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the pockets of some lawyer, but would pay only a tenth or twentieth. At the same time he would retain confidence in our system of administering justice and respect for the legal profession.
The chicanery traceable to the contingent fee and the rampant perjury in the courts have had one other disastrous consequence. It has driven many of the most conscientious and gifted members of the legal profession away from the courtroom and into the shelter of their libraries. They often find their principles and their self-respect too severe a handicap. They are outstripped by their less burdened opponents. Hence, at the very point and moment when all the highest qualities of the profession are most sorely needed, to-wit: in the ascertainment of truth and justice by trial-many of those most qualified to assist the court find, perhaps unconsciously, that participation is too distasteful. So it comes about that both the courts and the trial bar lose the cooperation of an influence that would be protective of the truth and beneficial to the administration of justice.
Government also has a heavy share of the responsibility for the present lessening of the sanctity of the oath.
In recent years, a multitude of transactions, having nothing whatsoever to do with the administration of justice, carries by law the requirement of an affidavit. Income tax returns, customs declarations, certificates of title, certificates of qualification to enter various professions, applications for certain licenses, an
nual reports of corporations, registrations under automobile laws, are but a few examples. Not only do these proceedings require an oath, but they classify false swearing as perjury, punishable as a felony. The result is that the gravity of an oath is wholly destroyed; and technical perjury is so frequent that it is often regarded as a matter of course. Such laws and regulations set up a swearing-mill that turns out as little virtue as a Thibetan prayer-wheel. They are, indeed, an invitation to perjury, and often legalize profanity. Instead of adding any special sanction to a document by the requirement of an oath, they tend to bring the sanction of an oath into contempt and to increase the difficulty of convicting any one for perjury. Such laws and regulations injure the State.
The oath should be reserved for the administration of justice. The solemn invocation of the Deity to witness the speaking of truth should occur only in the exercise of the divine prerogative of giving judgment as between man and man. Only false speaking during such an inquiry should be classed as perjury and be punishable as a felony. On all other occasions, the State should content itself with simple affirmations to the truth, and should punish falsehood as a mere misdemeanor. Such a policy would be in accordance with the public conscience and practice; and would vastly enhance the sanctity and obligation of an oath, by reserving it for the most solemn function of government.
Something of this sort lay behind the effort at the last session of the New York Legislature to enact a law demoting all false swearing from
felony to misdemeanor; but the legislation failed because of its abhorrent classification of the heinous crime of perjury in court as a mere minor offense. The expediency of enticing juries to more ready convictions by the bait of lessened punishment, was outweighed by the injustice to perpetrators of other infamous but less serious crimes, and by a natural reluctance to confess that the administration of justice had fallen to so low a state that it could no longer afford to class perjury in court as a felony. The true solution lies not in such abject surrender of principle, but in eliminating from the categories of oath, perjury and felony all the non-juridical affirmations required in the course of government.
But there is a far more fundamental consideration. Much lying in court betokens even more lying in private affairs; and both betoken the absence of moral conviction. An interpretation of life which is purely material is anti-social in its implications. It puts a low estimate on the homely virtues of truth, honesty and fidelity, on which the commercial and governmental structure of the country depends. Such an interpretation is so engrossed in personal rights as to be impatient of duties. Advantage is deaf to obligation. On the other hand, an interpretation of life which esteems moral and spiritual values, is strongly social in its implications. It erects the fingerpost of honor at the parting of the ways. It respects self only in so far as the respecting of others is essential to self-respect. It regards the social compact not as a protecting license for overreaching and for foul
play, but as a trust to be administered by each for the benefit of all.
The acceptance of one interpretation or the other is often a matter of education,-using that term in its broadest sense. Thought, quite as much as action, can be trained in its habits; and the character of habitual thought determines the character of the individual and in turn of the State.
Slowly there has been gathering a public suspicion as to the complete beneficence of a purely secular system of education, standing alone. The vastly expanded educational program of to-day no longer is confined to the three R's and the manual vocations. It includes biology, sociology, ethics, civics and psychology. Thus, it enters the fields of origins and destiny, of human conduct and relationship. Hence, on the character of their interpretation depends the question, vital to the individual and the nation, whether moral virtues and spiritual convictions are merely philosophic considerations, negligible in their meaning for the individual, or whether they supply the most beautiful and ennobling things in life.
The expansion of the modern educational system has been so rapid that popular appraisal of its implications and of its effects on character has been slow. But the signs of the times show that something is wrong, and a re-appraisement of educational values is beginning. Our country is anxious to-day over the alarming increase in juvenile delinquency; over unabashed disrespect for law; over hypocrisy in political conduct, and over the many manifestations of a weakened sense of civic obligation.
Not a few feel that these evils have grown on us because our vast educational system often seems to throw its emphasis on learning rather than on character, and occupies the capacity for instruction more with the acquisition of information than with the proper manner of its use. Yet, from the point of view of the State and of the individual, an ounce of moral conviction must always outweigh a pound of erudition; and not even the church itself is more dependent on the fundamental moralities than is the whole structure of government and the commercial world. These are the same everywhere, -truth, fidelity and unselfishness. Coöperation is the law that lifts human life above animal life. It is the power that lies behind all advance, and that has filled history with its fight against strife and greed. It has slowly won its way, dragging civilization behind it.
plicity, reverence, self-discipline, humility and a sense of responsibility to law and to God, which have been the strength of American life, the public conscience will be quickened in the condemnation of all doubletongued speaking and acting. And finally, if the internal police and sanitary powers of the business world set themselves to place the commercial fraud under arrest, and to classify falsehood with things outlawed, American enterprise will gather fresh immunity from the diseases bred by any plague of lies.
Religion, and the church as an organized expression of religion, should have an irreconcilable quarrel with false swearing in all its forms. The invocation of the Holy Name for the purpose of counterfeiting truth with a lie, is blasphemy. It lowers the ethical standards of conduct. It degrades the community. As recently said by Cardinal Hayes:
"If in business, in play, in all the daily concerns of life, blasphemy is rampant, if profanity has become so common that it assails the ear a score of times in a walk of a few blocks and offends the eye on every third page of the modern novel, what reason has any one to expect that in one particular spot-in a court-room -reverence should be given to the Name which is above all names?" Any one of these four great forces, home, the school, the church and the business community,—can do more to lessen perjury than all the laws that could be written on the statute books. Unless these forces are awakened into action, the consequences are bound to be increasingly evil. There can be no sound
It is this coöperation and its essential qualities, of which we need to hear more in our educational system. Foremost among these qualities is the habit of truth, the conviction that truth must prevail between man and man, nation and nation, race and race. In the instilling of that conviction, four powerful forces have their greatest opportunities. If the home supplies the lesson to love and honor the truth, the habit of the child will fix the character of the man. If the school sys--the tematically teaches of duty toward neighbors, government, country and God, youth will reverence that spotless reputation which comes by living with honor, on honor. If the church will make as its staple of preaching those beatitudes of sim
civic life when justice becomes the plaything of falsehood, when perjurers with impunity stick their tongues in their cheeks, and when perjury itself is little worse than a joke in bad taste. Especially is this true where those who allow the temple of justice thus to be profaned are the ministers under vows for its protection.
Unless perjury is speedily to become a privilege rather than a crime, a far sterner sentiment must replace the present apathy; and the educational forces of the community, and the ethical forces of bench, bar and government, must gird themselves adequately to meet the danger.
These ends can best be served by an authoritative and thorough study of causes and of remedies. An expert inquiry is a national concern of the
first magnitude. Such an inquiry should be undertaken under authority of legislature enactment, conferring the power to send for persons and records; or under the authority of the American Bar Association. Local inquiry could effectively be conducted by a joint committee representing the local Bar Associations, courts and prosecutors. By such means public attention can be centered on the evil; the public conscience can be stirred; harmony of thought as to preventive and punitive measures can be attained; and needful reforms, not only in the substantive law, but in the community's educational system, can be achieved. Keep the topic alive in the minds of the people, and the forces that make for reformation. will continually gain in strength.
When I was riding through the dusk-
I did not care how far the road-
HENRY MORTON ROBINSON
WHEN my brother Charley was two years old he caught the whooping-cough and patiently whooped himself into a double hernia. My mother bought him a little truss she had seen advertised in the papers; it was "guaranteed to cure all hernias and ruptures, single or double. Comfortable and refined in appearance. Within a year you throw the truss away." Within six months she had to buy him a heavier one, and inside of two years she had spent sixty dollars on trusses for Charley, without noticeable result. At this point Mrs. Hennessey, a neighbor with gall-stones, suggested Dr. Phinney. On examination the Doctor said "Cut." Dr. Keating, a regular twenty-five dollar man, was to administer the ether. At a family conclave it was decided to hire a trained nurse, which would bring the total cost of the operation up to two hundred dollars. This is a heavy piece of change said my father, and it means no overcoats for the rest of you next winter added my mother. Then she sent five dollars down to Father Gillen to have a mass said for Charley's operation.
Charley of course was not consulted, and when rumors of operations reached him, he made no comment. He had arrived at the age of four without uttering a word. His control of language was limited to
two sounds, both having to do with sustenance. It was his custom to meditate all day upon the mystery of a rubber elephant called “Numble," but all truths revealed by Numble were forever hushed in the vast silence of Charley's ponderings. Daily at five-thirty he tranquilly absorbed a bowl of gruel, and allowed himself to be bedded down with his elephant just as the great peace of sleep overtook them both.
On the morning of the operation a vague glimmering that all was not regular in the household, flickered across the misty fo'c's'le of Charley's brain. A strange nurse bathed him and carefully kept all bottles away from his face. We kissed him dolefully when we went to school. So when Doctors Phinney and Keating appeared around ten o'clock, Charley could not be located. An hour's search finally uncovered him in the bottom of an old bureau in the attic.
"Dumb but not so dumb," was my mother's comment as they led her bleating lamb to the operating table.
Either the operation or the rosaries seemed to do him some good. He began to talk-not exactly with the tongues of men and angels-but in a wet blubbery jargon of his own. "Buh," was bread; "wuh," water; "guh," meant play, and also stood for "more sugar on my bread."