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"Oath against liquor made by me, Cornelius O'Flaherty, philomath, on behalf of Misther Peter Connell, of the Cross Roads, merchant, on one part, and of the soul of Mrs. Ellish Connell, now in purgatory, merchantess, on the other.

"I solemnly, and meritoriously, and soberly swear that a single tumbler of whisky punch shall not cross my lips during the twenty-four hours of the day, barring twelve, the locality of which is as followeth :

Imprimis-Two tumblers at home,

Secundo-Two more ditto at my son Dan's,

Tertio-Two more ditto behind my own garden,

Quarto One ditto at the Rev. Father Mulcahy's,

Quinto-Two more ditto at Frank McCarroll's, of Kilclay, .
Sexto-One ditto wid ould Bartle Gorman, of Cargah,

Septimo-Two more ditto wid honest Roger McGaugy, of Nurchasey, .

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"N. B.-I except in case any docthor of physic might think it right and medical to ordher me more for my health; or, in case I could get Father Mulcahy to take the oath off of me for a start, at a wedding, or a christening, or at any other meeting of friends where there's drink."

The author does not know whether congressmen would make these extensive reservations. The reader probably knows how recruits were sworn, and how they were prepared for the battles of the Republic. No customhouse officer ever administered a stressless oath with more haste and nonchalance than do some of our courts. Who feels the binding force of such an oath? Who is not shocked by the irreverence and frivolity? Such trivial and frequent swearing is no swearing at all; and, by extremes, it violates the Bible command, "Swear not at all!" It reminds one of the man who was swearing loudly to Hercules. His companion said: "Do not call so loud, or the god may hear you!" Our statutes groan with oaths at every page. Like the ghost in Hamlet, they say: "Swear!" "Swear!" They should evanish with the dawn. Governments condemn Thugs, Carbonari, Ku-Klux, Nihilists, and secret societies generally, for their mystic oaths. Let governments set a good example and abolish the custom. The wisest writers hold oaths to be repugnant to the Christian religion. Bentham wonders why, under such a religion, oaths should be so common. The answer is not complimentary to our civilization. In earlier days, society was cemented by solemn oaths. Liberty was assured, as in Switzerland, by an oath. Patriotism, is sometimes nerved and obligations sanctified by a solemn oath, when the bonds of society become loose and require tightening. But what a farce is constant swearing! When it was so general in England, the

WHAT IS AN OATH?

611 traveling Briton was everywhere on the continent designated by his own shortest and commonest expletive.

There has been much metaphysical discussion as to the definition of an oath. Is it a religious affirmation or an invocation to God as a witness? Is it an imprecation of the vengeance of God upon him who swears falsely, or a mere promise? What was the custom and law of the Jews? The word often used in the Greek version of the Testament interprets one meaning of an oath, opxiw-"I adjure thee"; "I call on thee to declare the truth." The corresponding Hebrew word is y. It signifies at all times and places in the Jewish history an adjuration. From Genesis to Revelations it is the same. The majesty of the adjuration, used by the high priest to evoke the truth, is not lessened by too much frequency. There was no frivolity in its administration. The New Dispensation discloses another custom: "Let your communication be yea, yea, and nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil!" Many sects besides the Anabaptists, Moravians, and Quakers hold that to take an oath is an abuse of the name of God. Calvin said that there was no need of such a superfluity of oaths. Therein he followed the Christian fathers. Augustine sums up his creed in these words: "False swearing is fatal, true swearing is dangerous, swearing not at all is safe." Chrysostom, of the golden mouth, said that "swearing took its beginning from want of truth and punctuality.”

Classic literature, like our Reconstruction acts, is full of oath-taking. Homer's heroes, like the army in Flanders, swore terribly. Even Helen swore. She swore fidelity to Menelaus. We know how she kept her oath. The immortal gods swore by the waters of the Styx. The classic swearing was done by attesting and imprecating in the name of the gods. During the Commonwealth the Romans swore by their swords. Under the Empire they made their sacraments in the name of their Cæsars. Numa swore by the goddess Fides, while now and then a warrior swore by the quiver of Diana. The Egyptians swore by cats, dogs, snakes, crocodiles, baboons, and onions! Sometimes the ancient soldiers killed a bull, dipped their hands in his gore, and, like other valiant men, swore to Bellona to do brave deeds. In China a saucer is broken, and they swear to be broken like it if they lie. In India they cut off the head of a cock, with the same sort of imprecation. Some Hindus swear by holding a cow by the tail — that useful beast being sacred with the Brahmins.

All through history, from Justin Martyr down to George Fox, Christian men have suffered death at the stake, and imprisonment often, because they would not swear. After the Restoration in England, three thousand and sixty-eight Quakers went to jail rather than give up their non-oath-taking tenets. But of all the oaths, the one most repugnant to good sense and conscience is that as to civic conduct. When we recall to mind how Harold swore to William of Normandy that he would renounce the crown, and then

began to rebel; how King John and his son Henry swore an oath to uphold Magna Charta, only to break it; and Cromwell, to keep Parliament in session five months, only to break it, then we perceive how cheap oath-taking of this kind is. But what shall be said of tests in the form of oaths as to past opinions and conduct, and as to countenancing and comforting a lost cause! By them a man was required to perjure himself, or be shut out from jury service and official duty. The tests made him the pariah of society.

When we consider how many cunning devices are resorted to for evasion, as by kissing the thumb instead of the Book, and how many lies are told which, as Coke says, "concern not the suit, and therefore are extrajudicial,” and upon which no perjury can be assigned, may we not conclude that these makeshifts contribute to lying? Do they not belittle an oath that should be solemn? Is not this the effect of frequent and familiar swearing? Do not frequent oath-takings dishonor society, and government-its agent? Do they not call down religion from its heavenly home and drag it into the mire of human depravity? Do they not, therefore, corrupt the very well-springs of truth and justice?

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It was because these proscriptive oaths were the Federal test for jurors and office-holders, and because they were a portion of a system of demoralization and barbarism, that the writer introduced the bill for their abolition. would go further and abolish all political retrospective and promissory oaths. No fear of revolution, no timidity about coercion, would for a moment deter him from following a policy which would save society from that reckless invocation of the Divine Majesty which is so often used on the occasion of oath-taking. Is it not appalling, that upon so many trifling occasions we call upon the sacred name of God, and dim that effulgence which emanates from the promise of His word by contamination with the imperfections and vices of men?

Since the close of the Civil War the writer recalls but one statutory oath that may be regarded as having been framed in charity toward an erring brother. That oath was prescribed by the act of Congress of June 1, 1872, and is contained in sections 1042 and 5296 of the Revised Statutes of the United States. These sections provide that a poor convict who has been sentenced by any court of the United States to pay a fine, or fine and costs, with or without imprisonment, and has been confined in prison thirty days solely for non-payment of the fine or costs, may, upon application in writing to any circuit court commissioner in his district, setting forth his inability to pay the fine or costs, be admitted to a hearing before the commissioner for the purpose of showing his inability to pay, and that he is without property exceeding twenty dollars in value, except such as is, by the laws of his state exempt from being taken in execution for debt; and that upon satisfactory proof to the commissioner he shall be discharged on taking the oath mentioned, which reads as follows: "I do solemnly swear that I have not any

THE MISSOURI IRON-CLAD OATH.

613

property, real or personal, to the amount of twenty dollars, except such as is by law exempt from being taken on civil precept for debt by the laws of the State of ; and that I have no property in any way conveyed or concealed, or in any way disposed of, for my future use or benefit. So help me God."

Not one of all the oaths ever recorded in sacred or classic lore, or propounded in any land, for political, religious, judicial, martial, or festive purposes; whether for jurors, witnesses, or officials; whether at custom-houses or at marriage rites; whether to suspected patriots or supposed traitors, from Noah, who took the first oath, down to the cloud of investigation-committee witnesses, surpassed our “iron-clad" oath for the ridiculousness and variety of its application, save one only. There was one exception perhaps; and that, too, in our own country. It is to be found in the Missouri constitution made by Republicans just before the end of the war. That oath illustrates the fact that there are some laws and some men who, to carry out their grudges, defy the everlasting order and congruity of things. It is enough to condemn the party which made it to an eternity of infamy. Luckily, as shown in a former chapter, the Supreme Court of the United States pulled it up by the roots. Although it remained in force for five years to blot the organic law of a great and growing state, and although its provisions again and again were used to give to a small minority of the people of Missouri the ruling power, yet at last its authors hid from public execration, and the oath was stamped out by the decision of Mr. Justice Stephen J. Field, in an opinion which adds to his fame as an enlightened and liberal-minded jurist.

Well did these vile bigots of Missouri understand that whole classes of good citizens would be unable to take the oath they prescribed, and be incapable of jury or any other duty to society or to the state. But, comforted and protected by the proscriptive bigotry and hate of Congress, with its “ironclad," they disfranchised the majority of the state. How was the Missouri law executed? It was not in the ordinary sense a law. It had not the excuse of legislative inconsiderate haste. It was made a part of the fundamental constitution of a great state. It had not even the flimsy excuse of Protestant bigotry against the Catholic faith. In some counties Methodists as well as Catholics were indicted, tried, and convicted for preaching Christ's gospel of love; because, like Richard Baxter, they would not commit perjury or conform to the oath. These men had been preaching that gospel for years; but no amount of work in the vineyard of the Lord saved them from the remorseless clutch of these self-righteous "loyal" Pharisees. True, this constitutional clause was not directed against the body. It did not use torture, rack, and thumb-screw. But it was a radical ukase against the sacred conscience of man a torture of the soul -a devilish plot against the ministrations of religion and the teaching of all classes of mind. It was worse than barbaric. It was worse than the worst of the Federal proscriptions.

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In the recent wars of Europe the red-cross flag of Geneva, with its white ground of charity, gave immunity to those who cared for the sick. It alleviated suffering and saved life. It earned the blessings and gratitude of all. It gave laws of kindness to war. But this infamous Missouri oath, which stopped the physician in his round of duty to the sick and dying, and the priest in his consolations, would have hauled down the red cross of Geneva. When it did not imprison the clergyman in his home, it did worse; it consigned him to the common jail. It was worse than the "fivemile act" of Episcopal bigotry against the Dissenters. How was it executed? Let one instance illustrate. The radical ghouls of Cape Girardeau County, Missouri, indicted under this law the Sisters of Charity who taught in a convent. Three of these angels of mercy were dragged into court, and tried for not having taken the oath it prescribed. And-will it be believed now? — the foreman of the grand jury sent his own child to the convent to be taught, so as to get proof of the teaching, and thus to convict! In that case, however, public opinion revolted, and the Titus Oateses of Missouri hid their heads for a time from public opinion; but not without leaving their proscriptive meanness as an evidence of how far degeneracy could go from the days of Pym and Hampden, Baxter and De Foe. They left imperishable evidence of their unfitness to live as co-workers for good in human society. If these Sisters of Charity and Mercy, the Florence Nightingales of our conflict, have passed from earth and found their beatitudes in that azure sheen where walk the pure, white-handed in celestial light, singing the praises of the Saviour they served here among men, with what pitying eyes do they look down upon the foolish and spiteful human craftiness which sought to break the blessed utility and unity of their lives by such a relentless persecution! Language has no vehicle of expression, the mind no idea, fit to tell the burning shame which should blister forever the cowardice and cruelty of a test so odious and hateful as that of the Missouri oath.

Sergeant Talfourd, in his Ion, describes the solace and comfort of those who by humane endeavor mold their lives into benevolence. But these radical constitution-makers and executors of infamous statutes arrested and imprisoned even sisters of that order of charity which has gladdened our sad world by its merciful ministrations. Names of this sisterhood are not sounded by the brazen trumpets of publicity, nor mingled with the notes of sectarian discord; yet they are found on the criminal records of radical Missouri- the disgrace of our generation.

What execrations are not due to those who persecuted these loving laborers? From the earliest centuries after Christ, when the noble Roman lady, Paula, took up her residence in Bethlehem, to care for and comfort the sick; from the time she "laid their pillows aright," as the old chronicle tells us, and felt that the less service she did to the sick the less she did to God; from the time of this first Sister of Mercy down to our day, when the kind Sœurs

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