IN our discussion of the Sunday bill now before Congress, and which we reprinted in our issue of last week, we called attention to the evident fact that it did not in any sense express the real purposes of its framers. We pointed out that it had been toned down to the lowest point, expressly to secure its passage if possible, and then, having the Government committed to the principle, afterward bring forward their real purposes and secure their embodiment in law. It will be of interest to our readers to have the statements of the framers of the bill themselves to this effect.
December 18, there was held in Washington, D. C., the National Convention of the “Woman’s Sabbath Alliance,” in which the discussion and endorsement of this bill was the principal business. But two resolutions were passed. The first was to ask “pastors of churches to give at least one service during the year to the subject of Sabbath observance.” The other one was the following:
“(2) Resolved, That we endorse the bill proposed by the Churchman’s League and approved by the District Commissioners for the observance of the Sabbath in the District, and pray that it, or some other, adapted to the needs of the city, may become a law.”
The first speaker was Bishop Satterlee, who spoke of the bill as follows:—
“I want to say a few words about this bill that has just been introduced into Congress. Of course this country is made up of many men of many minds; and I think that all civilization tells us that it is very unwise for a government to pass a law that the people will not, or cannot fulfill—that will become inoperative. Lord Salisbury said a very profound truth in one very small sentence some years ago when he said, ‘One of the first points for a ruler to consider, or a Prime minister to consider, is not what is ideally best, but what is best under the present circumstances.’ You will probably find that the bill will not satisfy the ladies, and it does not satisfy its promoters; but it is the best we can get. This bill, it seems to me, is very good. It does not satisfy me, or you; but if we all unite upon it, let us use all our influence in its favor. It will be a great gain if this bill is passed, at least I think so. Perhaps those who are behind me will speak in a different way regarding it.”
Bishop Satterlee was followed by Bishop Hurst, who, however, avoided saying anything about the bill. In this he was wise. Bishop Hurst was followed by Professor Whitman, who, of the bill and what is expected of it, said:—
“There is no more important thing for us to bear in mind than that the things we are doing in Washington are known and read of all men. Most cities can do things for themselves—by themselves. The doings of Washington are National doings. It is therefore a matter of great satisfaction to all of us who are interested in the well being, who are interested practically in the well being, the enterprise, the best good of this country, to feel that all Christian people, all well disposed people, are joining hands in the interest of the bill that has been spoken of this morning.
“I endorse very heartily the words that have been spoken. The bill is not an ideal bill considered from the Christian point of view; but it is a very much better bill than it seemed likely we could get. We can get no farther in this matter than we can carry the common sense of the community. Far better to have no law at all on the question of the Sabbath, than that we should have a law on the Sabbath that is continually violated.
“A law generally marks the highest point that sentiment has reached. The utmost that a law can serve ordinarily is as a sort of bulwark. Every statute must serve as a sort of safeguard and give us a point to which we can continually refer, that we can keep the public sentiment up to that point. I rejoice therefore that it has been possible to enlist Christian men and women of all beliefs in our city in defence of the bill to which reference has been made—for the names that are behind this bill area simply representative names.
“This is important. It is a significant thing. Public attention has been called to the fact that the President’s proclamation this year at Thanksgiving is the first pronounced Christian recognition of Thanksgiving which our Government has ever made. And I know no other way to account for this advance over previous years than as an appeal to the general sentiment which has been growing in favor of the recognition of God as the central fact of our national life. I think the proclamation is at once a repetition of that sentiment, and a concession to it.
“It is of the utmost importance for all these reasons, that we push on in the lines indicated.”
So, then, “A bill to further protect the first day of the week as a day of rest” and which distinctly declares that “This Act shall not be construed … to prevent the sale of malt and spiritous liquors as now provided by law”—that ” is a very good bill.” Yes, it undoubtedly is a very good bill for the liquor traffic. And “it will be a great gain, if this bill is passed.” Yes, it will certainly be a great gain to the liquor business. For when everybody is forbidden, under penalty of from five to fifty dollars, to engage in any kind of honest labor, play, sport, pastime, or diversion, on Sunday while the bill makes this express provision for the liquor traffic, there can be no room for doubt that it will be an immense gain to the liquor business, if this bill is passed.
No, certainly, “This bill is not an ideal bill considered from a Christian point of view;” but it can be hardly anything less than an ideal bill from the whiskey point of view; from the point of view of idleness, carousal and deviltry.
And Dr. Whitman rejoices “that it has been possible to enlist Christian men and women of all beliefs in our city [of Washington] in defense of the bill.” He and everybody else ought to be ashamed of it.
Yes, it is an important and a significant thing that “the names that are behind this bill are simply representative names.” It is a pity and a disgrace that these representative names of professed Christians should represent so much favor to the liquor traffic and its baleful accompaniments, that they would deliberately frame a bill prohibiting honest labor while at the same time exempting and sanctioning the sale of malt and spirituous liquors, on Sunday, if it is only “provided for by law.”