Lapas attēli

port the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the state of New York, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of to the best of my ability." This oath is required of all executive, legislative, judicial and civil officers of the state. By another statute provision, a it is further provided, that the usual mode of administering oaths, now practiced by the person who swears, by laying his hands upon and kissing the gospels, shall be observed in all cases, in which an oath may be administered, except if a person desire it, it shall be: “You do swear in the presence of the everliving God," he holding up his hand or not, at his discretion; or to a person having conscientious scruples against taking an oath, he may be permitted to make a solemn declaration in the following form: "You do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm." And the courts are thereby authorized, where they are satisfied that a person has some peculiar mode of swearing, connected with or in addition to the laying his hand upon the gospel, and kissing the same, which is more solemn and obligatory upon such person, in their discretion, to allow him to be sworn in such other way. And it also provides, that persons believing in another than the christian religion, may be sworn according to the ceremonies of his religion, instead of the above prescribed modes. So too, every person believing in the existence of a Supreme Being, who will punish false swearing, may be sworn if otherwise competent. Thus, it is seen, that the gospels, that is, the doctrine of the New Testament, is by the strongest implication, adopted as the religion of the state by its statutes; and the oath, which is a solemn appeal to God, with an implied invocation of His curse upon him who makes it, in the event of its violation, is a further acknowledgment of the moral government of God. And under whatever religion, or by whatever form of oath the person may choose to be sworn, is made equally subject to all the pains and penalties of perjury; thus holding all persons equally liable to the crime against God, against morals, religion and law.

In all this, while it is seen, that in the forms and practice, the statute has fully carried out that other constitutional right, that no person shall be rendered incompetent to be a witness on account

a 2 Rev. Stat. 407-408.

of his opinions on matters of religious belief; yet the constitution itself has given the qualifying caution, that this liberty of conscience, so secured, shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness, or justify practices inconsistent with the peace or safety of the state. Montesquieu informs us, "that such was the influence of an oath among the Romans, in binding them to the laws, that they did more for its observance, than they would have done for the thirst of glory, or the love of their country; that Rome was for a long period of time, held by two anchors, religion and morality, in the midst of a furious tempest." a

To this extent, then, do the laws of this christian government give toleration. All religions are recognized by law, to the extent of allowing all persons to be sworn and to give their evidence, who believe in a Supreme superintending Providence who rewards and punishes; and that an oath is binding upon their consciences. Wherever the common law remains unchanged, it must be held no violation of religious liberty to recognize and enforce its distinctions. The infidelity, or unbelief of a witness, will ever go to his credibility; though competent to be sworn, it is for a Christian jury to say, what credibility they will allow to evidence, which is given, without a regard to a Christian's responsibility to his Maker for its truth.

It is upon this principle of liberty of speech, and of conscience, that our statutes to prevent the desecration of the christian Sabbath, excepts the Jew, and all other persons who regard the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath, from liability to the violation of the law making the first day of the week the Christian Sabbath. The law intends not to intermeddle with the natural and indefeasible right of all men to worship Almighty God, according to the dictates of their own consciences; it compels no one to attend to, erect, or support any place of worship; or to maintain any ministry against his consent; it pretends not to control or interfere with the rights of conscience; and it establishes no preference for any religious establishment or mode of worship. It treats no religious doctrine as paramount in the state; it enforces no unwilling attendance upon the celebration of Divine worship. It says not to the Jew or Sabbatarian, "you shall desecrate the day you esteem

a B. 8, Ch. 13.

holy and keep sacred to religion, that we deem to be so." It enters upon no discussion of rival claims of the first and seventh days of the week; nor pretends to bind upon the conscience of any man any conclusion upon a subject which each must decide for himself. It intrudes not into the domestic circle to dictate, when, where, or to what God its inmates shall address their orisons, nor does it presume to enter the synagogue of the Isrealite, or the church of the seventh day Christian, to command, or even persuade their attendance in the temples of those who especially approach the altar on Sunday. It does not in the slightest degree infringe upon the Sabbath of any sect, or curtail their freedom of worship. It detracts not one hour from any period of time they may feel bound to devote to this object. Nor does it add a moment beyond what they may choose to employ. Its sole mission is to inculcate a temporary weekly cessation from labor, but it adds not to this requirement any religious obligation. a

Unquestioned history has taught us, that in all Pagan countries where the Sabbath is unknown;-where the true God is never adored, the soul of man is debased; the man prostrates himself before the sun, the moon, monsters, reptiles, blocks of wood, and even to demons. In France, where the Sabbath was for a time abolished, an impious phantom, called the Goddess of Reason, was substituted in the room of the Omnipotent and Eternal God; the Bible was held up to ridicule, and committed to the flames; man was degraded, and his mind assimilated to the level of the brutes; and the cheering prospects of immortality, were transformed into the shades of an eternal night. Atheism, Scepticism, Fatalism, almost universally prevailed; the laws of morality were trampled under foot; and anarchy, and plots, and assassinations, massacres and legalized plunder, became the order of the day. With the abolition of the Sabbath, followed the loss of the knowledge of God as the Governor of the universe, with all impressions of the Divine presence, and all sense of accountability for human actions. The restraints of religion, and the prospect of a future judgment, no longer deterred from the commission of crimes; and nothing was left but the dread of the dungeon, the gibbet or the rack, to restrain the people from deeds of cruelty, injustice and a Specht v. Commonwealth, 8 Penn. St. R. 312.

violence. We are thus taught by history and experience, in confirmation of the Divine Revelation, that the Sabbath was originally instituted as a sacred memorial of the finishing of the work of creation; and in accordance with the law of the Decalogue, it is a day for the contemplation of the perfections and holiness of its Almighty Author. It was a day made for man, as a wise and merciful appointment for a day of rest, repose and reflection.



THE legislative department of the government, is one of the thres depositories of the sovereign power of the state. It is co-ordinate to the other two departments, the executive and judicial; and within its sphere, is independent of the others. To enable it to perform its appropriate duties, and to exercise its proper functions, it is necessary and essential, that they should possess all needful powers, and all necessary rights and privileges, for the free and independent exercise of their separate action.

It would seem to be the natural result of the establishment of such a department, under a constitution recognizing the existence and force of the common law in regard to their powers and privileges; and in the absence of words of restriction, or negative words prohibiting the power or right; that by necessary implication, (which is equivalent to an express grant,) there is conferred upon each branch of the legislative department, all the powers and privileges necessarily incident to a legislative assembly.

If the powers are expressed, and enumerated in the constitution, and no negative or restrictive words are employed as to their privileges, the latter may be implied to be such as are necessarily incident to such a body, and such as exist by the common law.

These rights and immunities, as well of members individually, as of the body in its collective capacity, are known by the general name of privileges; and when they are disregarded by any individual, or authority, whose duty it is to take notice of them, or when they are directly attacked in any way; or in general, when any impediment or obstruction is interposed to the free action of the legislative assembly or its members, the offence is denominated a breach of privilege.

"The privileges of a legislative assembly would be entirely ineffectual to enable it to perform its legitimate functions, if it had no

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »