“An Open Letter” The American Sentinel 4, 16, pp. 121, 122.

May 15, 1889

To the Rev. J. H. Knowles, Secretary American Sabbath Union

DEAR SIR: In your Monthly Document, edited by yourself, you have chosen to charge me with insincerity; and you have also done your best to make it appear that I “admit all that the friends of the Sunday-Rest law generally claim,—the right of the Government to make Sunday laws for the public good.” You have garbled extracts from the report of my speech before the Senate Committee on the Sunday law, and then have italicized certain words and sentences in one passage to make it appear that I admit the right of the Government to make Sunday laws for the public good.

You have quoted from my speech the following words in the following way:—

“Whenever any civil Government attempts to enforce anything in regard to any one of the first four commandments it invades the prerogative of God, and is to be disobeyed (I do not say resisted, but disobeyed)…. The State in its legislation can never legislate properly in regard to any man’s religious faith, or in relation to anything in the first four commandments of the decalogue; but if in the exercise of his religious convictions under the first four commandments he invades the rights of his neighbor, then the civil Government says that is unlawful. Why because it is irreligious or because it is immoral?Not at all; but because it is uncivil, and for that reason only. (Italics ours.—ED.)”

It is in the italicizing of these words that your effort is made to make me admit what I continually and consistently denied before the committee, and do deny everywhere else. You have inserted in the above quotation three periods, indicating that a portion has been left out; and you know full well, sir (you must know or you could not have left it out), that in the portion which is there left out there is the following:—

The Chairman‘You oppose all the Sunday laws of the country, then?’

Mr. Jones‘Yes, sir.’

The Chairman‘You are against all Sunday laws?’”

Mr. Jones‘Yes, sir; we are against every Sunday law that was ever made in this world, from the first enacted by Constantine to this one now proposed.’

The Chairman‘State and National alike?’

Mr. Jones‘State and National, sir.’”

Not only were these words there, but in that portion which you have printed, following the italicized words, you yourself have printed my plain denial of the right of any nine hundred and ninety-nine people out of a thousand to compel the thousandth man to rest on the day on which the majority rest, in the following form:—

Senator Blair‘The majority has a right to rule in what pertains to the regulation of society, and if Cesar regulates society, then the majority has the right in this country to say what shall be rendered to Cesar.’

Mr. Jones‘If nine hundred and ninety-nine people out of every thousand in the United States kept the seventh day, that is Saturday, and I deemed it my choice and right to keep Sunday, I would insist on it, and they would have no right to compel me to rest on Saturday.’

Senator Blair—‘In other words, you take the ground that for the good of society, irrespective of the religious aspect of the question, society may not require abstinence from labor on the Sabbath if it disturbs others?’

Mr. Jones‘No, sir.’

Senator Blair‘You are logical all the way through that there shall be no Sabbath.’”

The last expression of mine, saying, “No, sir,” is in accord, and was intended when spoken to be in accord, with Senator Blair’s inquiry, whether society may not require abstinence from labor on the Sabbath. My answer there means, and when it was spoken it was intended to mean, that society may not do so. As to its disturbing others, I had just before proved that the common occupations of men who choose to work on Sunday do not disturb, and cannot disturb, the rest of the man who chooses to rest that day.

Again: A little further along you print another passage, in which are the following words:—

Senator Blair‘You would abolish any Sabbath in human practice which shall be in the form of law, unless the individual here and there sees fit to observe it?

Mr. Jones‘Certainly; that is a matter between man and his God.’”

Now, sir, I should like for you, in a Monthly Document, or by some other means, to show how, by any fair means, or by any sincere purpose, you can, even by the use of italics, make me in that speech admit the right of the Government to make Sunday laws for the public good. You know, sir, that in that speech I distinctly stated that any human laws for the enforcement of the Sabbath, instead of being “for the good of society, are for the ruin of society.”

Again: You know, for you printed it in your. Monthly Document, that Senator Blair said to me: “You are logical all the way through that there shall be no Sabbath.” You know that in another place he said again to me: “You are entirely logical, because you say there should be no Sunday legislation by State or Nation either.” Now, sir, I repeat, You have charged me with [122] insincerity; and the one making such a charge as that ought to be sincere. Will you therefore explain upon what principle it is that you claim to be sincere in this thing, when, in the face of these plain and explicit statements to the contrary, and Senator Blair’s confirmation of them to that effect, you can deliberately attempt to force into my words a meaning that was never there, that was never intended to be there, and which never can by any honest means be put there?

More than this: It can hardly be thought that Senator Blair will very highly appreciate the compliment that you have paid to his logical discernment, when, in the face of his repeated statements that I was logical all the way through, you force into my words a meaning that could have no other effect than to make me illogical all the way through.

I have no objection whatever to your printing my words as they were spoken; but I do object to your forcing into them a meaning directly contrary to that which the words themselves convey, and which they were intended to convey; and I further object to your disconnecting my statements so as to make it possible for you to force into them a meaning that they never can honestly be made to bear.

In that space also I said that if an idol worshiper in this country should attempt to offer a human sacrifice, the Government should protect the life of its subject from the exercise of that man’s religion; that he has a right to worship any idol that he chooses, but that he has not the right to commit murder in the worship of his idol; and the State forbids murder without any reference at all to the question as to whether that man is religious, or whether he worships or not. I stated also that if anybody, claiming apostolic example, should believe in and practice community of property, and in carrying out that practice should take your property or mine without our consent, the State would forbid the theft without any reference at all to the man’s religious opinions. And you know that it was with direct reference to these words that I used the words which you have italicized. I there distinctly denied that the State can ever of right legislate in relation to anything in the first four commandments of the decalogue. But if any man in the exercise of his right under the first four commandments should invade the right of his neighbor, such as I have expressed, by endangering his life, his liberty, or his property, or attack his reputation, the Government has the right to prohibit it, because of the incivility; but with never any question as to whether the man is religious or irreligious.

This is precisely what every State in this Union does already do by statutes which punish the disturbance of religious meetings or peaceful assemblies of any sort. But there is a vast difference between such statutes as these and the ones which you desire shall be enacted. And this is the only tiling that I had in view, and is all that I meant, in the words which you have italicized; for immediately following them I proved that one man’s work on Sunday cannot disturb another’s rest if that man chooses to rest. And I denied then, as I do forever deny, that any man’s work at any honest occupation at any time can ever properly or safely be put by civil Government upon a level with murder, theft, or perjury. So much for myself and my position, and your sincerity.

Now, I have a few words to say to you about your position. You say that the “friends of the Sunday-Rest bill deny that the Government should compel a religious observance of the day.”

And yet, in your Monthly Document for February you print the following question to Dr. Crafts, asked by the Knights of Labor, and his answer:—

Question—Could not this weekly rest-day be secured without reference to religion by having the workmen of an establishment scheduled in regular order for one day of rest per week, whichever was most convenient—not all resting on any one day?

AnswerA weekly day of rest has never been permanently secured in any land except on the basis of religious obligation. Take the religion out and you take the rest out.”

You propose to compel all people to take a day of rest; you publish to the world that such a day of rest can be secured only on the basis of religious obligation; the logic of this is that you propose to compel all men to recognize a religious obligation.

Again, it is there definitely stated that to take the religion out of the day is to take the rest out. You propose to compel all men to take the rest, but religion is essential to the rest: without the religion they cannot have the rest. The logic of this is, therefore, that you propose to compel men to take religion.

Joseph Cook is a friend of the Sunday-Rest bill; he says likewise “that you will in vain endeavor to preserve Sunday as a day of rest unless you preserve it as a day of worship.” Accordingly, the object of the American Sabbath Union is declared by its constitution to be “to preserve the Christian Sabbath as a day of rest and worship.” Mr. Cook likewise says that, “for Sabbath observance to be maintained at a high standard it must be founded upon religious reasons.” You yourself, sir, have written in the Pearl of Days these words:—

“It will become more and more apparent that the real defenders of the day are among those who regard it a divine, not merely a human, institution.”

And the president of the association, of which you are secretary, said:—

“We do not put this work on mere human reasoning, for all that can be overthrown by human reasoning; we rest it directly and only on the divine command.”

From first to last, these statements are from fast friends of the Sunday-Rest bill. And similar statements might be quoted almost indefinitely from the friends of the Sunday-Rest bill. Therefore, you with the rest of the friends of the Sunday-Rest bill, may deny till doomsday that the Government should compel a religious observance of the day and it will amount to nothing. The constitution of the association to which you belong, your own words, the words of the president of that association, and of the chiefest leaders in the work in which you are engaged, all show that the denial is simply a contrivance to save appearances, and demonstrate conclusively that the denial amounts to nothing in fact. The enforcement of the observance of a religious institution is the enforcement of a religious observance. The enforcement of the observance of a divine institution is the enforcement of a religious institution, because divine institutions are religious institutions.

You likewise deny that the “friends of the Sunday-Rest bill are in favor of a union of Church and State.” But this denial is just like the other one. No man can be in favor of any Sunday-Rest law without being in favor of a union of Church and State. A union of Church and State is inherent in the thing itself, and it is impossible to have Sunday-Rest laws without having a union of Church and State just that for.

Dr. Phillip Schaff plainly declares Sunday laws to be one of the “connecting links between Church and State.” And Dr. Schaff is one of the friends of the Sunday-Rest law. Therefore, in the face of such declarations as these, is the face of such plain statements from yourself and your associates, a simple denial is not sufficient. When proofs so strong and in such abundance as these are presented something more is required when charged with meaning what you say, than to deny it. In the face of such proofs denial can never pass for disproof.

Please present to the public an argument upon these quotations which I have here presented that will show that you do not propose to enforce religious observances. The friends of the Sunday-Rest bill are not ignoramuses; the most of them are college graduates, and even doctors of divinity. If it be true that they do not propose not intend to enforce religious observances, or the observance of religious institutions, it ought not to be difficult for them to construct an argument that would show it. It is true, it would be somewhat difficult, in the face of these statements which I have presented in this article. But let them say that they did not mean what they said, let them repudiate these statements, and leave them all behind, and start new, and from the premises of a Sunday-Rest law, or of the American Sabbath Union, let them construct an argument which shall show by logical course and conclusion that they do not propose to enforce religious observances. Then your denials will amount to something. There is no danger, however, that you will ever get any one of them to do it. Every one who undertakes it and carries out a consistent and logical line of argument will find himself on my side of the question every time.

You say that “California’s best people do not like the working of the plan of no Sunday law, and are seeking to be rid of it.” California’s best people, sir, are the people of California themselves. And in 1882 the people of California declared by a majority of 17,517 votes directly upon this issue that they would not have a Sunday law. By their representatives they have repeated this declaration twice since, and California’s best people do like it. And more than this, California’s best people appreciate to its whole value the crocodile sympathy of the Eastern Sunday-law crusaders.

Here I will close for this time by merely saying again that you are at liberty to reprint my words, statements, and arguments as they are, and spread them abroad as widely as you please; but I insist that you shall refrain from garbling them, and forcing into them a meaning that is contrary to everything in them. Good-bye, sir.

I remain yours sincerely, ALONZO T. JONES.

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