Judge Grosh, of Pennsylvania, communicates the following:
After the plea “not guilty” was entered, and the jury was sworn or affirmed, a small, very intelligent-looking boy, was called to the witness-stand. The defendant’s attorney objected to his testifying, on account of his age, etc…
The attorney for the Commonwealth said the boy was unusually intelligent, and requested the Court to examine his competency; and I proceeded accordingly, very mildly:
Judge: What is your name, my son?
Boy: —– ——. (Giving his name very distinctly, which I do not now remember.)
Judge: Where do you reside, my little man?
Boy: In this city, sir.
Judge: Have you a parent or parents alive and residing here?
Boy: Only one; my mother.
Judge: Do you attend school, my son?
Boy: Yes, sir.
Judge: I presume, from your intelligent and praiseworthy conduct here, that you will soon be allowed to attend the High School, and become a useful man, and (if necessary) assist your good mother. (This drew tears of pleasure to his eyes, and he replied that, by the favor of the School Directors, he had attended the High School for the last six months.)
Judge: How old are you, my good boy?
Boy: My mother says that on tomorrow I will be thirteen years old.
Judge: Are you here to give evidence to the court and jury in this case?
Boy: Yes, sir; if required so to do.
Judge: Do you know the solemnity of the obligations of a judicial oath, my son? Reflect before you answer.
Boy: (Very modestly.) I think I do.
Judge: What will be your punishment, my dear boy, if you swear falsely, or speak a lie on oath?
Boy: I will be sent to the penitentiary, (weeping) and thus break my dear mother’s heart. (There were other eyes besides his in that house overflowing with tears.)
Defendant’s attorney: (frowning) Boy, don’t you know that if you tell a lie, on your oath, when you die you will be endlessly tortured in a fiery pool?
Boy: That would be an additional inducement to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; but that punishment can be avoided by a timely repentance; but repentance will avail nothing to keep me out of the penitentiary.
Judge: You are a noble boy! Who gave you these excellent instructions?
Boy: My mother, sir.