January 12, 1893
MR. THOMAMS K. CREE, of this city, has written to Secretary of the Treasury Foster protesting against issuing the souvenir coins to the Columbia Exposition, because the managers thereof are violating the law by keeping the Exposition open on Sunday. He cites the legal opening of the Exposition in October last, and says that since that time the Exposition authorities have opened the grounds on Sundays and charged an admission fee to visitors, which, he claims, is a direct violation of law. We are not at this writing informed what view of the matter the secretary takes.
WITH reference to the action of Congress in conditioning the appropriation of $2,500,000 on the Sunday closing of the World’s Fair, it is sometimes urged that in granting money, Congress has the right to impose conditions. This is true, however, only within certain limits. Congress has no right to make any “law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” And what Congress can not do directly it has not right to do indirectly. Having no constitutional right to compel conformity to a religious dogma, it certainly has no right to purchase such conformity; and the effort to do so is certainly ominous. Of this Sunday closing measure, we may well say, as, in 1829, a committee of the United States Senate said of the proposition to discontinue Sunday mails: “If the measure recommended should be adopted, it would be difficult for human sagacity to foresee how rapid would be the succession, or how numerous the train of measures which would follow, involving the dearest rights of all—the rights of conscience.
IF Congress may impose Sunday observance upon the World’s Columbia Exposition as a condition of receiving an appropriation, why not the same power impose either that or any other religious rite as a condition to receiving any thing from the Government? Might not Congress with equal propriety make the granting of public land, even to actual settlers under the Homestead law, contingent upon an agreement that such land should never be cultivated on Sunday? or even require that the applicant for a patent to one hundred and sixty acres of the public domain should be a member of some church? And might not similar conditions be required of the recipients of any thing of value from the Government? Our only guarantee that such things shall not be is the provision of the Constitution that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” and is that be disregarded, who can foretell the ultimate result? It would, indeed, “be difficult for human sagacity to foresee how rapid would be the succession, or how numerous the train of measures, which would follow, involving the dearest of all rights—the rights of conscience.”
A CHICAGO paper inquires: “Will the Indian understand that this is a Christian Nation?” Well, scarcely, unless they have been furnish with copies of the Supreme Court decision of last February declaring it to be such. Their experience with the average Indian agent never would teach them anything of that kind. It is stated that the Government is now owing the Arapahoes and Cheyennes, about $18 per head, and because of failure to pay this money these Indians are in danger of starvation.
It is further stated that of the money due to these Indians at the last regular payment ($250,000) they received only $187,500, the balance “having been absorbed in fees to pay lawyers for making out the allotment papers of each Indian.” So says the Chicago News, which also adds the information that “the rations of beef have been suddenly and inexplicably reduced by one-half;” and that “as usual, the trouble lies with the agencies by which the contract was to be carried out—with the agencies which have the ration-giving in charge and with the system by which the Government, instead of putting the full amount of promised moneys right in the Indian’s hands, lets him get it through a lawyer and a process of mulcting.”
It is very evident that it will require something more than a decree of the Supreme Court, or even an act of Congress to make this a Christian Nation.