July 24, 1890
MENTION has before been made of the introduction of a bill in the United States Senate, by Senator Edmunds, providing for the establishment of a national university. That such a bill had been introduced was all we knew about it particularly, until a few days ago, when by sending to the capitol we received a copy of it. Like many other of these things that are being carried on in Congress, when read by title it does not appear to many as a very bad thing; yet even though all that this bill intends, or all that it means, were suggested in the title, it would still be a very serious question whether a national university would be conducive to the best interests of education in the United States. It would be impossible to keep it free from political preferences and intrigue. But this is not the worst feature of the bill, nor is it the material one.
The bill not only provides for the establishment of a national university, but it also provides for the establishment of the Christian religion in that university. The bill was introduced May 14, 1890, and is entitled, “A Bill to Establish the University of the United States.” Section 1 says:—
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That there shall be, and hereby is, established, a corporation in the city of Washington to be known as The University of the United States.
Section 2 provides a Board of Regents that is to be composed of the President and the cabinet of the United States, with the Chief Justice, and also twelve citizens of the United States to be appointed by a concurrent resolution of the two houses; and when any vacancy occurs in the office of any regent thus appointed, it is to be filled likewise by the concurrent resolution of the two houses. This provision for the appointment of the twelve citizens of the United States to this place will open the way for the practice of all the political wire-pulling, lobbying, and “influence” that pertain to the United States appointments generally.
Section 3 provides that this university shall institute and carry on a course of education and research in all branches of learning and investigation that shall, in the opinion of the Board of Regents, from time to time, be most conducive to the advancement and to the increase and development of knowledge, and such as the usual course of education in schools, colleges, and universities in the United States does not furnish the best means and facilities for doing.
Section 7 appropriates a sum not exceeding five hundred thousand dollars to procure the necessary grounds, and to erect the necessary buildings.
Section 8 provides five million dollars of the public money as the principal of a perpetual fund from the interest of which, at four per cent., the necessary funds are to be taken to carry on the work of the university, and no more than the amount of such income shall be used, for the purposes mentioned in the bill.
Section 9 provides that the Board of Regents may receive gifts and donations in aid of any of the objects proposed in the bill. In view of the numerous demands for help to farmers, mechanics, laboring men, and almost every class, that are now being made upon the United States, the prospect does not look very brilliant that the regents of this university will be very speedily overwhelmed with  donations. Besides this, to find a person who is ready to give money to the United States would be a thing about as new, under the sun, as is this idea that has suggested it.
All things mentioned, or required in all these sections, are of little importance, however, compared with the provisions of Section 10, which are as follows:—
Section 10. That no special sectarian belief or doctrine shall be taught or promoted in said University, but this prohibition shall not be deemed to exclude the study and consideration of Christian theology.
This section provides at once for the national establishment of the Christian religion. The passage of such a bill by Congress would be the recognition of Christianity as a proper belief and doctrine, and as the only form of theology, belief, or doctrine, worthy of study and consideration, from a national point of view, which would be at once a national recognition of Christianity; and the national recognition of Christianity, and the teaching of it at national expense and by national authority, would be but the establishment of Christianity as a national religion.
Theology is the science which teaches about God. But this declares that the theology to be taught in this university shall be Christian theology. It is only the science of the Christians’ God that shall be taught there. It is only the wisdom concerning the Christians’ God that is to be studied and considered there. Therefore this section does as clearly and distinctly provide for the establishment of Christianity, its beliefs, its doctrines, and its views of God as anything can do. It just as clearly and distinctly provides for the establishment of Christianity as the national religion, as it would be possible to do by an act of Congress.
More than this, the passage of this section as it reads would be a distinct declaration by the national Legislature that nothing that is Christian is sectarian. “No special sectarian belief or doctrine shall be taught or promoted,” but this is not to exclude the teaching of “Christian theology.” This is but a declaration that the Christian views concerning God, or the beliefs in him, and the doctrines concerning him, are not sectarian. It will be seen at once that this plays directly into the hands of the National League for the Protection of American Institutions, as shown in last week’s SENTINEL, which demands an amendment to the Constitution of the United States forbidding any State to give any public money to any institution under sectarian or ecclesiastical control, which amendment would lay upon the Supreme Court of the United States the necessity of deciding the question of what is sectarian, and then they intend to have the Supreme Court decide that Christianity and its theology are not sectarian.
Section 11 declares that no person otherwise eligible under the act shall be excluded from the privileges of the university on account of race, color, citizenship, or religious belief. But Section 12, in connection with Section 10, is important. It says:—
Section 12. That Congress shall have power at all times, according to its judgment for the public good, to amend or repeal this act, and it shall have the power by any committee of either house of Congress appointed for that purpose, to visit and inquire into, and report upon all the operations of the corporation established by this act.
This gives power to Congress at any time to inquire into and report upon the merit of the Christian theology that is studied or considered there. This will of necessity make Christian theology an issue in every Congressional election held under the Government. As Congress is here given the power to amend or repeal this act the way will be open for that infidelity which these “unsectarian Christians” declare to be so dangerous, to secure sufficient influence in Congress to repeal, at the very least, that part of the act which appropriates the money of all the people to the study and consideration of the religious views of only a small part of the people. This would bring on at once a contest between that which passes for Christianity and what is held to be infidelity.
Nor would this be all, nor yet would it be the worst thing that would come. It would at once become the special interest of Roman Catholicism on one hand, and of Protestanism [sic.] on the other, not only to obtain the controlling power in Congress, but to obtain the presidency and the cabinet, so as to make certain which of these forms of “Christian theology” should be taught in the university. Thus to say the very least there would be in every congressional election and in every presidential election a triangular political strife on the question of Christian theology. Nor would this strife be confined only to the congressional or presidential elections. These would be only the occasion for a popular struggle throughout the whole Union, while between times the contest of clubs and cliques, wire-pullers and schemers, generally, would go steadily on, so that the religio-political strife would never cease, and the scenes of confusion and turmoil and bitter contention into which the Nation would thus be plunged, have never yet been seen in this country, and can be conceived of only by those who have the most intimate knowledge of the history of the Papacy from the fourth to the tenth century.
It may be said that even if such a bill as this were passed by Congress it would at once be declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court. But that is not by any means certain. That it ought to be declared unconstitutional is very certain, but that it would be, is another question entirely. Besides this, Senator Edmunds, the author of the bill, is said to be one of the best, if not the best of constitutional lawyers, not only in the United States Senate, but in the whole country. True, it does not follow that this fact would necessarily have any influence with the Supreme Court, yet, when a man with such a reputation as a constitutional lawyer, would deliberately frame and offer such a bill, it might be that a sufficient number of the judges on the Supreme Bench would view the constitutionality of the act as Mr. Edmunds does.
But whether the act would be declared by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional or not, it is not the place of the American people to let the matter go without a protest, and depend upon such an issue as that. That is too much of a risk to run. Now is the time for the people to make their voices heard; now is the time for every man who loves Christianity, or who regards the rights of men, or who desires civil peace rather than religio-political strife and commotion, or who wants to see liberty perpetuated rather than a most wicked despotism established,—now is the time for all such to make their voices heard in such a continual stream of remonstrances pouring upon Congress as will check all such attempts as appears in this university bill. Nor should the matter stop with sending remonstrances to Congress; let public opinion be so aroused and instructed that there shall be sent to Congress only such men as have regard for the rights of the people and respect for the United States Constitution.
This makes no fewer than four measures pending in Congress, any one of which tends directly to the establishment of a national religion. These are the Breckinridge Sunday Bill in the House of Representatives; the Blair Sunday Bill in the Senate; the Blair Educational Amendment; and this University Bill, with the Blair Educational Bill as a feeder to both of the last two. Take all of these, and the National League for the Protection of American Institutions, with its deceptive scheme; the National Reform Association, with its avowed purpose; the American Sabbath Association, with all its crafty tricks; and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union as a feeder to all these—it seems to us that it is time the American people were opening their eyes.
The University Bill was read twice as usual, and referred to a special committee composed of Senators Edmunds, Sherman, Ingalls, Blair, Dolph, Harris, Butler, Gibson, and Barbour.
A. T. J.