April 17, 1889
DR. CRAFTS wrote to the Detroit Free Press February 17, stating some of the objects of the National Sunday bill, and the Free Press replied:—
“If our correspondent will bear in mind that in the eye of the federal law, as well as of the Federal Constitution, Sunday has no other status than Saturday, or any other day of the week, he will possibly see what the assumption of power for which he asks would involve. It would involve the possibility of prohibiting the running of trains between States on any day in the week, and, consequently, upon all days in the week, which is an absurdity. It involves another, and, if possible a greater absurdity—the power to compel the running of inter-State trains upon every day in the week, and as many times a day as Congress may direct.
“There has never been, that we are aware of, any serious claim that the congressional power referred to extended thus far, and we have no fears that Congress will make any such claim. That body is quite as likely, we should think, under the pretense of regulating inter-State commerce, to prohibit the running of smoking-cars on inter-State trains, or the chewing of gum by passengers thereon, or the sale of peanuts for more than five cents a pint. We do not mean to intimate for a moment that these subjects have any natural affinity for, or connection with, Sunday rest. But we do mean to assert that it would be just as ridiculous for Congress, under the pretense of exercising its regulative power over commerce between the States, to prohibit the running of trains on Sunday as it would to enact the other prohibitions suggested.”
Further, Dr. Crafts had said that the Constitution contains a Sunday-Rest law for the President. The Free Press made to this the singular reply that the Constitution makes no mention of Sunday, and commended to Dr. Crafts a re-examination of the Constitution. We approve of the recommendation of the Free Press, that the Doctor should examine the Constitution more closely; but if the Free Press had examined the Constitution as closely as it asks Dr. Crafts to, it ought to know that it does make mention of Sunday. True, it does not make mention of Sunday in any such a way as Dr. Crafts would make out, as enacting a Sunday law; but it does mention Sunday, and says that “if any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sunday excepted) after it is presented to him, the same shall be a law in like manner as if he had signed it, unless Congress by their adjournment prevent its return.” But so far from this intending to be a law regulating the rest of the President, it is simply a recognition of the right of the President to keep Sunday religiously if he choose. In this they Constitution recognizes the fact that the President may be one who regards Sunday as a holy day, and respects his conscientious convictions, as it now does of every man, by providing that he shall not be compelled to count Sunday amongst the number of business days. The Constitution of the United States recognizes the right of every man to observe Sunday if he wishes, and it recognizes the right not to keep it if he choose. It respects a man’s conscientious convictions, whether he be a Christian or not a Christian. This is the sole meaning of the expression, “Sunday excepted.” But the query is, How could the Detroit Free Press ever have made such a mistake as to say that the Constitution makes no mention of Sunday? The Constitution of the United States is worthy of a good deal more study than ninety-nine out of every one hundred people in the United States ever give to it.
A. T. J.