“A Hearing on the Breckinridge Sunday Bill” The American Sentinel 5, 9, pp. 65, 66.

February 27, 1890

TUESDAY, February 18, there was held a hearing by the House Committee on the District of Columbia, in the committee-room in the capitol, on the Breckinridge Sunday bill.

In favor of the bill there appeared and spoke, Rev. George Elliot, Rev. J. H. Elliott, Mr. H. J. Schulteis,—Knight of Labor—Mr. Inglis, and Rev. W. F. Crafts.

Against the bill there appeared and spoke, Elder J. O. Corliss, of Washington City, Mr. Millard F. Hobbs—District Master Workman Knights of Labor, and Alonzo T. Jones of the SENTINEL; and Prof. H. W. McKee, Secretary of the Religious Liberty Association, submitted a brief.

Rev. George Elliot said he appeared as the representative of the Ministers’ Alliance of the city of Washington, and the the [sic.] American Sabbath Union. The Alliance is composed of fifty-six evangelical ministers, whose pastorates comprise nearly all Protestant Christians of the city of Washington. He said: “We rely on the extreme simplicity of our case. The District of Columbia is practically without Sunday legislation. The Ministers’ Alliance became aware of this by attempting some prosecutions. In this attempt we found ourselves without available law, and we stopped suddenly. We kept still about it because we did not want it to become known. Although we represent churches, we do not come as churches. We believe God commands the rest of the seventh day. That is a matter of conscience with each individual. We also believe that the day is needed for rest, for the general good; without reference to the religious aspects of the question. It is true religion enters into this question in a measure, because the day named in the bill is the one already observed by the great majority of the religious people of the country.

“We ask this with the more confidence, because, with the exception of the gentlemen from California, all the representatives of this House come from States which have Sunday laws. Here are gentlemen of the Committee from Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, all of which have excellent Sunday laws. It is there-fore a very little thing which we ask. In the early history of the District it had a Sunday law—the old Maryland law; but this, without any will of the people, has been allowed to become obsolete. We ask that that which has become obsolete, without any expressed will of the people, shall be restored. Sunday laws are almost immemorial. Beginning with Constantine, carried on by Theodosius, and in England by Alfred, Athelstan, Edward, and their successors, down to our own colonial times, and from these by our States. The observance of Sunday is already enforced by the consciences of the largest portion of the people.”

Mrs. Catlin told the committee how the question of a District Sunday bill originated, saying that their feelings had been shocked at work on Sunday—“gangs of men at work in our beautiful streets on the Sabbath.” She then said that she had over 27,000 petitions to present, but she had taken them out of the safe the night before and left them lying on a lounge near a window, and that in the night they had been stolen. The thief had hoisted the window and reached irk and got the bundle. She did not suppose that he had any idea of what it was that he was taking; but [66] took it as he would have taken anything else that he had got his hands on, as another roll of petitions lying near was not taken. She had found a few of the petitions scattered about the yard in the morning, but the most of them were gone. They were not names from the District of Columbia, but from the country at large.

Next Mr. George Elliot, with the manner of one having forgotten something, said that there was a class of Christians whom he had neglected to mention, but who ought to be named in favor of the bill—the Roman Catholics. That when the matter was up in the preceding Congress, Cardinal Gibbons had sent a letter in which he added his name to the number of petitioners; that the Cardinal represented the Catholics at large in asking for the adoption of the Senate Sunday bill.—At this point Mr. Crafts prompted him with the words “which includes this.” That is, the Senate or Blair Sunday bill includes the House or Breckinridge Sun-day bill,—each is the complement of the other.

Each is but part of one stupendous whole,

Of which the State the body is, the Church the soul.

Next spoke Mr. Schulteis. He said that he represented local assembly No. 2,672 of the Knights of Labor. He said his assembly had indorsed the Breckinridge bill. He referred to the indorsement of the Blair Sunday bill by the National Assembly at Indianapolis, in 1888, and said that every Knight of Labor was represented in that indorsement. He said he had no special instruction to appear before the committee on this particular question, but was a member of a committee on legislation, and had credentials which em-powered him to speak before legislative committees on matters pertaining to labor.

The next speaker was Rev. J. H. Elliott, D.D., of Washington City, who spoke on the phrase “Sunday excepted in the Constitution, and argued from that that a Sunday law such as this bill embodies would be constitutional. The fallacy of this argument is that in the phrase “Sunday excepted” in the Constitution there is simply a recognition of the non-legal aspect of Sunday, to which nobody objects, and there is not in it in any sense any attempt to say what the President shall, or shall not, do on Sunday. Under that phrase the President may do anything he pleases on Sunday. And this mere legal no-day is to be stretched to the extent of sanctioning an act that will prohibit everybody in the nation from doing any manner of work, labor, or business, pertaining to this world, on Sunday! If these men are willing to go so far as that with a mere non-committal phrase, what would they not do with the specific words of a sweeping statute?

Mr. Crafts was the next speaker, and spent the whole of his time, as usual, in a bitter personal attack upon the Seventh-day Adventists. He declared the greatest opposition is carried on by the Seventh-day Adventists; the counter-petition to this legislation an Advent petition; the AMERICAN SENTINEL an Advent Sentinel, etc., etc. He made no argument but this in behalf of the bill.

The next speaker was Elder J. O. Corliss, pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church of Washington City. We shall not attempt a synopsis of Mr. Corliss’s speech. As there were some valuable references produced in the argument, we have asked for a copy of the speech entire, and shall print it as soon as it is received.

My turn came next to speak. I had risen from my chair and was waiting to be recognized by the chairman, when a slip of paper was handed to him with a request to be allowed three minutes. The Chair said, if I would yield, the three minutes should not be deducted from my time. I willingly granted the gentleman the time asked. The gentleman proved to be

Mr. Millard F. Hobbs, Master Workman of the whole federation of the Knights of Labor in the District of Columbia, who said: “No one has been authorized by the Knights of Labor to speak in favor of this bill. Mr. Schulteis is not authorized to speak for the Knights of Labor. It is true Mr. Schulteis is a member of a committee having charge of certain matters, but that committee has nothing to do with this question. The Knights of Labor are virtually opposed to this bill. Some are in favor of some parts of it; some are in favor of all of it; and some are entirely opposed to all of it. For this reason the Knights of Labor of the District, as an organization, have refused to have anything to do with it. We are all in favor of a day of rest, some of two days; but we are afraid of the religious side of this question. What benefits the Knights of Labor wish to obtain, we think can be better secured by our own efforts through our own organizations than by the efforts of others, through the Church.”

This speech, coming as it did, was more or less of a surprise to all; but to Mr. Crafts and his party it was “a stunner.” It instantly crushed to atoms the whole pet theory which they had so nicely framed and so pathetically presented in behalf of “the poor workingmen who are so cruelly oppressed by being forced to labor on Sunday;” and of the Church’s gallant effort to liberate them from “the Egyptian bondage of Sunday slavery.” Nothing could have happened that would more clearly expose the perfect hollowness of the plea that is made by the American Sabbath Union, that this Sunday movement is in the interests of the workingmen, than did this unpremeditated and wholly unsolicited speech.

When Mr. Hobbs had taken his seat, I was recognized by the chairman, and made a half-hour’s speech which we hope to present in full in another issue. However to prevent any misapprehension on the part of my old friends, or the new readers of the SENTINEL, I would take occasion here to repeat that my speech was in opposition to the Breckinridge Sunday bill.

The members of the Congressional Committee who were present were Mr. Grout, Vermont; Mr. DeLano, New York; Mr. Moore, New Hampshire; Mr. Ellis, Kentucky; Mr. Campbell, New York; Mr. Heard, Missouri. They gave a most careful and courteous hearing to all the speakers, and we rest assured that the subject will recieve [sic.] from them a candid consideration.

A. T. J.

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