Thursday, June 11, 2009
A Jew takes an oath in an English court in 1783, but does not know how
In case that pathetic scene was hard to read, here is a transcript:
FOR THE PRISONER.
(Sworn on the New Testament, but on being asked by one of the officers of the Court if he was not a Jew, he answered yes, and was then re-sworn on the Hebrew Bible, which last oath he took without putting on his hat, as is the custom of the Jews.)
Court. What do you mean by taking the oath as you did?
- I never took an oath in my life; I am a butcher; I know the prisoner: I was sitting in a publick house, and I saw this good man come in, and he says to the prisoner come here my girl, I want to speak with you, and she says, if you want to speak to me speak it out.
Court. Pray friend do not you know when people of your profession take an oath, they always put on their hats?
- I work among Englishmen, and I always was among Christians.
[Court. ] Do you mean to take the oath as a Jew or a Christian?
- I can call myself a Christian, because I am never among the Jews.
[Court. ] What do you call yourself, are you Jew or a Christian?
- I do not know, please your honour; what you please to call me.
[Court. ] I wish you would understand that it is an exceeding indecent thing in you, or any man, to come here to trifle with any religion, in the sort of way that you do?
- I follow more the Christian ways than I do the Jews.
Court. You are a good for nothing fellow, I dare say, whatever you are: stand down.
Jury to Prosecutor. Did you miss your watch directly as the woman ran from you?
- Yes, that moment; she was in sight when I missed it.
To be confined to hard labour twelve months in the house of Correction .
December 10, 1783 in The Proceedings of the Old Bailey