown as common as robbers.
ENGLAND, in this respect, seems to be sunk to the lowest possible degree of degeneracy. Oaths among us are required on so many occasions, and so carelessly administered, as to have lost almost all their use and efficacy. It has been asserted, that, including oaths of office, oaths at elections, custom-house oaths, &c. &c, there are about a
million of perjuries committed in this kingdom annually. This is one of the most atrocious of our national iniquities,
Importance of Amer. Revolution, p. 81. CUSTOM-HOUSE oaths now a days go for nothing. Not that the world grows more wicked, but because no body lays any stress upon them. The duty on French wine is the same in Scotland and in England. But as we cannot afford to pay this high duty, the permission, underhand, to pay Spanish duty for French wine, is found more beneficial to the revenue than the rigour of the law. The oath, however, must be taken, that the wine we import is Spanish, to entitle us to the ease of the Spanish duty. Such oaths at first were highly criminal, because directly a fraud against the public, but now that the oath is only exacted for form's sake, without any faith intended to be given or received, it becomes very little different from saying in the way of civility, I am, sir, your friend, or obedient servant!!
Loose Hints on Education, App.p.362. C CAN there be a practice more pregnant with false morality than that of administering oaths in a court of justice? The language it expressly holds is, "You are not to be believed upon your mere "word;" and there are few men resolute enough to preserve themselves from contamination, when they are accustomed, upon the most solemn occasions