THE new Constitution of the State of New York, which went into force the first day of this January, has a provision which establishes practically the keeping in idleness of the State prisoners. Of this provision, William R. Huntington, D.D., Rector of Grace Church, this city, writing on the eve of the late election, justly remarks as follows:—
It so happens that just at present there is impending over the prisoners of the State of New York a calamity to which injustice, ignorance and inhumanity may be said to be contributing in about equal portions. The people are presently to be asked to approve a constitutional provision—in other words, to make it the law for twenty years to come—that the inmates of our prisons shall be kept idle, for fear, forsooth, that their engagement in useful and remunerative occupations may injure the market for free labor.
I suppose there is no question among political economists of repute that this is bad political economy; I suppose there is no question among the masters of ethics that this is bad morality; I suppose there is not question among students of the New Testament that this is bad religion; and yet, it must needs be put into the same lump with other measures plainly desirable lest the labor vote should be offended. Could civil cowardice on the part of educated men much further go? …
The practical working of the thing will be that hundreds, and perhaps thousands of criminals, who only hope of reformation, humanly speaking, lies in their befog kept usefully occupied, will be thrown into an enforced idleness, sure to drive some of them to madness, some in suicide, and some to the patient devising either of methods of escape or of plots of revenge.
Can a State which knowingly consents to such a scheme for putting convicts to the torture—for that is just what it is—can a State, I say, which knowingly consents to such a scheme as this, look the King in the eye, and expect to hear him say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father”?
This is sound doctrine from beginning to end. And yet there is a demand made throughout this whole nation, and Dr. Huntingdon is a party to it, that the whole people shall be required by State and National law to submit to idleness a whole day in every week—that is, every Sunday in the year. It is true that this does not propose to put all those in prison-idleness; they are to be allowed to be at large if they will submit to it. But if they will not submit to this, then they are to be put in prison, and to be required to spend the idleness there. But the principle is the same, whether the enforced idleness be in prison or out of prison—and especially so when it inevitably follows in prison if it is not submitted to out of prison.
Enforced idleness, whether in prison or out of prison, whether on every day or only on Sunday, is bad political economy; it is bad morality; it is bad religion. And it is only injustice, ignorance, and inhumanity that contributes to it. And how can a State, or an individual, that knowingly consents to such a scheme as this, look the King in the eye and expect to hear him say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father”?
And yet Seventh-day Adventists everywhere are denounced, persecuted, fined, and imprisoned, for steadfastly refusing to sanction, or knowingly consent to, this same evil thing of enforced idleness. They are threatened with outlawry, for their refusal to accept this principle of bad political economy, bad morality, and bad religion, or to join in this contribution of injustice, ignorance, and inhumanity. They are hated and persecuted by professed Christians for refusing to consent to a scheme which forbids their looking the King in the eye with any expectation of hearing him say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father.”
Let it be so. The Seventh-day Adventists are right in this thing. Let the State commit suicide if it will, by enforcing bad political economy; but the Seventh-day Adventists and all others are right who refuse to sanction the proceeding. Let courts which assume the championship of a bad morality, aid in the suicide of the State by enforcing bad political economy in the interests of had morality, if they will; the Seventh-day Adventists and all others are right who refuse to respect such decisions of such courts. And let professed religionists support a bad religion by demanding such decisions from such courts to the death of the State, if they will; the Seventh-day Adventists and all others are right in refusing forever any respect to any such procedure on the part of any such religionists. It is better to be denounced, and persecuted, and fined, and imprisoned, and outlawed, because of good religion and good morality, which in themselves are a sufficient preservative of the State, than to have the highest honors of the State, and at the same time be working the certain ruin of self, society, and the State, by enforcing or respecting a bad religion, on account of a bad morality, in support of a bad political economy.
Let the Seventh-day Adventists and all others forever refuse to consent to a scheme which forbids their looking the King in the face with the expectation of hearing him say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father.” And let all the people say, Amen?