January 26, 1893
ARE the citizens of the United States aware of the present crisis in this country? There is a crisis. It involves the existence of the Government as it was established. It involves the question as to whether this is to continue to be a government of the people, or is hereafter to be a government by a religious hierarchy.
EVERY judicial precedent necessary to establish the authority of that hierarchy has been had. The decision of Feb. 29, 1892, by the Supreme Court—the highest judicial authority known to an American citizen—completed the line of precedent and affirmed it. What remained?—That Congress should bow to judicial precedent and legislate upon religion! This had long been sought in vain. But no sooner was the series of judicial precedent made complete by the decision of the highest—the Supreme—Court, than the legislation was immediately had.
THAT legislation was the passage of the Sunday-closing proviso for the World’s Fair, in the first session of the Fifty-second Congress. This piece of legislation was marvelously well calculated to secure the result desired. The effort from the beginning has been to secure some precedent, however small, for congressional legislation upon religion. Only a foothold was sought. The Fifty-second Congress, except it repeal this Sunday-closing proviso, will have the immortal ignominy of having granted this foothold. Is this Congress willing to so go down into history? There are few congressmen unable to comprehend the responsibility of this Congress in this matter. There are few who do not realize that responsibility, and deprecate it. But the responsibility can not be avoided or shifted.
WHY can not the burden of the future support, at least, of this religious legislation be shared with others? Why can not its repeal be left to the next Congress?—Because when the next Congress convenes, the people of the United States and of the world will have been for six months, subject to this law, and it will have been for one month an historical precedent. It would be ex post facto legislation, indeed, to call for its repeal then, when it had completed the full term for which it was enacted, and had gone into history. The Fifty-second Congress shares the burden of this—can share it—with none. Neither the next Congress nor any succeeding Congress can expunge the record. When this Congress shall have adjourned, the evil act will be past remedy, completed, irrevocable.
Do the congressmen of the United States know that this legislation is unconstitutional? This question cuts close, close, very close home. It raises an ugly alternative. It either impugns their intelligence, or it convicts them of having knowingly legislated contrary to a strict prohibition of the Constitution, the fundamental and supreme law. Which horn of the dilemma will they accept? Is it not much more honorable, more worthy, in every way more creditable, to acknowledge the error and repeal the erroneous legislation? True, it was not only insinuated, but openly said, in the late hearing, that congressmen would hardly acknowledge by repealing the proviso that they had been in error in passing it. Was that insinuation a just one? Are congressmen made of such stuff as this? American manhood is of no such material. It is from their pretended friends and supporters that this accusation comes. Can it be just? The American people will not believe it. They will not believe that they have confided the highest public trust in the Nation to men so inferior in moral stamina that they will permit the principle upon which this Government was established to be subverted before they will admit that they have made a mistake, and, while yet they have time, undo the mistake before its consequences have become irremediable. Who is the friend? he who says, “Deny your wrong and conceal it?” or he who says, “Be a man, acknowledge the error and undo it?” The American people wait to see whether they have sent, to the Congress of the United States, men—or what?
IT has been said to those who would oppose all religious legislation—this as well as all, else—and upon constitutional grounds: “You have had your day; your plea is now outlawed. The law has been passed, and is on the statute books. These objections should have been made before Sunday closing became a law. They have no force now.” Is it true that a constitutional objection is ever outlawed so long as the clause upon which it is based remains in the Constitution? Would it be proper for a robber to make the plea that the robbery had been committed and therefore no procedure could be had, that all action should have been taken previous to the commission of the deed? Is it then a fit claim that because the people have already been robbed of their constitutional rights they have, because the deed is done, no recourse, no right to object? Such a claim will not hold for a moment. It is, in such case, their right to object, always and everywhere. More, it is their duty to object, and to object without ceasing. Let all the people object, and let them make their objections known to their congressmen.