“Sunday Enforcement in Georgia” American Sentinel 14, 20, pp. 303-305.

HARDLY a week goes by that does not see the Sunday issue brought to the front in one State or another of this greatest of republican governments. North, south, east, and west, the agitation for Sunday enforcement is in progress, and he who will pause to consider the movement as a whole, will be deeply impressed with its significance.

In Pennsylvania there is a union of the federation of churches, with the largest and most powerful workingmen’s association, which is making Sunday enforcement a leading issue there. In Michigan the legislature is considering the question of more stringent Sunday legislation; the same is true of Rhode Island; and now in Georgia, in the leading city of the State, a crusade is in progress for the strict enforcement of the existing Sunday laws. From the Atlanta Constitution we gather some noteworthy facts in connection with this crusade.

In the Constitution of May 1st we note the following:—

“The police yesterday made a swoop upon all classes, [304] all colors, all businesses—big merchants, small dealers, ice cream peddlers, bootblacks, showmen, fruit venders, pop sellers,—and all were asked to show cause why they should not be fined in the recorder’s court for keeping open doors on the Sabbath. The sellers of cigars and tobacco, cigarettes, flowers, candy, fruit, groceries, and sundries were all told that they must appear in the police court this morning as defendants.

“Fifty names were spread upon the police docket, making, with the regular run of business, the biggest Sunday’s work the police have ever done in Atlanta.

“The city ordinance under which the police are working is as following:—

“‘SECTION 722.—Any merchant, billiard-table, or ten-pin-alley keeper or other dealer who shall keep open doors on the Sabbath day for trade or traffic on that day, or any person who shall work or in anywise labor or cause work to be done on the Sabbath day (except it be work of necessity) shall be fined in a sum not exceeding $100 and costs or be imprisoned in the calaboose or common jail of said county not more than thirty days, in the discretion of the court; provided, that the mayor and general council may not punish for violating the State laws on the Sabbath day, and provided further, that the above shall not prevent the sale of soda water on the Sabbath day by those who may have paid for selling the same and who are entitled to keep open doors on the Sabbath day.’”

The moving spirit which is behind this crusade means that it shall do thorough work, as is evident from the nature of some of the cases brought before the court. The Constitution notes that there were some “special cases,” and among these makes mention of this:—

“Albert Thomas was arrested for driving his team faster than a walk while passing the First Methodist Church Sunday morning during services.”

Also this:—

“While the investigation was going on yesterday an officer saw a watchmaker engaged, as he thought, in repairing a watch on the Sabbath day. The matter was reported to the captain and a case was ordered. When a closer investigation was made it was ascertained that the watchmaker was assorting a lot of fish hooks preparatory to going fishing this morning. He was not disturbed, but he was the only lucky one in the whole batch of Sunday suspects.”

These fifty cases were tried before the recorder the next morning, and all the defendants were found guilty, but were not fined, this being their “first offense.” The recorder let is be known that the Sunday law was henceforth not a dead letter, and would be strictly enforced. This decision, says the Constitution, “carries with it a revolution of the Sunday business in Atlanta.”

No side shows in the parks are to be allowed on Sunday, and even the Sunday blacking of shoes by boot-blacks is made a crime.

The arrests made included those of “two of the largest cigar and tobacco dealers in the city,” who, “with all other dealers, have been selling their goods on Sundays for many years without molestation.” With this is [305] connected a peculiar though characteristic feature of Sunday legislation.

These tobacco dealers were arrested not because they sold cigars and tobacco on Sunday; this is allowed by the law. The offense—the “desecration of the Sabbath”—as regards tobacco dealers, consists in the sale of other articles known as “tobacco dealers’ supplies,” in which are included such articles as canes and umbrellas. In Atlanta, the law prohibits the Sunday opening of tobacco stores where these “supplies” are kept in stock, so that a sale of them on Sunday would be possible. The tobacco dealers of the city, in view of this, have petitioned the mayor and city council for an amendment which will permit them to open shop “on the Sabbath day” for the sale of tobacco, “provided that they do not sell such canes and umbrellas on the Sabbath day.” It is thought this petition will be granted.

We say this is characteristic of Sunday legislation, for the Sunday sale of tobacco is everywhere allowed by the Sunday laws, as an article of “necessity.”

Why is the Sunday sale of tobacco considered a necessity? Is tobacco one of the necessaries of life?—No; for we know thousands of people who never touch it. We know people who were formerly addicted to its use who now get on much better without it; and we know of people to whom a “necessity” of life was that they discontinue its use. We read almost daily of people who are killed or seriously injured by tobacco indulgence. In the face of such facts no one can say there is any truth or reason back of the idea that tobacco is a necessity.

Tobacco is considered a necessity by the Sunday laws simply because the use of tobacco is so nearly universal that the great majority of the people will not tolerate any restrictions upon its sale. They want their tobacco and they must have it, on Sunday as on any other day. The sale of other things may be restricted; but a restriction upon tobacco is an interference with appetite, and men will not tolerate an interference with appetite. And so public sentiment, upon which human law depends, will not permit any Sunday ban upon tobacco.

And thus it comes that tobacco is permitted to be sold on Sundays as an article of necessity, while food and clothing are prohibited. A thing which is an injury to the human system, which never saves life but often destroys it, and which ministers only to appetite, is put by the Sunday laws above the food and clothing which really are necessaries of life, and the sale of which on Sunday night often contribute to the saving of life under various circumstances. And this is done in the name of Christianity—in the name of the “sanctity of the Sabbath”!

Reader—if you happen to be a citizen of Georgia, or if you favor the Sunday laws, whether you live in Georgia or elsewhere—can you feel free to uphold such inconsistency in the name of your religion? Can you believe [305] that a righteous God approves it? Can you not see, upon a candid examination of them, that the Sunday laws bear the stamp of the human—that there is stamped on them the inconsistency and injustice of fallen human nature, instead of the righteousness of the all-wise God?

The Sabbath law of God—the fourth precept of the Decalogue—bears the stamp of the wisdom and justice of the infinite mind. Could there possibly be a better Sabbath law than that,—one better adapted to the conditions or human life? Ought not this law to be enforced in preference to any other that can be passed? And is not this Sabbath law actually in force to-day? Has not the Creator power to enforce his own law? and can any but divine power enforce a divine law?

Where the wisdom of God is, where is there room for the wisdom of man? Where the power of God is, where is there room for the power of man? Where the Sabbath of God is, where is there room for the sabbath of man? And the Sabbath of the Lord is everywhere, even as far as the jurisdiction of his law extends.

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