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an oath.' Indeed our country has been, not without reason, called ' a land of oaths.'" 76.
Enough has already been said upon this subject to show that an inquiry is called for; it is with the greatest satisfaction we find that inquiry has already commenced. We trust it will be rendered effective by the counsel of that Right Reverend individual, to whom Mr. Tyler has, with great propriety, dedicated this volume. We have already learned the value of that counsel towards the amendment of our law. It is to the spirit of real reform, tempered by cool judgment, and aided by Christian wis. dom, that we can trust with confidence in these innovating times, to eradicate existing abuses, without endangering the beneficial parts of that system, to which they belong. No better general rule for effecting the object desired can be given than in almost every case to say "increase bonds and penalties and diminish oaths.” The manner of administering oaths (with which the author again finds fault) must at present, in consequence of their frequency, be improper; "familiarity breeds contempt,” and as long as the multiplicity of oaths exists, the want of respect to them must remain ; diminish the number, and then, and not until then, can they be administered in a becoming manner or with due solemnity. Certainly those oaths which are retained would gain some reverence, from their being required only on most serious occasions; but we quite agree that the manner of administering thém should be more solemn; the administrator should be a person of high character and office ; indeed, nothing should be omitted to render the ceremony grave and impressive.
The first part is concluded by a statement of these objects, which are worthy of the consideration of the legislature,
“Ist. An approximation towards such a state of a Christian community with regard to oaths as would be worthy of the gospel, to be attempted by the abolition of all unnecessary oaths.
2ndly. That in the administration of oaths, either the judge himself, or some high officer, should perform the duty in a most reverend, grave, and impressive manner.
3rdly. In cases where the party to be sworn may desire it, a change of form from the imprecatory to the attesting form.”
To the first two objects we cordially assent ; for the last, we have already stated we see no necessity; but if a change is necessary, “ that we offend not those who are weak,” we think the change should be in all oaths, and if the alteration of the words,
So help me God,” to “ I call God to witness the truth of what I shall say,” be thought desirable, we cannot see that it at all diminishes the awful solemnity; for the God of Truth is in either case equally invoked, and if falsely or irreverently invoked, it is
equally certain “ that God will not hold him guiltless who taketh his name in vain.” We shall pass over without much observation the very
learned history of the forms of oaths in different countries, as well as the very curious matter contained in the lettered sections of Part III. We do not think these parts of the volume bear much upon the main question, though in all probability they gave the author more trouble and put him to more research than all the rest; to some readers they may be very interesting ; but that to which we wish to direct attention is the practical part. We shall therefore only notice the chapter which treats of perjury.
“No one can have paid attention to the subject of oaths, without being driven at a very early stage of his inquiry to draw a broad line of distinction between the moral guilt of false swearing and the civil crime of perjury. It is a distinction which the laws and the practice of many people would force him to make; but which seems in no country to have involved more inconsistent consequences, and to have led to greater practical evil than in our own.”—p. 194.
The inadequacy of our law for the punishment of falsehood, the ambiguity of its construction, and the consequent uncertainty of conviction under it, these and many other evils of like nature, all arise from the frequency of oaths. Mr. Tyler confirms this by his interpretation of, and commentary on, a passage from Blackstone. “ The law takes no notice of any perjury, but such as is committed in some courts of justice having power to administer an oath, or before some magistrate or proper officer invested with similar authority in some proceedings relative to a civil suit or criminal prosecution, for it esteems all other oaths unnecessary at least, and therefore will not punish the breach of them.” Some very sensible observations occur in a former part of the volume, and are the remarks of a friend of the author; they are quoted in a note on p. 51.
"With regard to the defects and inconsistencies imputed to the law of England, in that it does not punish as perjury falseswearing, when the juror swears only to his recollection or belief, or where the matter sworn to is irrelevant to the point in issue, nor the breach of promissory oaths, it is to be observed, that no system of human laws extends nor indeed can extend to all breaches of moral duty. They punish as civil offences such only as are more tangible by law, and more peculiarly detrimental to the public weal, and then draw the line.”
This is a very just explanation of the existing law, and acquaints us moreover with the difficulty of amending it, and we acknowledge that in the detection of falsehood, there must always be much caution observed: for the obligation which did not keep one party to the truth, may be equally inadequate to restrain the other; it is for this reason, that, if possible, the evidence in all prosecutions for falsehood should be confirmed by more solemn
obligations than that by which the accused was bound, or in case this is impossible (as where the charge is for falseswearing) that, as now, many witnesses should be necessary to disprove the oath of one and the veracity of these confirmed by attested circumstances. We have no doubt that the great unwillingness of the legislature to dispense with oaths, has in a great measure arisen from this acknowledged difficulty in proving, and therefore in punishing, falsehood. As the law at present exists, the fear of a prosecution for perjury certainly does not go far to prevent falsehood in those whose conscience is so hardened as to despise the obligation of an oath.
We cannot conclude our remarks without owning that we think the part of Mr. Tyler's book which is practically useful, might be condensed into a small pamphlet, and we are inclined to wish that an abridgment might be published, containing the first part, with very little of the second, and none of the third ; in fact that that portion which would be easily read and attended to with utility, might be disencumbered from that weight of learning with which it is now mixed up. Without the curious matter in the third part, and the erudite disquisition and history in the second part, we are aware the volume will lose its present imposing appearance; but as there are in it many valuable hints, and much just reasoning, we are anxious that these should be read by more than will be inquisitive enough to search into, or literate enough to enjoy, the large and multifarious treasure of the author's unwearied research. We have but one more complaint to make, it is, that Mr. Tyler has snatched at all the intelligence which he could obtain, and has given equal credit to every friend who offered him an anecdote or an illustration. There is a very chaos of eleemosynary information. The opinion of a judge and the tale of a trifler are to be found in the same page.
On the judgment of one friend he could hardly place too much reliance, and he seems so grateful for the valuable remarks which he obtained from him, that we think he will readily pardon us for pronouncing those remarks, wherever they occur, to be as forcible and just and as full of sense and truth as any passage
in the volume; that friend must be a learned, a wise, and a good man. But whatever fault we may find, it is more than outweighed by the praise which is due to the good feeling with which the whole is written, and the good intention with which it is published.
All into whose hands this book may fall will agree, that it does credit to the pen of a Christian minister, and is not unworthy of the patron to whom it is inscribed.
Art. IV.—The Poetical Works of the Reverend George Crabbe.
London : Murray. 1834. The history of Crabbe is one of uncommon interest, and it is narrated by his son and biographer with great simplicity and affectionate earnestness. We follow him through all the changes of his fortune, from the day of his unhappy apprenticeship at Wickham Brook, until his arrival, a desperate adventurer, in London, without friends, without money, and without employment. What he endured during that period of bitter trial may be seen in the extracts from his private journal contained in the present memoir. They are irresistibly affecting, from their sincerity and impressive truth. But our object in this article is to confine ourselves to the poetry of Crabbe, and we shall therefore only touch upon such portions of his life as may be thought to have influenced his genius.
Crabbe was born at Aldborough, in Suffolk, where his father was collector of the salt duties. A description of this place will be interesting to the admirers of the poet, from the remembrance of the graphic sketches which it furnished to his vigorous pencil.
Aldborough (or as it is more correctly written Aldeburgh) was in those days a poor and wretched place,* with nothing of the elegance and gaiety which have since sprung up about it in consequence of the resort of watering parties. The town lies between a low hill or cliff, on which only the old church and a few better houses were then situated, and the beach of the German Ocean. It consisted of two parallel and unpaved streets, running between mean and scrambling houses, the abodes of seafaring men, pilots, and fishers. The range of houses nearest to the sea had suffered so much from repeated invasions of the waves that only a few scattered tenements appeared erect among the desolation.
Crabbe often mentioned a tremendous spring-tide, which happened about the 1st of January, 1779, when eleven houses were at once demolished, and he saw the breakers dash over the roofs, and round the walls, and crush all to ruin. The beach consists of successive ridges—large rolled stones, then loose shingle, and, at the fall of the tide, a stripe of fine hard sand. Vessels of all sorts, from the large heavy troll-boat to the yawl and frame, drawn up along the shore--fishermen preparing their tackle or sorting their spoil, and nearer, the gloomy old town hall (the only indication of municipal dignity), a few groups of mariners, chiefly pilots, taking their short quick walk backwards and forwards,
* We borrow from the memoir of Crabbe.
every one watchful of a signal from the offing-such was the squalid scene that first opened on the author of “ The Village.”
Nor was the landscape in the vicinity of a more engaging aspect -open commons and sterile farms, the soil poor and sandy, the herbage bare and rushy, the trees few and far between, and withered and stunted by the bleak breezes of the sea. The opening picture of “ The Village” was copied in every touch from the scene of the poet's nativity and boyish days:
"Lo! where the heath, with withering brake grown o'er,
And to the ragged infants threaten war." Here he grew up among the rough sons of the ocean-a daily witness of unbridled passions and of manners remote from the sameness and artificial smoothness of polished society. At home he was subject to the caprices of a stern and imperious though not unkindly nature; and probably few whom he could familiarly approach, but had passed through some of those dark domestic tragedies in which his future strength was to be exhibited. The common people of Aldborough in those days are described as
“ A wild amphibious race, With sullen woe displayed in every Who far from civil arts and social fly,
And scowl at strangers with suspicious eye.' Nor although the family in which he was born happened to be somewhat above the mass in point of situation, was the remove so great as to be marked with any considerable difference in point of refinement. Masculine and robust frames, rude manners, stormy passions, laborious days, and occasionally boisterous nights of merriment-among such accompaniments was born and reared the Poet of the Poor.
But we have already seen, that the poet's father was a person of intellect superior to his associates, and it was his frequent custom to read to his family in the evenings passages from Milton, Young, or some other religious poet, which he did with powerful effect. He happened also to take in a periodical work called “ Martin's Philosophical Magazine," which contained at the end of each number a sheet of miscellaneous poetry, which the salt master always cut out when the magazines of the year were sent to the binders. These treasures therefore fell to the lot of young Crabbe, who studied them until he had committed the greater