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the rule, “jurare in animum imponentis ;" which rule the reader is desired to carry along with him, whilst we proceed to consider certain particular oaths, which are, either of greater importance, or more likely to fall in our way than others.
THE witness swears, “ to speak the truth,
“ the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, touching the matter in question.”
Upon which it may be observed, that the deligned concealment of any truth, which relates to the matter in agitation, is as much a violation of the oath, as to testify a positive falsehood; and this, whether the witness be interrogated to that particular point or not. For when the person to be examined is sworn upon a voir dire, that is, in order to inquire, whether he ought to be admitted to give evidence in the cause at all, the form runs thus: “ You shall true answer “ make to all such questions as shall be asked “ you ;” but, when he comes to be sworn in chief, he swears, “ to speak the whole truth,” without restraining it, as before, to the questions that shall be asked: which difference shews, that the law intends, in this latter case, to re
quire of the witness, that he give a complete and unreserved account of what he knows of the subject of the trial, whether the questions proposed to him reach the extent of his knowledge or not. So that if it be inquired of the witness afterwards, why he did not inform the court fo and fo, it is not a sufficient, though a very common answer to say, “ because it was never asked ¢ me." : I know but one exception to this rule; which is, when a full discovery of the truth tends to accuse the witness himself of some legal crime. The law of England constrains no man to become his own accuser; consequently, imposes the oath of testimony with this tacit reservation. But the exception must be confined to legal crimes. A point of honour, of delicacy, or of reputation, may make a witness backward to disclose some circumstance with which he is acquainted; but will in no wise justify his concealment of the truth, unless it could be shewn, that the law which imposes the oath, intended to allow this indulgence to such motives. The exception is also withdrawn by compact between the magistrate and the witness, when an accomplice is admitted to give evidence against the partners of his crime.
Tenderness to the prisoner, although a specious apology for concealment, is no juft excuse; for if this plea be thought sufficient, it takes the administration of penal justice out of the hands of judges and juries, and makes it depend upon the temper of prosecutors and witnesses.
Questions may be asked which are irrelative to the cause, which affect the witness himfelf, or some third person ; in which, and in all cases, where the witness doubts of the pertinency and propriety of the question, he ought to refer his doubts to the court. The answer of the court, in relaxation of the oath, is authority enough to the witness: for the law which imposes the oath may remit what it will of the obligation ; and it belongs to the court to declare what the mind of the law is. Nevertheless, it cannot be faid universally, that the answer of the court is conclusive upon the conscience of the witness: for his obligation depends upon what he apprehended, at the time of taking the oath, to be the design of the law in imposing it; and no after requisition or explanation by the court, can carry the obligation beyond that.
CH A P. XVIII.
OATH OF ALLEGIANCE.
“ DO sincerely promise, and swear, that I
will be faithful and bear true allegiance to “ his Majesty King George.” Formerly the oath of allegiance ran thus: “ I do promise to “ be true and faithful to the King and his heirs, 1“ and truth and faith to bear, of life, and limb,
“ and terrene honour ; and not to know or hear 6 of any ill or damage intended him, without “ defending him therefrom:" and was altered at the Revolution to the present form. So that the present oath is a relaxation of the old one. And as the oath was intended to ascertain, not so much the extent of the subject's obedience, as the person to whom it was due, the legislature seems to have wrapped up its meaning upon the former point, in a word purposely made choice of for its general and indeterminate signification.