July 3, 1889
SUNDAY evening, May 19, the Kings County Sunday Association held its seventh anniversary in Hanson Place M. E. Church, Brooklyn, New York. There were several addresses made, one by Mr. Elliott F. Shepard, president of the National Sunday Union. The annual report of the association, and Mr. Shepard’s speech, are given in the Pearl of Days column of the New York Mail and Express, of May 24, 1889. The speeches furnish some very interesting matter, which we shall have occasion to notice at different times in the columns of the SENTINEL. One of the points is contained in the statement by the secretary of the Kings County Association, that in Queens County “Sunday is a day of deviltry.” How can Sunday ever be anything else than a day of deviltry to those who are not religious, so long as they are compelled to be idle on that day? Satan finds something for idle hands to do, and when men are forced to be idle, they are going to fill up the time some way; and as they have not that regard for religion which will lead them to fill up the time with worship and devotional thought or exercises, it is inevitable that the time will be filled with worldly things; and as the law will not allow them to work, nor to play harmless games, even though they be worldly, no result can follow but that the time will be filled with deviltry, because by this system they are thrown back upon themselves for resources with which to fill the time, and from himself no ungodly roan can ever get anything but ungodliness, and ungodliness is deviltry. But this association, and the Sunday-law workers everywhere, propose to cure the deviltry by more stringent laws for the enforcement of idleness out of which the deviltry comes.
Another statement in the same live was made, that “drunkenness and public disorder are altogether too common on Sunday.” This is entirely true, and for the reason, as stated above, that on Sunday people are compelled to be idle. They are not allowed to work, they are not allowed to play, consequently drunkenness and public disorder are the only outcome from those who have not the disposition to worship and make the day one of devotion. Then in the next sentence the association innocently inquires, “If open saloons and the Sunday liquor traffic do not cause them [drunkenness and public disorder] what do?” Well, that open saloons and the Sunday liquor traffic do not cause them is certain, because there are open saloons and liquor traffic in full blast all the other days of the week, more than on Sunday, if there is any difference; and yet there is more drunkenness and public disorder on Sunday than on any other day of the week. These are facts admitted by Sunday-law workers themselves. Therefore, the increased amount of drunkenness and disorder on Sunday is not because of the open saloons, but because of the idleness. To put it somewhat in the form of a syllogism, it would be about as follows: More saloons are open every other day of the week, when men are allowed to work, than on Sunday. There is more drunkenness on Sunday, when men are compelled to be idle, than on any other day of the week. Therefore, the increased amount of drunkenness and disorder on Sunday is due to the fact that more people are idle on that day than on any other.
The Sunday-law makers can never escape this logical conclusion from their own premises. They propose to escape it by shutting the saloons altogether on Sunday; but that will not help the matter a particle, because those who want to drink will buy their whisky Saturday night and drink it on Sunday. There is another piece of unfairness that comes in right here, illustrated by an actual occurrence. In a certain town where the saloons were shut on Sunday only, a woman whose husband was given to drink stated that her lot was actually worse than when the saloons were open on Sunday; for when the saloon was open on Sunday he would get drunk at the saloon, and the saloon keeper and his other companions had to care for him till he got sober; but when the saloons were closed on Sunday, then he would bring the whisky home on Saturday night, get drunk on Sunday, and she had to take care of him till he got sober. This point is worth considering by the would-be Sunday prohibitionists.
Others again propose to cure the evil by a Saturday half holiday; that is, by enforcing idleness an extra half day. Is this so as to give those who drink ample time to get drunk and sober up in time for their Sunday worship? The whole system of Sunday laws, that is, of enforced idleness, is only one of iniquity.
A. T. J.