“Abridging the Freedom of the Press” American Sentinel 10, 2, pp. 14, 15.

ONE of the most dangerous measures ever introduced in Congress is a bill to amend and to reënact section 3,877 of the Revised Statutes of the United States. The bill was introduced by Mr. Weadock, of Michigan, and is now in the hands of the Committee on Post Office and Post Roads.

Section 3,877, which it is proposed to reënact and amend, defines second class mail matter and Mr. Weadock’s bill proposes to add to the existing provision the following:—

Any newspaper or other matter of the second class which advises, abets, or suggests the commission of any offense against any law of the United States, or any State or Territory, or any country with which we are at peace, shall be excluded from the mails.

It is incredible that such a bill should ever become a law in “free America,” and yet equally strange things have happened within the last half decade; and nobody can feel sure that Mr. Weadock’s bill will not pass. But whether this bill passes or not, the fact that it has been introduced and is being seriously considered is ominous. An official censorship of the press is a thing utterly repugnant to the spirit of our free institutions, and yet that is just what this bill proposes to establish.

Already inroads have been made upon the First Amendment to the Constitution, and this bill proposes a still further attack; for whereas the First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press,” this bill proposes to put a bridle upon the press by excluding from the mails every publication of the second class which in the estimation of the postmaster-general shall advise, abet, or suggest the commission of any offense against any law of the United States, or of any State, or of any country with which we are at peace.

For instance, the AMERICAN SENTINEL says that Seventh-day Adventists cannot consistently obey Sunday laws. It would require no great stretch of the authority [15] sought to be conferred by this bill for the postmaster-general to hold that the SENTINEL, indirectly at least, both advises, abets, and suggests offenses against the laws of every State having upon its statute books a Sunday law, and to therefore order its exclusion from the mails.

Again, the American Hebrew, which raised the fund for the release of W. B. Capps from jail, and which in common with the SENTINEL and many other papers denounced his imprisonment as religious persecution, and insisted that Mr. Capps had a right to work on Sunday, might be held to have abetted in the offense against the law of Tennessee, and so be excluded from the mails. In fact, there is scarcely any limit to the power which it proposes to confer upon the postmaster-general by this bill. It is a most dangerous and significant measure. [16]

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