Objection to the taking an oath – 1847

Sir Joshua Walmsley


A tall, stout man, rather respectably dressed, appeared before Sir Joshua Walmsley, on Saturday, to make a charge against James Welsh of having stolen a pair of picks, being utensils used in making roads and excavations. The prosecutor, on being handed the book preparatory to being sworn, said: – I refuse to be sworn; I cannot conscientiously take an oath.

Sir Joshua Walmsley.-What are you? Are you a Quaker?

Prosecutor.- I sometimes go to the Quakers’ meetings.

Sir Joshua.-What religious denomination do you belong to?

Prosecutor.-I believe in Christ, and have been told not to take an oath.


Sir Joshua.-Who told you?

Prosecutor.- The Word of God.

Sir Joshua.-Are you a member of the Society of Friends?


Sir Joshua. Are you a Moravian?


Sir Joshua.- Are you ______  What are you?

Prosecutor declined to answer.

A Voice.-He doesn’t know what he is.

Sir Joshua.-Is it on religious grounds that you object to be sworn

Prosecutor.-It is.

Sir Joshua.-Well, it is very wrong that the ends of justice should be defeated in this way. I feel that I have a power to send you to gaol, but I hesitate to act upon that power. It may be that your repugnance to take an oath is based upon conscientious scruples, but I certainly doubt it. I am obliged to discharge a man who, in the face of the public, is all but proved to have been guilty of stealing your property, and he must now be let loose upon society to practise the same deeds with impunity. You see the result of your refusal.

Prosecutor.-I do, but I cannot help it.

Sir Joshua.-Let the prisoner be discharged.

Liverpool Mercury, re-printed in the Times, April 1, 1847. p.7

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