“Editorial” American Sentinel 9, 32, pp. 249, 250.

August 9, 1894

MULTITUDES of people in the United States are wondering and perplexed in beholding how widespread and how persistent is the spirit of violence and lawlessness throughout the land.

TO those, however, who have been carefully considering public movements in the last two or three years, there is nothing to wonder at nor to be perplexed about in all this, or even more than this, that has appeared.

INDEED, to those who have been carefully studying the public movements of the last two or three years, this widespread spirit of violence and lawlessness has been expected; and now, instead of expecting it to end at the limits that it has reached, widespread though it be, it is expected to become universal.

AMS a matter of fact, in these two or three years just passed, the Government of the United States has been surrendered to the principles of violence and lawlessness. This being so, it is not at all to be wondered at that violence and lawlessness should prevail almost constantly throughout the land and should become universal. Instead of being anything strange, it is the most natural thing in the world.

LET us recite the facts in the case: From 1888 till 1892 the combined churches, Prohibition party, and Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, tried their best to get Congress and the whole Government of the United States to do what the leaders of the combination knew to be an unconstitutional thing, and which, being done, they have again declared to be unconstitutional; that is, to espouse the Sunday-Sabbath cause. As Congress did not respond readily enough to suit them, they added threats to their “petitions” and their former efforts. These threats of the combined “Protestant” religious element of the country, were to the effect that they pledged themselves and each other that they would never again vote for or support for any office or position of trust any member of Congress, either senator or representative, who should refuse to do their bidding to pass the church-instituted provision closing the Columbian Exposition on Sunday—the “Christian Sabbath,” the “Lord’s Day,” etc.

EVERYBODY knows, or at least has had a chance to know, that Congress surrendered to these threats and publicly advertised that it did not “dare” to do otherwise. And when an effort, based upon the Constitution, was made to have Congress undo its unconstitutional action and place itself and the Government once more in harmony with the Constitution, this same religious combination renewed their former threats and added to these such others as suited their purpose best. The result was that the congressional committee that had the matter in charge, and that thus acted for the whole Congress, definitely excluded the Constitution from its consideration and deferred exclusively to the demands of that religious combination. And we have the words of two of the committee to the effect that this was done because this church combine would do more mischief and damage to the Exposition if they did not have their own way than they or anybody else would if they did have their own willful, threatening way. These words are worth setting down again. Here is the statement of Representative Reilly:—

The present agitation, if continued, can only result in injury to the Fair. Attempts to have the law repealed only result in stirring up animosity toward the Fair and creating antagonism on the part of the church people. they can do the Fair much harm if they decide to carry out the threats they have already made, and I think the friends of the Exposition who favor Sunday opening would act wisely in ceasing their efforts.

And Representative George W. Houk wrote a letter on this subject to President Higinbotham, of the Exposition, which was printed in the Chicago Tribune, February 5, 1893. After stating his “deliberate conviction that Congress was and is without any constitutional power or authority whatever to impose such a condition upon the grant of the appropriation,” he states the case thus:—

From the nature, extent and character of the opposition, based as I think it is, upon an erroneous though conscientious sentiment, rather than upon a deliberate and rational judgment, it occurs to me that in case it were possible to have the existing law repealed, it might after all ultimately result in serious detriment to the final success of the Exposition.

It is of the first importance, in my judgment, to the final success of the Exposition that there should be a harmonious coöperation on the part of all the people of the United States in its support. If the present law requiring the gates to be closed on Sundays to the public, should be repeated by a vote of a majority in both the House and Senate, which does not seem to me at all probable, and the act should receive the sanction of the President, which seems to be equally improbable, it is certain that the religious element of the country, through all its organizations, would be deeply offended and would array itself in antagonism to the Fair.

It is not a question whether such a course would be reasonable or not; and, while such action might be regarded as an exhibition of religious fanaticism, most remarkable under the circumstances, it is nevertheless true that a large number of good, conscientious, Christian people throughout the country, in their excited state of feeling upon this question, would be likely to pursue that course.

I am in a position to have reliable information in regard to this matter, and although I firmly believe that the refusal to permit the Exposition to be opened to the public Sundays under the regulations I have suggested, will be a most deplorable mistake, I am also fully persuaded that the repeal of the existing law closing its gates would array the whole religious element of the United States (Protestant at least) against it.

The question now to be decided by the management is, whether it is advisable further to urge a doubtful contest, upon a matter that is aggravating an already extensive and bitter hostility against Chicago and the Exposition, which even if ultimately successful, would be as likely to be fraught with disaster as benefit to the enterprise.

Now, the Constitution of the United States is the only thing in existence that gives to any member of Congress, either senator or representative, any power or authority. He owes his very existence, as a member of that body, to the Constitution. The Constitution defines his powers and sets the limitations of the exercise thereof. This is his only legitimate guide. To take any other thing as his guide in legislation is to repudiate the Constitution and to put that other thing in its place, and is to rob the people of all the governmental authority which, by the very idea of a written constitution, they have retained in their own hands, and is to make this other thing the governing power [250] instead of the people. In this case that other thing was the combined churches of the country threatening political ruin and the boycott, if their will was not conformed to in the doing of a confessedly unconstitutional thing. This, therefore, was only to recognize the principle that the caprice and arbitrary will of a clamorous and threatening few shall be the guide in legislation and governmental affairs, intead [sic.] of the deliberate judgment of the majority as expressed in the Constitution.

NOR is it in Congress alone that this principle has been recognized. It has been given a place in the judicial procedure of the United States courts. In 1891, the United States Circuit Court for the western district of Tennessee, in giving legal sanction to the practice of persecution to secure the recognition of Sunday, said:—

By a sort of factitious advantage, the observers of Sunday have secured the aid of the civil law, and adhere to that advantage with greatest tenacity, in spite of the clamor for religious freedom and the progress that has been made in the absolute separation of Church and State…. And the efforts to extirpate the advantage above-mentioned, by judicial decision in favor of a civil right to disregard the change, seem to me quite useless.

The court was composed of Circuit Judge Howell E. Jackson, now a member of the Supreme Court of the United States, and District Judge E. S. Hammond. The opinion was written by Judge Hammon, and was filed August 1, 1891. Then in the Memphis Appeal-Avalanche of August 30, there was published a four-column article by Judge Hammond, dated August 12, and entitled “The Sunday Habit,” which is little if anything else than a defense of the decision that had been rendered on this subject August 1. In this article the Judge confesses that “the logic of this [his] position may lead to a union of Church and State undoubtedly;” but that the support of Sunday by the civil power, and by persecution, “is a necessity of statesmanship” upon “the policy of securing the public peace.” The danger to the public peace, and the source of it, if Sunday laws were disregarded by those who have a “distaste for, or a disbelief in, the custom;” of it they were attacked by a proposal to abolish them, is set forth as follows:—

We have lived so free of it in modern days that we forget the force of religious fanaticism, and he who supposes that its furty cannot be gain aroused may be mistaken….

Christians would become alarmed, and they might substitute for the stars and other symbols of civil freedom upon the banners of their armed hosts, the symbol of the cross of Christ, and fight for their religion at the expense of their civil government. They have done this in times that are passed, and they could do it again. And he is not a wise statesman who overlooks a possibility like this, and endangers the public peace….

The civilian, as contradistinguished from the churchman, though united in the same person, may find in the principle of preserving the public order a satisfactory warrant for yielding to religious prejudice and fanaticism the support of those laws, when the demand for such a support may become a force that would disturb the public order. It may be a constantly diminishing force, but if it be yet strong enough to create disturbance, statesmanship takes account of it as a factor in the problem.

This statement and those of representatives Reilly and Houk, are the deliberate opinions of representative men, and officials in official place: men who were in position not only to know, but in which they were obliged to consider the question in all its bearings. And when, having so considered the question, they set forth this as their deliberate conclusion, then nothing more is needed to demonstrate that the church element, that is managing and supporting the Sunday cause in the United States, is one of the most dangerous elements in the United States.

THIS thought was so well presented before the House Committee on the Columbian Exposition, January 12, 1893, by Mrs. Marion Foster Washburne, of Chicago, that her earnest and weighty words are worthy to ring in the ears of all the people in the nation. In referring to the speeches and the representations of the clergy before the same committee the day before, she said:—

Moreover, they threatened—and of all things, the boycott! The very tactics they preach against from their pulpits. And one man said that the “religious boycott was justified by the deep prejudices of the people.”

I have a profound respect and reverence, as all fair-minded people must have, for the man who believes in his religion and stands upon it against the world; but I have precious little respect for the clergyman, who, when he wants to win a worldly advantage, uses a worldly argument, making the admission that the heavenly one is insufficient for practical purposes. The man who claims to have faith in prayer, and yet descends to the boycott!

… I know that we cannot possibly make as good a showing as some church societies, and the reason is that we are not organized as they are. The great mass of liberal and thoughtful people all over the country are not so organized that they can act as one, before such a committee, but their numbers may be—nay are—even greater than those contained in the societies here represented. They are simply quiet and tolerant private citizens, who, for the most part, are rather amused that any one should be intolerant. But while this organization of the evangelical churches gives them an advantage in being able to present petitions and speakers, it is, gentlemen, a danger! Our forefathers foresaw the danger of an organized minority coercing an unorganized majority, and forbade this country a standing army; there is as much danger, or, as the history of religious persecution shows, more danger, in the interference of an organized body of churches in the affairs of the State, than in a standing army.

Yet in the face of the indubitable evidence that the element that manages the Sunday cause is of such dangerous proclivities that the Government of the United States must be surrendered to it in order “to preserve the public peace,” these same ones take great pride in advertising and exalting themselves as “the best people of the land,” and the “law-abiding people of the country!”

THE truth is, however, that this claim, like the claim of their Sunday-Sabbath, is absolutely fraudulent. The undeniable fact is that these very ones are of the least law-abiding people in the United States. They have demonstrated that they have no respect for any law but such as their own arbitrary will approves. For without the slightest hesitation, yea, rather with open persistence, they have knowingly disregarded and overridden the supreme law—the Constitution—of the United States. They have set the example, and established the principle, of absolute lawlessness.

THESE facts demonstrate that instead of their being truly the law-abiding portion of the people, these men are among the chiefest law breakers in the land—the most lawless of all the nation. Nor is this at all to be wondered at. For, in order to accomplish this their bad purpose, they “gladly joined hands” and hearts with the papacy—that power which the Lord designates as the “lawless one” and as the very “mystery of lawlessness” itself. 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 7 (R.V.).

IN view of such an example as this, should it be thought surprising that lawlessness should be manifested by others throughout the whole country as never before, and that violence should cover the land from ocean to ocean?

In view of such an example as this set by “the best people” of the land, should it be thought strange that the example should be followed by the “Industrials,” “Commonwealers,” “Coxeyites,” the “Debsites,” or the “worst” people of the land?

If it is proper for the preachers and churches of the country to threaten Congress till their confessedly unconstitutional demands are complied with, why is it not equally proper for the “Commonwealers,” Debs and his followers, and everybody else, also to threaten Congress or anybody else, till their demands are complied with?

If Congress can guarantee to the people religion, even on Sunday, why shall it not also guarantee to the people money, or work, or whatever else may be demanded, on every day of the week?

When the principle of petition by threat, and legislation by clamor, and the surrender of governmental prerogative to preserve the public peace, has been once recognized in favor of one class, then why shall not the principle be applied in behalf of any and every other class, on demand?

Why should Coxey, Browne, Kelly, Frye, and company, be denounced, prosecuted, fined, and imprisoned, while simply following the example of Crafts, Cook, Shepard, George, and company, in which these latter were listened to, and honored by the preference of Congress and the United States Circuit Court?

IT was because of this evil example of “the best people of the land,” this principle of violence and lawlessness, forced upon the Government by the combined churches of the country—it was because of this that we have expected nothing else than that violence and lawlessness would spread through the land, and that we still expect it to become universal. This is not to say that the particular phases of lawlessness that have of late been manifested in so many parts of the country, have been carried on by the human actors therein in conscious and intentional pursuance of the example of lawlessness set by the churches; but it is to say that there is a spirit of things that must ever be taken into account. There is the Spirit of order, and there is the spirit of disorder. And when the Spirit of order has been so outraged, and the spirit of disorder chosen and persistently followed instead, as it has been in this case—and that too by the very ones who profess to be the representatives of the Spirit of order in the earth—then things are given over to the spirit of disorder and lawlessness, and nothing remains but that this spirit shall prevail and increase until it becomes universal. And we have no hesitation in saying that every man and woman who took part in this movement of the church-combine upon the Government is responsible for the consequences, violent and lawless as those consequences may be. [251]

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