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Trumbull, H. Clay (Henry Clay) / A Lie Never Justifiable
E-text prepared by Dave Maddock, Josephine Paolucci, and the Project
Online Distributed Proofreading Team



A LIE NEVER JUSTIFIABLE

A Study in Ethics

BY

H. CLAY TRUMBULL

1856







PREFACE.


That there was need of a book on the subject of which this treats,
will be evidenced to those who examine its contents. Whether this book
meets the need, it is for those to decide who are its readers.

The circumstances of its writing are recited in its opening chapter. I
was urged to the undertaking by valued friends. At every step in its
progress I have been helped by those friends, and others. For much
of that which is valuable in it, they deserve credit. For its
imperfections and lack, I alone am at fault.

Although I make no claim to exhaustiveness of treatment in this
work, I do claim to have attempted a treatment that is exceptionally
comprehensive and thorough. My researches have included extensive and
varied fields of fact and of thought, even though very much in those
fields has been left ungathered. What is here presented is at least
suggestive of the abundance and richness of the matter available in
this line.

While not presuming to think that I have said the last word on this
question of the ages, I do venture to hope that I have furnished fresh
material for its more intelligent consideration. It may be that, in
view of the data here presented, some will settle the question finally
for themselves--by settling it right.

If the work tends to bring any considerable number to this practical
issue, I shall be more than repaid for the labor expended on it; for
I have a profound conviction that it is the question of questions in
ethics, now as always.

H. CLAY TRUMBULL.

PHILADELPHIA,

August 14,1893





CONTENTS.


I.

A QUESTION OF THE AGES.

Is a Lie Ever Justifiable?--Two Proffered Answers.--Inducements
and Temptations Influencing a Decision.--Incident in Army Prison
Life.--Difference in Opinion.--Killing Enemy, or Lying to
Him.--Killing, but not Lying, Possibility with God.--Beginning of this
Discussion.--Its Continuance.--Origin of this Book.


II.

ETHNIC CONCEPTIONS.

Standards and Practices of Primitive Peoples.--Sayings and Doings of
Hindoos.--Teachings of the Mahabharata.--Harischandra and
Viswamitra, the Job and Satan of Hindoo Passion-Play.--Scandinavian
Legends.--Fridthjof and Ingeborg.--Persian Ideals.--Zoroastrian Heaven
and Hell.--"Home of Song," and "Home of the Lie."--Truth the Main
Cardinal Virtue with Egyptians.--No Hope for the Liar.--Ptah, "Lord
of Truth."--Truth Fundamental to Deity.--Relatively Low Standard
of Greeks.--Incidental Testimony of Herodotus.--Truthfulness of
Achilles.--Plato.--Aristotle.--Theognis.--Pindar.--Tragedy of
Philoctetes.--Roman Standard.--Cicero.--Marcus Aurelius.--German
Ideal.--Veracity a Primitive Conception.--Lie Abhorrent among Hill
Tribes of India.--Khonds.--Sonthals.--Todas.--Bheels.--Sowrahs.--
Tipperahs.--Arabs.--American Indians.--Patagonians.--Hottentots.--
East Africans.--Mandingoes.--Dyaks of Borneo,--"Lying Heaps."--Veddahs
of Ceylon.--Javanese.--Lying Incident of Civilization.--Influence of
Spirit of Barter.--"Punic Faith."--False Philosophy of Morals.


III.

BIBLE TEACHINGS.

Principles, not Rules, the Bible Standard.--Two Pictures of
Paradise.--Place of Liars.--God True, though Men Lie.--Hebrew
Midwives.--Jacob and Esau.--Rahab the Lying Harlot.--Samuel at
Bethlehem.--Micaiah before Jehoshaphat and Ahab.--Character
and Conduct.--Abraham.--Isaac.--Jacob.--David.--Ananias and
Sapphira.--Bible Injunctions and Warnings.


IV.

DEFINITIONS.

Importance of a Definition.--Lie Positive, and Lie Negative.--Speech
and Act.--Element of Intention.--Concealment Justifiable, and
Concealment Unjustifiable.--Witness in Court.--Concealment that is
Right.--Concealment that is Sinful.--First Duty of Fallen Man.--Brutal
Frankness.--Indecent Exposure of Personal Opinion.--Lie Never
Tolerable as Means of Concealing.--False Leg or Eye.--Duty of
Disclosure Conditioned on Relations to Others.--Deception Purposed,
and Resultant Deception.--Limits of Responsibility for Results of
Action.--Surgeon Refusing to Leave Patient.--Father with Drowning
Child.--Mother and Wife Choosing.--Others Self-Deceived concerning
Us.--Facial Expression.--"A Blind Patch."--Broken Vase.--Closed
Shutters in Midsummer.--Opened Shutters.--Absent Man's Hat in
Front Hall.--When Concealment is Proper.--When Concealment is
Wrong.--Contagious Diseases.--Selling a Horse or Cow.--Covering
Pit.--Wearing Wig.--God's Method with Man.--Delicate Distinction.--
Truthful Statements Resulting in False Impressions.--Concealing
Family Trouble.--Physician and Inquiring Patient.--Illustrations
Explain Principle, not Define it.


V.

THE PLEA OF "NECESSITY."

Quaker and Dry-goods Salesman.--Supposed Profitableness of
Lying.--Plea for "Lies of Necessity."--Lying not Justifiable between
Enemies in War-time.--Rightfulness of Concealing Movements and Plans
from Enemy.--Responsibility with Flag of Truce.--Difference
between Scout and Spy.--Ethical Distinctions Recognized by
Belligerents.--Illustration: Federal Prisoner Questioned by
Confederate Captors.--Libby Prison Experiences.--Physicians and
Patients.--Concealment not Necessarily Deception.--Loss of
Reputation for Truthfulness by Lying Physicians.--Loss of
Power Thereby.--Impolicy of Lying to Insane.--Dr. Kirkbride's
Testimony.--Life not Worth Saving by Lie.--Concealing One's Condition
from Robber in Bedroom.--Questions of Would-be Murderer.--"Do Right
though the Heavens Fall."--Duty to God not to be Counted out of
Problem.--Deserting God's Service by Lying.--Parting Prayer.


VI.

CENTURIES OF DISCUSSION.

Wide Differences of Opinion.--Views of Talmudists.--Hamburger's
Testimony.--Strictness in Principle.--Exceptions in Practice.--Isaac
Abohab's Testimony.--Christian Fathers not Agreed.--Martyrdom Price
of Truthtelling.--Justin Martyr's Testimony.--Temptations of
Early Christians.--Words of Shepherd of Hermas.--Tertullian's
Estimate.--Origen on False Speaking.--Peter and Paul at Antioch.--
Gregory of Nyssa and Basil the Great.--Deceit in Interests of
Harmony.--Chrysostom's Deception of Basil.--Chrysostom's Defense
of Deceit.--Augustine's Firmness of Position.--Condemnation of
Lying.--Examination of Excuses.--Jerome's Weakness and Error.--Final
Agreement with Augustine.--Repetition of Arguments of Augustine and
Chrysostom.--Representative Disputants.--Thomas Aquinas.--Masterly
Discussion.--Errors of Duns Scotus.--John Calvin.--Martin Luther.--
Ignatius Loyola.--Position of Jesuits.--Protestants Defending Lying.
--Jeremy Taylor.--Errors and Inconsistencies.--Wrong Definitions.--
Misapplication of Scripture.--Richard Rothe.--Character, Ability,
and Influence. in Definition of Lie.--Failure to Recognize.--Error
Love to God as Only Basis of Love to Man.--Exceptions in Favor of
Lying.--Nitzsch's Claim of Wiser and Nobler Methods than Lying in
Love.--Rothe's Claim of Responsibility of Loving Guardianship--No
Countenance of Deception in Example of Jesus.--Prime Error of Rothe.
--Opinions of Contemporary Critics.--Isaac Augustus Dorner.--
Character and Principles.--Keen Definitions.--High Standards.--
Clearness and Consistency.--Hans Lassen Martensen.--Logic Swayed by
Feeling.--Right Premises and Wavering Reasonings.--Lofty Ideals.--
Story of Jeanie Deans.--Correct Conclusions.--Influence of Personal
Peculiarities on Ethical Convictions.--Contrast of Charles Hodge and
James H. Thornwell.--Dr. Hodge's Correct Premises and Amiable
Inconsistencies.--Truth the Substratum of Deity.--Misconceptions of
Bible Teachings.--Suggestion of Deception by Jesus Christ.--Error as
to General Opinion of Christians.--Dr. Hodge's Conclusions Crushed
by his Premises.--Dr. Thornwell's Thorough Treatment of Subject.--
Right Basis.--Sound Argument.--Correct Definitions.--Firmness for
Truth.--Newman Smyth's Manual.--Good Beginning and Bad Ending.--
Confusion of Terms.--Inconsistencies in Argument.--Loose Reasoning.
--Dangerous Teachings.--James Martineau.--Fine Moral Sense.--Conflict
between Feeling and Conviction.--Safe Instincts.--Thomas Fowler.--
Higher Expediency of Veracity.--Importance to General Good.--Leslie
Stephen.--Duty of Veracity Result of Moral Progress.--Kant and
Fichte.--Jacobi Misrepresented.--False Assumptions by Advocates of Lie
of Necessity.--Enemies in Warfare not Justified in Lying.--Testimony
of Cicero.--Macaulay on Lord Clive's Treachery.--Woolsey on
International Law.--No Place for Lying in Medical Ethics.--Opinions
and Experiences of Physicians.--Pliny's Story of Roman Matron.--Victor
Hugo's Sister Simplice.--Words of Abbé Sicard.--Tact and
Principle.--Legal Ethics.--Whewell's View.--Opinion of Chief-Justice
Sharswood.--Mistakes of Dr. Hodge.--Lord Brougham's Claim.--False
Charge against Charles Phillips.--Chancellor Kent on Moral
Obligations in Law and in Equity.--Clerical Profession Chiefly
Involved.--Clergymen for and against Lying.--Temptation to Lies of
Love.--Supreme Importance of Sound Principle.--Duty of Veracity to
Lower Animals.--Dr. Dabney's View.--Views of Dr. Newman Smyth.--Duty
of Truthfulness an Obligation toward God.--Lower Animals not Exempt
from Principle of Universal Application.--Fishing.--Hunting.--Catching
Horse.--Professor Bowne's Psychological View.--No Place for Lying
in God's Universe.--Small Improvement on Chrysostom's Argument for
Lying.--Limits of Consistency in Logical Plea.--God, or Satan.


VII.

THE GIST OF THE MATTER.

One All-Dividing Line.--Primal and Eternal Difference.--Lie Inevitably
Hostile to God.--Lying Separates from God.--Sin _per se_.--Perjury
Justifiable if Lying be Justifiable.--Lying--Lying Defiles Liar,
apart from Questions of Gain in Lying.--Social Evils Resultant from
Lying.--Confidence Essential to Society.--Lying Destructive of
Confidence.--Lie Never Harmless.


INDEXES.

TOPICAL INDEX. SCRIPTURAL INDEX.




I.

A QUESTION OF THE AGES.


Whether a lie is ever justifiable, is a question that has been in
discussion, not only in all the Christian centuries, but ever since
questions concerning human conduct were first a possibility. On
the one hand, it has been claimed that a lie is by its very nature
irreconcilable with the eternal principles of justice and right; and,
on the other hand, it has been asserted that great emergencies may
necessitate a departure from all ordinary rules of human conduct, and
that therefore there may be, in an emergency, such a thing as the "lie
of necessity."

It is not so easy to consider fairly a question like this in the hour
when vital personal interests pivot on the decision, as it is in a
season of rest and safety; yet, if in a time of extremest peril the
unvarying duty of truthfulness shines clearly through an atmosphere of
sore temptation, that light may be accepted as diviner because of its
very power to penetrate clouds and to dispel darkness. Being forced to
consider, in an emergency, the possible justification of the so-called
"lie of necessity," I was brought to a settlement of that question in
my own mind, and have since been led to an honest endeavor to bring
others to a like settlement of it. Hence this monograph.

In the summer of 1863 I was a prisoner of war in Columbia, South
Carolina. The Federal prisoners were confined in the common jail,
under military guard, and with no parole binding them not to attempt
an escape. They were subject to the ordinary laws of war. Their
captors were responsible for their detention in imprisonment, and it
was their duty to escape from captivity, and to return to the army of
the government to which they owed allegiance, if they could do so by
any right means. No obligations were on them toward their captors,
save those which are binding at all times, even when a state of war
suspends such social duties as are merely conventional.

Only he who has been a prisoner of war in a Southern prison in
midsummer, or in a Northern prison in the dead of winter, in time of
active hostilities outside, can fully realize the heart-longings of a
soldier prisoner to find release from his sufferings in confinement,
and to be again at his post of duty at the front, or can understand
how gladly such a man would find a way, consistent with the right, to
escape, at any involved risk. But all can believe that plans of escape
were in frequent discussion among the restless Federal prisoners in
Columbia, of whom I was one.

A plan proposed to me by a fellow-officer seemed to offer peculiar
chances of success, and I gladly joined in it. But as its fuller
details were considered, I found that a probable contingency would
involve the telling of a lie to an enemy, or a failure of the
whole plan. At this my moral sense recoiled; and I expressed my
unwillingness to tell a lie, even to regain my personal liberty or
to advantage my government by a return to its army. This opened an
earnest discussion of the question whether there is such a thing as a
"lie of necessity," or a justifiable lie. My friend was a pure-minded
man of principle, ready to die for his convictions; and he looked at
this question with a sincere desire to know the right, and to conform
to it. He argued that a condition of war suspended ordinary social
relations between the combatants, and that the obligation of
truth-speaking was one of the duties thus suspended. I, on the other
hand, felt that a lie was necessarily a sin against God, and therefore
was never justifiable.

My friend asked me whether I would hesitate to kill an enemy who was
on guard over me, or whom I met outside, if it were essential to our
escape. I replied that I would not hesitate to do so, any more than I
would hesitate at it if we were over against each other in battle.
In time of war the soldiers of both sides take the risks of a
life-and-death struggle; and now that we were unparoled prisoners it
was our duty to escape if we could do so, even at the risk of our
lives or of the lives of our captors, and it was their duty to
prevent our escape at a similar risk. My friend then asked me on what
principle I could justify the taking of a man's life as an enemy, and
yet not feel justified in telling him a lie in order to save his life
and secure our liberty. How could it be claimed that it was more of a
sin to tell a lie to a man who had forfeited his social rights, than
to kill him. I confessed that I could not at that time see the reason
for the distinction, which my moral sense assured me was a real one,
and I asked time to think of it. Thus it was that I came first to face
a question of the ages, Is a lie ever justifiable? under circumstances
that involved more than life to me, and when I had a strong inducement
to see the force of reasons in favor of a "lie of necessity."

In my careful study, at that time, of the principles involved in this
question, I came upon what seemed to me the conclusion of the whole
matter. God is the author of life. He who gives life has the right to
take it again. What God can do by himself, God can authorize another
to do. Human governments derive their just powers from God. The powers
that be are ordained of God. A human government acts for God in the
administering of justice, even to the extent of taking life. If a
war waged by a human government be righteous, the officers of that
government take life, in the prosecution of the war, as God's agents.
In the case then in question, we who were in prison as Federal
officers were representatives of our government, and would be
justified in taking the lives of enemies of our government who
hindered us as God's agents in the doing of our duty to God and to our
government.

On the other hand, God, who can justly take life, cannot lie. A lie
is contrary to the very nature of God. "It is impossible for God to
lie."[1] And if God cannot lie, God cannot authorize another to lie.
What is unjustifiable in God's sight, is without a possibility of
justification in the universe. No personal or social emergency can
justify a lie, whatever may be its apparent gain, or whatever harm may
seem to be involved in a refusal to speak it. Therefore we who were
Federal prisoners in war-time could not be justified in doing what
was a sin _per se_, and what God was by his very nature debarred
from authorizing or approving. I could see no way of evading
this conclusion, and I determinedly refused to seek release from
imprisonment at the cost of a sin against God.

[Footnote 1: Heb. 6: 18]

At this time I had no special familiarity with ethics as a study, and
I was unacquainted with the prominence of the question of the "lie
of necessity" in that realm of thought. But on my return from army
service, with my newly awakened interest in the subject, I came to
know how vigorous had been its discussion, and how varied had been the
opinions with reference to it, among philosophic thinkers in all
the centuries; and I sought to learn for myself what could be known
concerning the principles involved in this question, and their
practical application to the affairs of human life. And now, after all
these years of study and thought, I venture to make my contribution
to this phase of Christian ethics, in an exhibit of the facts and
principles which have gone to confirm the conviction of my own
moral sense, when first I was called to consider this question as a
question.




II.

ETHNIC CONCEPTIONS.


The habit of lying is more or less common among primitive peoples, as
it is among those of higher cultivation; but it is of interest to note
that widely, even among them, the standard of truthfulness as a duty
is recognized as the correct standard, and lying is, in theory at
least, a sin. The highest conception of right observable among
primitive peoples, and not the average conformity to that standard in
practice, is the true measure of right in the minds of such peoples.
If we were to look at the practices of such men in times of
temptation, we might be ready to say sweepingly with the Psalmist, in
his impulsiveness, "I said in my haste, All men are liars!"[1] But if
we fixed our minds on the loftiest conception of truthfulness as an
invariable duty, recognized by races of men who are notorious as
liars, we should see how much easier it is to have a right standard
than to conform to it.

[Footnote 1: Psa. 116: II.]

A careful observer of the people of India, who was long a resident
among them,[1] says: "More systematic, more determined, liars, than
the people of the East, cannot, in my opinion, be found in the world.
They often utter falsehoods without any apparent reason; and even when
truth would be an advantage, they will not tell it.... Yet, strange to
say, some of their works and sayings represent a falsehood as almost
the unpardonable sin. Take the following for an example: 'The sin of
killing a Brahman is as great as that of killing a hundred cows; and
the sin of killing a hundred cows is as great as that of killing a
woman; the sin of killing a hundred women is as great as that of
killing a child in the womb; and the sin of killing a hundred
[children] in the womb is as great as that of telling a lie.'"

[Footnote 1: Joseph Roberts, in his _Oriental Illustrations_, p. 580.]

The Mahabharata is one of the great epics of ancient India. It
contains a history of a war between two rival families, or peoples,
and its text includes teachings with reference to "everything that it
concerned a cultivated Hindoo to know." The heroes in this recorded
war, between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, are in the habit of lying
without stint; yet there is evidence that they recognized the sin of
lying even to an enemy in time of war, and when a decisive advantage
might be gained by it. At a point in the combat when Yudhishthira, a
leader of the Pandavas, was in extremity in his battling with Drona, a
leader of the Kauravas, the divine Krishna told Yudhishthira that, if
he would tell Drona (for in these mythical contests the combatants
were usually within speaking distance of each other) that his loved
"son Aswatthanea was dead, the old warrior would immediately lay down
his arms and become an easy prey." But Yudhishthira "had never been
known to tell a falsehood," and in this instance he "utterly refused
to tell a lie, even to secure the death of so powerful an enemy." [1]
Although it came about that Drona was, as a matter of fact, defeated
by treachery, the sin of lying, even in time of war, and to an enemy,
is clearly brought out as a recognized principle of both theory and
action among the ancient Hindoos.

[Footnote 1: See Wheeler's _History of India_, I., 321.]

There is a famous passion-play popular in Southern India and Ceylon,
which illustrates the Hindoo ideal of truthfulness at every risk or
cost. Viswamitra, the tempter and accuser as represented in the Vedas,
appears in the council of the gods, face to face with Indra. The
question is raised by Indra, who is the most virtuous sovereign on
earth. He asks, "What chief of mortals is there, who has never told
a lie?" Harischandra, king of Ayodiah (Oude) is named as such a
man. Viswamitra denies it. It is agreed (as in the testing of Job,
according to the Bible story) that Viswamitra may employ any means
whatsoever for the inducing of Harischandra to lie, unhindered by
Indra or any other god. If he succeeds in his effort, he shall secure
to himself all the merit of the good deeds of Harischandra; but if
Harischandra cannot be induced to lie, Viswamitra must add half his
merit to that of Harischandra.[1]

[Footnote 1: Arichandra, the Martyr of Truth: A Tamil Drama translated
into English by Muta Coomâra Swâmy; cited in Conway's _Demonology and
Devil Lore_, II., 35-43.]

First, Viswamitra induces Harischandra to become the custodian of a
fabulous treasure, with a promise to deliver it up when called
for. Then he brings him into such a strait that he must give up to
Viswamitra all his possessions, including that treasure and his
kingdom, in order to retain his personal virtue. After this,
Viswamitra demands the return by Harischandra of the gold which
has been already surrendered, claiming that its surrender was not
according to the contract. In this emergency Viswamitra suggests, that
if Harischandra will only deny that he owes this amount to his enemy
the debt shall at once be canceled. "Such a declaration I can never
make," says Harischandra. "I owe thee the gold, and pay it I will."

From this time forward the efforts of Viswamitra are directed to
the inducing of Harischandra to say that he is not in debt to his
adversary; but in every trial Harischandra refuses to tell a lie.
His only son dies in the desert. He and his wife are in poverty
and sorrow; while all the time he is told that his kingdom and his
treasures shall be restored to him, if he will tell only one lie. At
last his wife is condemned to death on a false accusation, and he is
appointed, by the sovereign of the land where she and he have been
sold as slaves, to be her executioner. She calls on him to do his
duty, and strike off her head. Just then Viswamitra appears to him,
saying: "Wicked man, spare her! Tell a lie even now, and be restored
to your former state!"

Harischandra's answer is: "Even though thou didst offer to me
the throne of Indra, I would not tell a lie." And to his wife,
Chandravati, he says encouragingly: "This keen saber will do its duty.
Thou dead, thy husband dies too--this selfsame sword shall pierce my
breast.... Yes, let all men perish, let all gods cease to exist, let
the stars that shine above grow dim, let all seas be dried up, let
all mountains be leveled to the ground, let wars rage, blood flow in
streams, let millions of millions of Harischandras be thus persecuted;
yet let truth be maintained, let truth ride victorious over all, let
truth be the light,--truth alone the lasting solace of mortals and
immortals."

As Harischandra strikes at the neck of Chandravati, "the sword,
instead of harming her, is transformed into a necklace of pearls,
which winds itself around her. The gods of heaven, all sages, and all
kings, appear suddenly to the view of Harischandra," and Siva, the
first of the gods, commends him for his fidelity to truth, and tells
him that his dead son shall be brought again to life, and his kingdom
and treasures and honors shall be restored to him. And thus the story
of Harischandra stands as a rebuke to the Christian philosopher who
could suppose that God, or the gods, would co-work with a man who
acted on the supposition that there is such an anomaly in the universe
as "a lie of necessity."

The old Scandinavian heroes were valiant in war, but they held that
a lie was not justifiable under any pressure of an emergency. Their
Valhalla heaven was the home of those who had fought bravely; but
there was no place for liars in it. A fine illustration of their
conception of the unvarying duty of truthfulness is given in the saga
of Fridthjof. Fridthjof, heroic son of Thorstein, loved Ingeborg,
daughter of his father's friend, King Bele. Ingeborg's brother Helge,
successor to his father's throne, opposed the match, and shut her up
within the sacred enclosure of the god Balder. Fridthjof ventured
within the forbidden ground, in order to pledge to her his manly
troth. The lovers were pure in purpose and in act, but, if their
interview were known, they would both be permanently harmed in
reputation and in standing. A rumor of their secret meeting was
circulated, and Fridthjof was summoned before the council of heroes to
answer to the charge. If ever a lie were justifiable, it would seem to
be when a pure woman's honor was at stake, and when a hero's happiness
and power for good pivoted on it. Fridthjof tells to Ingeborg the
story of his sore temptation when, in the presence of the council,
Helge challenges his course.

"'Say, Fridthjof, Balder's peace hast thou not broken, Not seen my
sister in his house while Day Concealed himself, abashed, before
your meeting? Speak! yea or nay!' Then echoed from the ring Of
crowded warriors, 'Say but nay, say nay! Thy simple word we'll
trust; we'll court for thee,--Thou, Thorstein's son, art good
as any king's. Say nay! say nay! and thine is Ingeborg!' 'The
happiness,' I answered, 'of my life On one word hangs; but fear
not therefore, Helge! I would not lie to gain the joys of Valhal,
Much less this earth's delights. I've seen thy sister, Have spoken
with her in the temple's night, But have not therefore broken
Balder's peace!' More none would hear. A murmur of deep horror The
diet traversed; they who nearest stood Drew back, as I had with
the plague been smitten."[1]

[Footnote 1: Anderson's _Viking Tales of the North_, p. 223.]

And so, because Fridthjof would not lie, he lost his bride and became
a wanderer from his land, and Ingeborg became the wife of another;
and this record is to this day told to the honor of Fridthjof,
in accordance with the standard of the North in the matter of
truth-telling.

In ancient Persia, the same high standard prevailed. Herodotus says of
the Persians: "The most disgraceful thing in the world, they think,
is to tell a lie; the next worse, to owe a debt; because, among other
reasons, the debtor is obliged to tell lies."[1] "Their sons are
carefully instructed, from their fifth to their twentieth year, in
three things alone,--to ride, to draw the bow, and to speak the
truth."[2] Here the one duty in the realm of morals is truth-telling.
In the famous inscription of Darius, the son of Hystaspes, on the Rock
of Behistun,[3] there are repeated references to lying as the chief of
sins, and to the evil time when lying was introduced into Persia, and
"the lie grew in the provinces, in Persia as well as in Media and in
the other provinces." Darius claims to have had the help of "Ormuzd
and the other gods that may exist," because he "was not wicked, nor a
liar;" and he enjoins it on his successor to "punish severely him who
is a liar or a rebel."

[Footnote 1: Rawlinson's _Herodotus_, Bk. I., § 139.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., Bk. I., § 136.]

[Footnote 3: Sayce's _Introduction to Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther_, pp.
120-137.]

The Zoroastrian designation of heaven was the "Home of Song;"
while hell was known as the "Home of the Lie."[1] There was in the
Zoroastrian thought only two rival principles in the universe,
represented by Ormuzd and Ahriman, as the God of truth, and the father
of lies; and the lie was ever and always an offspring of Ahriman, the
evil principle: it could not emanate from or be consistent with the
God of truth. The same idea was manifest in the designation of the
subordinate divinities of the Zoroastrian religion. Mithra was the god
of light, and as there is no concealment in the light, Mithra was also
god of truth. A liar was the enemy of righteousness.[2]

[Footnote 1: Müller's _Sacred Books of the East_, XXXI., 184.]

[Footnote 2: Müller's _Sacred Books of the East_, XXIII., 119 f.,
124 f., 128, 139. See reference to Jackson's paper on "the ancient
Persians' abhorrence of falsehood, illustrated from the Avesta," in
_Journal of Am. Oriental Soc_., Vol. XIII., p. cii.]

"Truth was the main cardinal virtue among the Egyptians," and
"falsehood was considered disgraceful among them."[1] Ra and Ma were
symbols of Light and Truth; and their representation was worn on the
breastplate of priest and judge, like the Urim and Thummim of the
Hebrews.[2] When the soul appeared in the Hall of Two Truths, for
final judgment, it must be able to say, "I have not told a falsehood,"
or fail of acquittal.[3] Ptah, the creator, a chief god of the
Egyptians, was called "Lord of Truth."[4] The Egyptian conception of
Deity was: "God is the truth, he lives by truth, he lives upon
the truth, he is the king of truth."[5] The Egyptians, like the
Zoroastrians, seemed to count the one all-dividing line in the
universe the line between truth and falsehood, between light and
darkness.

[Footnote 1: Wilkinson's _Ancient Egyptians_, I., 299; III., 183-185.]

[Footnote 2: Exod. 39: 8-21; Lev. 8: 8.]

[Footnote 3: Bunsen's _Egypt's Place in Universal History_, V., 254.]

[Footnote 4: Wilkinson's _Anc. Egyp_., III., 15-17.]

[Footnote 5: Budge's _The Dwellers on the Nile_, p. 131.]

Among the ancient Greeks the practice of lying was very general,
so general that writers on the social life of the Greeks have been
accustomed to give a low place relatively to that people in its
estimate of truthfulness as a virtue. Professor Mahaffy says on this
point: "At no period did the nation ever attain that high standard
which is the great feature in Germanic civilization. Even the Romans,
with all their coarseness, stood higher in this respect. But neither
in Iliad nor in Odyssey is there, except in phrases, any reprobation
of deceit as such." He points to the testimony of Cicero, concerning
the Greeks, who "concedes to them all the high qualities they choose
to claim save one--that of truthfulness."[1] Yet the very way in which
Herodotus tells to the credit of the Persians that they allowed
no place for the lie in their ethics[2] seems to indicate his
apprehension of a higher standard of veracity than that which was
generally observed among his own people. Moreover, in the Iliad,
Achilles is represented as saying: "Him I hate as I do the gates of
Hades, who hides one thing in his heart and utters another;" and it
is the straightforward Achilles, rather than "the wily and shiftful
Ulysses," who is the admired hero of the Greeks.[3] Plato asserts, and
argues in proof of his assertion, that "the veritable lie ... is hated
by all gods and men." He includes in the term "veritable lie," or
"genuine lie," a lie in the soul as back of the spoken lie, and he
is sure that "the divine nature is incapable of a lie," and that in
proportion as the soul of a man is conformed to the divine image,
the man "will speak, act, and live in accordance with the truth."[4]
Aristotle, also, while recognizing different degrees of veracity,
insists that the man who is in his soul a lover of truth will be
truthful even when he is tempted to swerve from the truth. "For the
lover of truth, who is truthful where nothing is at stake [or where it
makes no difference], will yet more surely be truthful where there is
a stake [or where it does make a difference]; for he will [then] shun
the lie as shameful, since he shuns it simply because it is a lie."[5]
And, again, "Falsehood abstractly is bad and blamable, and truth
honorable and praiseworthy; and thus the truthful man being in
the mean is praiseworthy, while the false [in either extreme,
of overstating or of understating] are both blamable, but the
exaggerating man more so than the other."[6]

[Footnote 1: Mahaffy's _Social Life in Greece_, pp. 27, 123. See also
Fowler's _Principles of Morals_, II., 219-221.]

[Footnote 2: _Hist_., Bk. I., §139.]

[Footnote 3: Professor Fowler seems to be quite forgetful of this
fact. He speaks of Ulysses as if he had precedence of Achilles in the
esteem of the Greeks. See his _Principles of Morals_, II., 219.]

[Footnote 4: Plato's _Republic_, II., 382, a, b.]

[Footnote 5: Aristotle's _Eth. Nic_., IV., 13, 1127, a, b.]

[Footnote 6: _Ibid_., IV.]

Theognis recognizes this high ideal of the duty and the beauty of
truthfulness, when he says: "At first there is a small attractiveness
about a lie, but in the end the gain it brings is both shameful and
harmful. That man has no fair glory, in whose heart dwells a lie, and
from whose mouth it has once issued."[1]

[Footnote 1: Theognis, 607.]

Pindar looks toward the same standard when he says to Hiero,
"Forge thy tongue on the anvil of truth;"[1] and when he declares
emphatically, "I will not stain speech with a lie."[2] So, again, when
his appeal to a divinity is: "Thou that art the beginning of lofty
virtue, Lady Truth, forbid thou that my poem [or composition] should
stumble against a lie, harsh rock of offense."[3] In his tragedy of
the Philoctetes, Sophocles makes the whole play pivot on the remorse
of Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, over his having lied to Philoctetes
(who is for the time being an enemy of the Greeks), in order to secure
through him the killing of Paris and the overthrow of Troy. The lie
was told at the instigation of Ulysses; but Neoptolemus repents its
utterance, and refuses to take advantage of it, even though the fate
of Troy and the triumph of Greek arms depend on the issue. The plain
teaching of the tragedy is that "the purposes of heaven are not to
be served by a lie; and that the simplicity of the young son of
truth-loving Achilles is better in the sight of heaven, even when
it seems to lead to failure, than all the cleverness of guileful
Ulysses."[4]

[Footnote 1: Pythian Ode, I, 86.]

[Footnote 2: Olympian Ode, 4, 16.]

[Footnote 3: Bergk's _Pindar_, 183 [221].]

[Footnote 4: Professor Lamberton]

It is admitted on all hands that the Romans and the Germans had a high
ideal as to the duty of truthfulness and the sin of lying.[1] And so
it was in fact with all peoples which had any considerable measure of
civilization in former ages. It is a noteworthy fact that the duty of
veracity is often more prominent among primitive peoples than among
the more civilized, and that, correspondingly, lying is abhorred as a
vice, or seems to be unknown as an expedient in social intercourse.
This is not always admitted in the theories of writers on morals, but
it would seem to be borne out by an examination into the facts of
the case. Lecky, in his study of "the natural history of morals,"[2]
claims that veracity "usually increases with civilization," and he
seeks to show why it is so. But this view of Lecky's is an unfounded
assumption, in support of which he proffers no evidence; while Herbert
Spencer's exhibit of facts, in his "Cyclopaedia of Descriptive
Sociology," seems to disprove the claim of Lecky; and he directly
asserts that "surviving remnants of some primitive races in India have
natures in which truthfulness seems to be organic; that not only to
the surrounding Hindoos, higher intellectually and relatively advanced
in culture, are they in this respect far superior, but they are
superior to Europeans."[3]

[Footnote 1: See Fowler's _Principles of Morals_, II., 220; also
Mahaffy's _Social Life in Greece_, p. 27. Note, for instance, the high
standard as to truthfulness indicated by Cicero, in his "Offices,"
III., 12-17, 32. "Pretense and dissimulation ought to be banished
from the whole of life." "Reason ... requires that nothing be done
insidiously, nothing dissemblingly, nothing falsely." Note, also,
Juvenal, Satire XIII., as to the sin of a lie purposed, even if not
spoken; and Marcus Aurelius in his "Thoughts," Book IX.: "He ... who
lies is guilty of impiety to the same [highest] divinity." "He, then,
who lies intentionally is guilty of impiety, inasmuch as he acts
unjustly by deceiving; and he also who lies unintentionally, inasmuch
as he is at variance with the universal nature, and inasmuch as he
disturbs the order by fighting against the nature of the world; for he
fights against it, who is moved of himself to that which is contrary
to truth, for he had received powers from nature through the neglect
of which he is not able now to distinguish falsehood from truth."]

[Footnote 2: _History of European Morals_, I., 143.]

[Footnote 3: See Spencer's _Principles of Sociology_, II., 234 ff.;
also his _Inductions of Ethics_, p. 405 f.]

Among those Hill Tribes of India which have been most secluded, and
which have retained the largest measure of primitive life and customs,
fidelity to truth in speech and act is still the standard, and a lie
is abhorrent to the normal instincts of the race. Of the Khonds of
Central India it is said that they, "in common with many other wild
races, bear a singular character for truthfulness and honesty;"[1] and
that especially "the aborigine is the most truthful of beings."[2]
"The Khonds believe that truthfulness is one of the most sacred of
duties imposed by the gods."[3] "They are men of one word."[4] "The
truth is by a Sonthals held sacred." [5] The Todas "call falsehood one
of the worst of vices."[6] Although it is said by one traveler that
the Todas "practice dissimulation toward Europeans, yet he recognizes
this as a trait consequent on their intercourse with Europeans."[7]
The Bheels, which were said to be "a race of unmitigated savages,
without any sense of natural religion." [8] and "which have preserved
their rude habits and manners to the present day," are "yet imbued
with a sense of truth and honor strangely at contrast with their
external character."[9] Bishop Heber says that "their word is more to
be depended on than that of their conquerors."[10] Of the Sowrahs it
is said: "A pleasing feature in their character is their complete
truthfulness. They do not know how to tell a lie."[11] Indeed, as Mr.
Spencer sums up the case on this point, there are Hill Tribes in India
"originally distinguished by their veracity, but who are rendered less
veracious by contact with the whites. 'So rare is lying among these
aboriginal races when unvitiated by the 'civilized,' that of those in
Bengal, Hunter singles out the Tipperahs as 'the only Hill Tribe in
which this vice is met with.'"[12]

[Footnote 1: Glasfurd, cited in _Cycl. of Descrip. Sociol_., V., 32.]

[Footnote 2: Forsyth, _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 3: Macpherson, cited in _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 4: _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 5: Sherwill, cited in _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 6: Harkness, cited in _Cycl. of Descrip. Sociol_., V., 31.]

[Footnote 7: Spencer's _Principles of Sociology_, II., 234.]

[Footnote 8: Marshman, cited in _Cycl. of Descrip. Sociol_., V., 31.]

[Footnote 9: Wheeler, cited in _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 10: Cited in _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 11: Shortt, cited in _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 12: Spencer's _Principles of Sociology_, II., 234 ff.]

The Arabs are more truthful in their more primitive state than where
they are influenced by "civilization," or by dealings with those from
civilized communities.[1] And the same would seem to be true of the
American Indians.[2] Of the Patagonians it is said: "A lie with them
is held in detestation." [3] "The word of a Hottentot is sacred;" and
the good quality of "a rigid adherence to truth," "he is master of in
an eminent degree."[4] Dr.



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