TUESDAY, March 6, 1894, there was held by the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives in Congress, a hearing of the promoters of the proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States establishing “the Christian religion.” The resolution to amend the Constitution runs as follows:—
Proposing an amendment to the preamble of the Constitution of the United States, “acknowledging the supreme authority and just government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and nations.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein). That the following amended form of the preamble of the Constitution of the United States be proposed for ratification by conventions in the several States, which, when ratified by conventions in three-fourths of the States, shall be valid as a part of the said Constitution, namely:
We, the people of the United States (devoutly acknowledging the supreme authority and just government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and nations, grateful to him for our civil and religious liberty; and encouraged by the assurances of his Word to invoke his guidance, as a Christian nation, according to his appointed way, through Jesus Christ), in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.
This hearing on March 6, was only of those who favor this thing. It was in fact a Reformed Presbyterian hearing, something like a car-load of them having come down from Pittsburg and Allegheny. With the exception of Representative Morse, who introduced the resolution into the House, every one who spoke was a Reform Presbyterian preacher. There were eight speakers—H. H. George, T. P. Stevenson, R. J. George, W. J. Robinson, J. M. Foster, R. C. Wylie, D. B. Wilson, and D. McAllister.
The names are all familiar to the old readers of the SENTINEL. And with the announcement of the names the views set forth will be readily recalled as these are all familiar too. It was the design in the arrangement of the speakers to have each speaker present a distinct line of argument, but it was a hard task to carry out the programme. For except in the heading, each speech covered about the same ground as all the others in about the same way.
H. H. George opened the discussion, and called out the speakers in succession. He said that both philosophy and revelation demand this recognition of God and Christ by the Government. And to prove the obligation of the Government to do so he cited the fact of “prayers in Congress.” He declared that the adoption of this amendment is the only thing that will separate Church and States: that thus the “Church will have its own sphere, and the State its own sphere.” This has been the theory of the papacy ever since its original establishment by Constantine. See “Two Republics,” p. 496-498 and 717-720.
T. P. Stevenson followed by first presenting “petitions,” as he said, from twenty-two out of twenty-four senators of the present Iowa legislature. He said that the petition had been presented for signatures to only twenty-four of the senators of Iowa, and that all these had signed it but two. He presented a petition also from the preachers of Newcastle, Pa., and read letters from “Rev.” A. A. Miner, of Boston, Bishop Michalson, “Rev.” Clarke, “President of the United Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor,” and Joseph Cook; all calling for the immediate adoption of the resolution by Congress. Joseph Cook supported his call with the citation of the Supreme Court decision of Feb. 29, 1892, that “this is a Christian nation,” and a bundle of “precedents.” Mr. Stevenson then spoke on his own part and began by citing this same Supreme Court decision, and declaring “the nation’s faith in God.” He declared that the liberals in demanding the abolition of chaplaincies and all other religious exercises and religious legislation, “are seeking to conform the Government to their own opinions;” that they cite the Constitution as it reads to sustain these views; and that “in seeking to sustain our Christian institutions, we [the National Reformers] ought not to be obliged to meet the effect of the silence of the Constitution as it is employed by those who oppose us.” He said that it was not the intention of the makers of the Constitution that such use should be made of it, and mentioned “Story’s Comments on the Constitution.” But that such was precisely the intention of the makers of the Constitution, Story to the contrary notwithstanding, the history and documents of that time plainly show. See “Two Republics,” pp. 681-698.
R. J. George followed, arguing the kingship of Christ—The claims of Christ as Ruler of Nations. He declared that this is “exclusively a question of revelation,” “God has commanded all to acknowledge the Son,” Psalm 2; “God requires this honor to the Son as to the God—man;” and “this claim rests on the fact that Christ is Redeemer.” “He won the crown of thrones, and it is right he should wear the crown of glory.”
W. J. Robinson argued the “Divine claim in civil government—Civil government is supreme among men.” “It is a Christian nation. Ninety-nine one-hundredths of the people believe in the Christian religion. The Supreme Court declares this a Christian nation.” And “in a conflict between atheism and God’s Word, atheism appealing to the Constitution, eventually the Supreme Court might decide that though it is a Christian nation, it is not a Christian Government. And, therefore, this amendment is essential to assure success as a Christian Government as well as a Christian nation.
J. M. Foster argued “The Nation a Moral Person.” He went over the same ground as the others, citing the Supreme Court decision in considerable detail with precedents also, and declared that “lynch law prevails largely in the South, and although this is all forbidden by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments nothing but Christianity can stop it, and therefore there must be this Christian amendment to make the Fourteenth and the Fifteenth effective—that we may have Christianity.”
R. C. Wylie proposed to argue “The Practical Effects” of the proposed amendment. But the nearest that he got to it was to go over the ground covered by the others before him and then to declare that “As the educating power of the Constitution is great, this amendment would have a good moral effect upon the people who thing that religion and politics do not go together.”
D. B. Wilson said that “the country was settled by Christians,” “the laws are Christian and our civilization is Christian.” He asked that the amendment, as introduced, should be made to recognize in words “Christ as ruler and his revealed will as the supreme law.”
D. McAllister dwelt upon “an historical scene in the United States Senate in 1863,” when a resolution almost in the same words as this proposed amendment, and deploring “our national sins” was passed asking the President to appoint a day of humiliation and prayer. It is plain on the fact of it that the resolution cited was written, or originated at least, by a Reformed Presbyterian, probably by Mr. McAllister himself, so that it could well be cited as a precedent for the adoption of this resolution now before the committee. He said that there were no prayers offered in the sessions of the convention that framed the Constitution, and that Franklin’s motion to have prayers was defeated by adjournment, “no doubt because of a fear of the entanglements of a union of Church and State.” And that it might be “the prerogative of the committee now to go back to the Pilgrim fathers.”
Representative Morse closed the discussion by “re-affirming the statements of these learned and eloquent divines who have spoken.” He said that “petitions and telegrams by the hundreds” were being received by members in behalf of the proposed amendment. He cited the Supreme Court decision that “this is a Christian nation,” “the example of forty States” the inscription on the coins “In God We Trust,” etc., but said the Constitution makes no such recognitions. “Why should we not correct the deficiency by recognizing the name that is above very name—God Almighty and Christ as our Saviour?”
The chairman of the committee said he had received hundreds of telegrams and letters without number, calling for the adoption of the resolution; other members of the committee said they were receiving many letters and telegrams also in behalf of it.
No speeches were heard in opposition to the measure. The committee adjourned stating that as there was not a quorum present they would not declare as to hearing the opposition until their regular meeting on Friday, the 9th inst. Several persons were present to speak in opposition, and it is hoped they may be heard soon.
A. T. J.