April 30, 1891
MUCH has been said on the proposed national Sunday legislation, and religious amendment to the Constitution, as being subversive of the principles of our Government. None too much has been said on this, and none too much can be said. But the Sunday-law workers, and the religious workers generally, are not the only ones whose aims and workings are subversive of the principles of the United States Government. All those who look to the Government as being the great general parent of the people, which must feed, and clothe, and nurse, and coddle the people, are engaged in the same business.
The Sunday-law workers proceed upon the theory that the people are so completely babyish that they are incapable of deciding for themselves when they are tired or when they should rest, and that therefore the Government must take the place of a parent and decide for them, and compel them to conform to the decision whether they are tired or not, or whether they want to rest or not. The great governmental parent says you are tired, and that is enough, if you are not tired you ought to be and, therefore, must invariably rest on Sunday.
More than this, the Sunday-law workers and the religious legislationists generally proceed upon the theory, that the people are incapable of deciding for themselves whether they ought to be religious, and to what extent, and after what manner; and therefore the great governmental parent must decide this for them, and compel them to be religious, to whatever extent she chooses, and after the manner of heathen.
The Farmers’ Alliance movement, which is just now causing more trepidation than any other one thing, proceeds upon the theory that the farmers are incapable of, conducting their business in such a way as to make sufficient money out of it, and therefore the Government, as a good and indulgent parent, must furnish them money in such quantities as they need.
There are other quotations of the same thing, but the nationalist movement sums up all of them, by proceeding upon the theory that the people are incapable of doing anything at all for themselves, and therefore the Government, as the universal parent, must do absolutely everything for them, even to choosing the very tunes that they shall hear.
Of course all who are engaged in these different movements, do not put their respective cases just in this way, that would be rather too raw, but this is precisely what these things amount to from beginning to end. The secret of the whole matter is in the two elements—the incapability or rather the babyishness of the people, and the personality or rather the deity of the Government. Either of these things lies in the other, and both alike are antagonistic to the principles which are the basis of American institutions.
The first of all American principles, and the grandest of all governmental principles, is the manliness and in that the entire capability of the people. And the second is like unto it, namely; the absolute subordination, and in that the total impersonality of the Government.
Both of these things are plainly asserted by the Declaration of Independence. That reads as follows:—
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all  men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
This presupposes that men are men indeed, and as such are fully capable of taking care of themselves; and that instead of needing to be taken care of by the Government, the Government is to be taken care of by them. It presupposes that the people are capable of deciding for themselves as to what is best for their happiness and how they shall pursue it, without the Government’s being set up as their guardian to tell them when or how they shall rest, or be religious, or anything else that may pertain to their personal affairs.
This statement clearly shows also, that the Government is but a piece of political machinery, which is created by the people to secure their rights and to assure their safety in the exercise of their rights. This is the doctrine of the national Constitution also, for says the preamble:—
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
And Article IX, of Amendments says:—
The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
And Article X, of Amendments says:—
The powers not delegated to the United States by this Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Thus, is clearly announced by both the Declaration and the Constitution, the doc trine, that the people are supreme, as the source of power and authority; that the Government is but a piece of political machinery set up by the people, by which they would make themselves secure in the enjoyment of the inalienable rights already possessed by them in full measure; and that whenever this piece of machinery fails to accomplish the purpose for which the people made it, it is their “right” to smash it and make another one. Nothing could more plainly show the utter subordination and impersonality of the Government, than do these statements of the Declaration and the Constitution.
Then, these are the American principles, the fundamental American principles of Government. This, as long as it shall continue, is genuine civil freedom and the conservation of the rights of the people. Thus and for this reason was this established, “a Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Any doctrine, therefore, that tends to set the Government above the people, to make it the parent of the people, or to give it a personality, is directly contrary to American principles as announced in the Declaration and in the Constitution; is subversive of Republican government; and is a step toward monarchism. In short it is to renounce the principle of freedom and to advocate that of despotism.
This is precisely what is done in the movement referred to at the beginning of this article, and in a still more dangerous place which we shall notice in our next. Let the reader preserve this copy of THE SENTINEL until he receives one of the next number.
A. T. J.