January 23, 1890
HERE is a copy of the Breckinridge Sunday Bill for the District of Columbia, which was introduced in the House of Representatives, January 6, 1890:—
A BIL TO PREVENT PERSONS FROM BEING FORCED TO LABOR ON SUNDAY
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That it shall be unlawful for any person or corporation, or employee of any person or corporation in the District of Columbia, to perform any secular labor or business, or to cause the same to be performed by any person in their employment on Sunday, except works of necessity or mercy; nor shall it be lawful for any person or corporation to receive pay for labor or services performed or rendered in violation of this act.
From the title of this bill it seems that there is enforced labor being carried on in the District of Columbia. It seems that there is involuntary service being required of people there: because it says that this is “a bill to prevent persons from being forced to labor on Sunday.” If it be true that there is in the District of Columbia any forced labor, any involuntary service required on Sunday or any other day, everybody so oppressed, has an ample refuge already supplied.
Article XIII of Amendments to the Constitution of the United States declares that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Now the District of Columbia is exclusively within the jurisdiction of the United States; therefore, if there is any forced labor or involuntary service anywhere in the District of Columbia, on Sunday or any other day, all that is necessary for any to do who are so oppressed, is to present their plea, under this article, to any court there and the whole power of the United States Government will be exerted, if necessary, to release them from such forced labor or involuntary servitude. There is no such thing going on, however, in the District of Columbia; consequently there is no opportunity for any appeal to the United States under the provisions of this article of the Constitution.
The truth is, that the title to this bill, like that to the national bill by Senator Blair, is a misleading thing. It appears very innocent, and it would be innocent if it were true that anybody was being forced to labor on Sunday. But no such thing exists in the District of Columbia nor anywhere else in the United States. Nor does the bill in fact contemplate any such thing, nor is it in fact a remedy for any such offense. Because the body of the bill, which is supposed to express how the object, as defined in the title, shall be carried into effect, not only prohibits everybody from causing work to be performed on Sunday, but it also prohibits everybody from doing even voluntarily any work on Sunday. The body of the bill prohibits the people of the District of Columbia from voluntarily laboring on Sunday, while the  title of the bill distinctly says that it is a bill to prevent persons from being forced to labor on Sunday. The title of the bill and the body of the bill do not agree. And as the body of the bill expresses the intention of those who want it passed, and as the title of the bill does not agree with the body of it, it is thereby proved that the title is intentionally misleading. It is put there as it is, to cover up the real purpose of the bill itself. We repeat, there is nobody in the District of Columbia that is forced to labor on Sunday. If anybody works there on Sunday it is voluntarily that they do it, and if it is not for themselves but for others that they do the work they are not even asked to do it without pay, much less are they forced to do it.
This is perfectly known by those who have asked that this bill be introduced. They know that anybody in the District of Columbia or anywhere else is at perfect liberty to refuse to work on Sunday. And they likewise know that such persons are in no danger of losing anything by refusing to work on Sunday. Mr. Crafts is one of the principal advocates of this measure and yet he has printed, for years, in his book, “The Sabbath for Man,” page 428, these words:—
Among other printed questions to which I have collected numerous answers, was this one: “Do you know of any instance where a Christian’s refusing to do Sunday work, or Sunday trading has resulted in his financial ruin?” Of the two hundred answers from persons representing all trades and professions, not one is affirmative. [And the italics are his own.] A western editor thinks that a Christian whose refusal to do Sunday work has resulted in his financial ruin, would be as great a curiosity as “the missing link.” There are instances in which men have lost places by refusing to do Sunday work, but they have usually found other places as good or better.—With some there has been “temporary self-sacrifice but ultimate betterment.” … I never knew a case, nor can I find one in any quarter of the globe, where even beggary, much less starvation, has resulted from courageous and conscientious fidelity to the Sabbath. Even in India, where most of the business community is heathen, missionaries testify that loyalty to the Sabbath in the end brings no worldly loss. On the other hand, incidents have come to me by the score, of those who have gained, even in their worldly prosperity, by daring to do right in the matter of Sunday work.
Following this extract, Mr. Crafts fills six pages of his book with instances sustaining the statements which we have quoted. Therefore, in the face of their own testimony that no financial loss follows a refusal to do Sunday work, the plea that men are forced to work on Sunday is a fraud; and to pretend that men are so oppressed by being forced to work on Sunday that they must needs be relieved by the national power, is a wicked imposture. This evidence from the chiefest advocate of Sunday laws is further proof that the title of the Breckinridge Bill is intentionally disingenuous.
This bill, also, as Senator Blair’s, forbids any person or corporation to perform any secular labor or business on Sunday.
As the SENTINEL is constantly going to thousands of new readers, we reprint here our comments upon this clause in the Blair Bill.
Secular means, “pertaining to this present world, or to things not spiritual or holy; relating to things not immediately or primarily respecting the soul but the body; worldly.” Therefore this bill proposes to prohibit all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States from performing or authorizing to be performed on Sunday any work, labor, or business pertaining to this present world or to things not spiritual or holy. It proposes to prohibit them from performing any work, labor, or business relating immediately or primarily to the body, (works of necessity, mercy, and humanity excepted) to prohibit them from doing anything worldly, that is, pertaining to this world or to this life. Consequently, the only kind of works that can properly be done on Sunday under that bill are works that pertain to another world, works that pertain to things spiritual or holy, works respecting the soul, and the life to come.
Now we should like for some of these Sunday-law folks to tell us how the Congress of the United States is going to find out, so as authoritatively to state, what work, labor, or business it is that properly pertains to another world, on Sunday or at any other time. More than this, we should like for them to tell us how Congress is to find out whether there is any other world than this, and especially how it is to find this out and make it to be so clearly discerned that the recognition of it can be enforced by law upon all the people? We should like, also, for some of these to tell how Congress is to discover what work it is that properly pertains to the people’s souls on Sunday; or indeed, whether the people have any souls? How is Congress to know whether there is a life to come? And if Congress shall discover all this to its own satisfaction, then will Congress insure to all the people a happy issue in that life to come, upon condition that they will observe the Sunday laws?
These are not captious questions, they are entirely pertinent. For when it is proposed that this Nation by legislative acts shall commit itself to the guardianship of the affairs of the world to come, of men’s souls, and of another life; and when the people are asked to consent to it; it is strictly proper for the people to inquire, How shall the State make that thing a success?
The truth is, that the State can never have anything to do with the world to come or with the question as to whether there is any life to come at all. The State can never have anything to do with men’s souls or with the question as to whether men have any souls. The State can never have anything to do with the life to come or with the question as to whether there is any life to come. No State will ever reach the world to come nor will any State ever, in the least degree, be partaker of the life that is to come. The State is of this world wholly, it has to do only with the affairs of this world, and with men as they are in this world. The State has to do only with men’s bodies, and to see that the lives which men lead are civil. By these considerations it is clearly seen that this Sunday bill at the very first step leads the civil government into a field where it is impossible for it to have any jurisdiction.
Nor do we raise these questions because we doubt that there is another there is another world or that that is a life to come. We are fully persuaded that there is both another world and a life to come. But the discerning of this is a matter of faith, and that on the part of each individual for himself alone. Nobody on this earth can discern or decide this for anybody else. We thoroughly believe that there is both another world and a life to come, and anybody in this world has an equal right not to believe it if he chooses so to do. We have the right to believe this without the sanction of the Government; and any other man has a right not to believe it without any interference by the Government. We deny the right of any of the Senators or Representatives in Congress ro decide any of these matters for anybody.
Further than this, it is claimed by the advocates of Sunday laws that they do not propose to compel people, or even try to compel them, by law to be religious. Yet, in both these bills which they have had presented in the present Congress, they intend to have everybody forbidden to perform any labor or business pertaining to this present world or to things not spiritual or holy; to prohibit everybody from performing any work relating immediately or primarily to the body, or to this life. And when all that is done, or the only thing that is left, that anybody is allowed to do on Sunday, is work that pertains to another world; work that pertains to another world; work that pertains to the soul; and to the life to come; and every one of these things is wholly in the realm of the religious. We have heard of a man who was shut up to a choice between the devil and the deep sea. Those who shut him up there might have claimed that they didn’t compel him to go to the devil nor yet to the deep sea, because he was left perfectly free to make his own choice. Yet, so far as the freedom of choice goes, that man was just as well off, as the people of the District of Columbia would be under this bill; because they will be shut up to a choice between doing absolutely nothing and doing works of religion.
Nor are we sure that the people of the District of Columbia will not be actually worse off than was this other man. It is  not certain at all that they will be left free to choose whether they will do nothing or do works of religion; because if men choose to do nothing at all, that will be only idleness, and Mr. Crafts declares in his book, page 373, that “idleness, as well as business is Sabbath breaking.” The object of the American Sabbath Union, and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, is to secure Sabbath keeping, not Sabbath breaking, in the District of Columbia and the Nation; therefore any man, who, under this bill should exercise his right of choice and do nothing, would be a Sabbath-breaker. And as the object of these people is to secure Sabbath keeping, it is not at all certain that such a person would be left free to proceed freely on his course of Sabbath breaking. But, by the very easiest construction that could be put upon such a law, it is certain that under it, everybody would be forced either to break the Sabbath or to do works of religion; would be forced either to be wicked or to be religious. To compel people by law to do either of these things is wicked. Therefore, the proposed District Sunday law, the proposed national Sunday law, and every other Sunday law that ever was, are evil in themselves. By such laws civil government is forced into a field where it is impossible to do that which it sets about to do. By such laws civil government undertakes to secure that which can be secured by the Lord alone, by his Spirit upon the individual conscience.
As we have proved the effect of such a law upon those who are not religious nor inclined to perform works of religion on Sunday is to compel them to be idle. This is to be enforced by a penalty of “not more than a hundred dollars for every offense.” Idleness is the prolific cause of dissipation, vice, and crime. Honest occupation on Sunday or any other time is better than idleness, and to enforce idleness under a penalty of a hundred dollars, as by this bill, or a thousand dollars as by the national bill, is to put just that large a premium upon dissipation, vice and crime. And that society can never afford.
The District bill, as the national, has a proviso also, excepting from the provisions of this act persons who conscientiously believe and observe any other day of the week than Sunday as a day of rest.” This, as said Mrs. Catlin, Superintendent of Sabbath Observance Department of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union for the District of Columbia, is directed at those who keep the seventh day as the Sabbath, and for the purpose of “taking the wind out of their sails” and thus stopping their opposition to Sunday laws. But the opposition of the seventh-day people as we understand it, is not because these are Sunday laws particularly, but because it is religious legislation of itself, whether it be in favor of Sunday or any other day. As we understand it, the Christians who keep the seventh day would be just as much opposed to such legislation in favor of Saturday as they are to this. They act wholly upon the principle of the thing and not from the policy at all. It, therefore, remains to be seen whether the wind can be taken out of their sails by any such device.
This District bill is of more importance to the people at large than many are apt to think. Because, if Congress can legislate upon this subject for the District of Columbia, it can legislate upon, the same subject to the full extent of the national jurisdiction. If Congress can legislate upon the subject at all, it can do so to the full extent of the national power. Therefore, if the people at large sit quietly and let the matter be passed without protest for the District of Columbia, they cannot protest when the same power is carried beyond the District of Columbia. The whole Nation is interested in this just as much as though it was a national bill direct. Let the whole Nation speak here! Let it speak promptly and decidedly, against any legislation by Congress touching matters pertaining to another world, to things spiritual or holy, to the soul, to another life or anything pertaining to religion. Let the Constitution be respected both in the District of Columbia and in all the Nation in its declaration that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” And let all the people say, Amen.
A. T. J.