March 9, 1893
THE right of petition, appeal and remonstrance against wrong, was made a part of the fundamental law of this country. The exercise of this right may be, in the first instance, a privilege, but occasions will arise where dissent and remonstrance become a duty,—a test of the citizen’s highest patriotism and noblest allegiance to his country, and to his God. Such a time has now come.
THE Fifty-second Congress has adjourned, leaving upon its records a piece of finished legislation, now past the possibility of repeal, directly antagonizing a provision of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Upon every citizen rests to-day the duty of dissent and remonstrance. Silence has been, and will be, accepted as consent. Dissent can now only be shown by remonstrance. He who does not dissent makes himself a party to the wrong and accepts the responsibility for its results. Did this matter cover a civil injustice only, it would no less demand the disapproval of every citizen, but it invades the realm of religion and of conscience; in it the Government assumes to itself divine right and dispenses the authority of divinity. To civil wrong is added the assumption of divine right. He who stands for the rights of man will dissent. He who fears his God must dissent.
RIGHTS which are held by no “subinfeudation, but by direct homage and allegiance to the Owner and Lord of all,” are not to be valued lightly; and when by their infringement “the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it,” is abridged or denied,—then divine power and human authority are brought into immediate conflict, and every conscience must answer to the injunction, “choose you this day whom ye will serve.” Whether this authority be assumed by an individual, under the papal tiara, as vicegerent of God; or by an ecclesiastical aristocracy calling itself orthodox; or by a religious majority which claims that the voice of the people is the voice of God, the principle is the same. Submission to the usurper is disobedience to God. The usurpation, in either case, is by one who would be a god in the place of God, and obedience to such an one would be disobedience to the command, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” They who are Christians, free in the freedom with which Christ Jesus has made them free, will dissent, and will choose this day to serve God rather than man; and, as men, citizens, and Christians, will protest and appeal from the usurper to the Supreme Judge, the Lord of all the earth who will do right. A nobler resolve than this is not known to the human heart. A clearer duty does not exist in human experience.