THE Sunday-law convention for the District of Columbia, met January 30 and 31, in the Foundry Methodist Episcopal Church, Washington, D. C.—the same church that was festooned December 11-13, 1888, with the names of fourteen million petitioners which they didn’t have. It was not festooned at all this time.
There were two lines of discussion that were made so conspicuous from the beginning to the end of the convention, as to take precedence of everything else. These two were, the strong favor to the religious Sunday, and the strong denunciations of the Seventh-day Adventists.
The convention, as advertised, was held in the interests of “the American Civil Sabbath,” but as often as anything was said in favor of a civil day, it was promptly met and contradicted by strong arguments for a religious day and for legislation in the interests of religion and the Church.
The very first speech made in the convention distinctly named the Seventh-day Adventists, and denounced them as the strongest opponents of Sunday laws, who are spreading literature everywhere, and who are holding conventions and sending speakers throughout the country; and from that moment to the end of the convention there was not one meeting, and but very few speeches, in which the same thing was not kept up, and at times most bitterly. This was so manifest as to create in the minds of many an inquiry to know who are the Seventh-day Adventists? and why it should be that a people who were declared to be so few as to be “less than seven-tenths of one per cent.” could be of so much importance as to occupy so much of the attention of the convention.
The first meeting, Thursday evening at 7:30, was opened with the reading of Deuteronomy 5:6, and prayer by Rev. A. W. Pitzer. In the prayer he said to the Lord, “Thou hast commanded that one-seventh of man’s time shall be cut off to be devoted to God.” “Bless this Association in its endeavor to bring all to the recognition of God.” And thus the convention was launched in the interests of the “civil Sabbath.”
The first speech was by Mr. Crafts, who gave what he said were facts as to the origin of the movement to secure a Sunday, law for the District of Columbia. He said that the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, in the endeavor to prevent further scandal in the matter of digging in the streets on Sunday, learned that there was no law to prevent servile labor on the Sabbath. This is partially true of the city of Washington, but as the foregoing columns show, it is not true of the District of Columbia; and the District law is of force in the city. He next entered a complaint of dishonorable warfare, against the citizens’ meeting which had been held in the city to discuss the Breckinridge bill. He laid all this to the blame of the Seventh-day Adventists, and siad [sic.] that the exception in their favor in the Breckinridge bill is “generous to a fault. If there is any fault in the bill it is in being too generous” to those who observe another day than Sunday. He then declared that he spoke “for honorable warfare;” but when requested by a Luthern pastor of the city to allow him to say a few words upon the bill, Mr. Crafts promptly and decidedly informed him that “This is not a debating club,” and that he could not speak in the convention. And when the editor of the AMERICAN SENTINEL, had been denounced personally by name by one of the speakers, and he calmly requested, merely as a matter of privilege, to be allowed to reply to the personality, he was threatened with arrest. And that is the kind of honorable warfare that is characteristic of the American Sabbath Union.
The next speech was by Hon. Nelson R. Dingley, M. C., from Maine. His was a religious speech throughout. It was for “the Sabbath as God gave it.” It was for the enforced observance of the “Christian Sabbath.” He declared that “the Christian Sabbath is made for man;” and that “where you find a young man who disregards worship and the Sabbath, you find the moral fibre of the young man is weakened”; and that this “is a question that will grow until the whole Nation shall realize that the Christian Sabbath and free government stand or fall together.”
The next speech was by Hon. James Buchanan, M. C., of New Jersey. He began with a little passage between himself and Mr. Crafts involving certain points in the game of whist, which we do not understand. He then said he believed most thoroughly in the separation of Church and State, but not of morals and the State. He said he is a Baptist, and remembers the evils inflicted upon the Baptists in Colonial days, and consequently he “cannot vote for the Sunday bill for the observance of the Christian Sabbath but can vote for such a bill compelling one day of rest in seven; I cannot vote for it as the law of God, but can vote for it for the good of my fellowmen,” Mr. Buchanan seems to think that the effect of such a bill will depend; altogether upon the sense in which he votes for it. But when the bill is religious in itself, and those who framed it and who work most for it do so because it is religious, and because it is the law of God, his voting for it “for the good of men,” will not in the least deprive it of its religious character. And when the legislation works only  for evil and for oppression, the oppression will not be relieved a particle, nor can Mr. Buchanan relieve himself of the responsibility, by any such plea as that he voted for it for another purpose. It is a thing that pleases the leaders in this cause, as much as anything else can, that such men as Mr. Buchanan, and anybody else who can be induced to support it, will work for it and vote for it, for other reasons and for another object than those for which the promoters of it intend to use it. This only makes so much the more certain the passage of the bill. The enactment of the law which puts power into their hands is what they want, and whatever will help to accomplish that is pleasing to them, it matters not what the reason is for which it is done. If Mr. Buchanan really remembers the oppression of the Baptists in Colonial days, he can easily remember that this oppression was visited on them for the same reason precisely that he proposes to vote for Sunday laws—“for humanity’s sake!”
The next speaker was Rev. J. H. Elliott, D. D. of Washington City. He spoke on “Civil Sunday Laws” from the text, “Sundays Excepted,” as it stands in the Constitution of the United States. He argued for the constitutionality of national Sunday laws, from the precedents of the State Constitutions, statutes and decisions; but betrayed the nature of such laws by saying that the Constitution of Massachusetts omitted the phrase “Sundays excepted,” but atoned for the omission by requiring that the governor shall be a Christian: and further by arguing that when Congress adopted the laws of Maryland, as the laws of the District of Columbia, it adopted the Sunday laws of Maryland. (Yes it did, and see what else was adopted in company with Sunday laws, which fully shows the certain religious nature of Sunday laws.) He closed his speech on civil Sunday laws by the following peroration, “When our ships furl their sails in the harbors of the islands of the sea, we want the Sabbath stillness to tell of the day of rest and of the Nation’s God.”
The next speaker was Rev. George Elliot, author of “The Abiding Sabbath,” and pastor of the church where the convention was held. The important part of his speech was his denunciation of the chief opponents of Sunday laws as “a little sect of narrow-minded bigots, who have joined hands with atheists, secularests [sic.], and foul-mouthed socialists, to strike down the institution which we are asking the people to preserve, by the vilest methods of Jesuitism and falsehood, by bare-faced misrepresentation and by the deepest intrigue.” This he explained was “only prophetic fury,” and regretted that the time would not allow of his pouring out much more of the same kind, of which he was evidently brim full. With this gentle display of “prophetic fury” the first meeting adjourned.
The meeting Thursday forenoon was opened by Chaplain Butler, of the United States Senate, with the reading of Psalm 97, and Matthew 12:1-12; and with prayer in which he asked the Lord to “Bless all this work that we may have the God-appointed day, and that the Sabbath may be kept holy. May the President and Cabinet, and both houses of Congress be of one heart with us in bringing about the observance of the day.” And so the work in behalf of the civil Sabbath was taken up again.
The subject for discussion at this meeting was “The Best Methods of Sabbath Reform Work.” It was opened by Mrs. Catlin, of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, who spoke very briefly. The next was by Mr. L. C. Inglis, of the Maryland Sunday Association. His also was a religious speech and argument throughout. He said that “to distinguish between the commandment of God and the welfare of man was only to make a distinction without a difference.” He said, that first, the work must begin with the Church and that “the gospel is the panacea for all these ills;” and second, must have also the aid of “the restraining power of law, and even this is to be viewed as educative.” He closed with the reading of Isaiah 58:13, 14.
The next speech was by Mr. Crafts, who began by saying that they were, “trying to meet the Seventh-day Adventists by two methods,” the first of which is “a syndicate of contributors,” through what is known among printers as the patent inside. This is matter written, set up and stereotyped, and then sent out to the newspapers that print that kind of matter. That is a most excellent place to put the productions of the American Sunday Law Union, because hardly one person in a dozen who understands that process ever reads a patent inside. The other “method” is by the publication of quarterly documents by the Union itself. The question was then asked him, “Is it proposed in the minds of those who favor this law, to stop at once all street cars? And is it to run out into and cover all those things which are now done under what is known as secular work. And how is it to be enforced?” The answer was that “the enforcement of the law will be for the commissioners and police. And if they fail to enforce it then citizens will form law and order leagues. Street cars, etc., will fall under the phrase secular or else mercy and necessity;” but the running of street cars is not necessary “because they take more people away from church than they bring to it.”
The next thing in order was the election of seven additional members of the District Committee and the officers of the District Union. The seven additional members were elected by two, and the officers by three, unanimous votes, and that is all the votes that were given.
The afternoon meeting was begun with a speech by Mr. Crafts on “The Two War Measures—Sunday mails and Sunday trains.” This was followed by an address—the only real fair-minded, consistent address of the whole convention—by Rev. T. S. Hamlin, D.D., of Washington City. He said, “The law ought not to control the resting of one seventh part of time. But to have an unbroken Sabbath if we want it, and how we shall use it when we have it, these are matters for individual decision. The chief danger to the observance of the Lord’s day is not from the breaking of law, nor from the lack of law, but from the social customs of society. There is growing up a social movement that chooses to spend the morning at worship, and that much in a perfunctory way; and then spend the afternoon in social pleasure. Dinners are given, receptions are held. This cannot be reached by law. It is a matter of individual concern. The law cannot say that I shall not give a dinner or accept an invitation. I do not agree with the constitution of the Sabbath Union. In the freedom of Christianity we are left each one to use the day for his own good. There is nothing said as to whether we shall go to church, or read the Bible, or what we shall do.” “In this District, without law, there is a remarkable observance of the day of rest. People who have traveled much tell me that Washington is phenomenal in its observance of day.”
The next speech was by Rev. James Stacey, D.D., of Newman, Georgia. This speech was wholly religious. He said, “These are two war measures indeed! Warring against the Church. The Sunday train and the Sunday newspaper are the worst instruments of the powers of darkness.” He likened these to “The kangaroo leaping from his lair, and without any signs of satiety sucks its [the Sunday’s] life blood.” This was exceedingly apt, especially as the kangaroo is a ruminant—eats herbage and chews the cud! He declared that “the commandment was not primarily to rest, but to worship. And as the Constitution guarantees the right to worship, we demand that it also guarantee the time. For what use is the right to worship without the time?”
The next speech was by Rev. Sylvanus Stall, of Baltimore. His, also, was wholly religious. He declared that “God on Sinai said ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,’ and there is no necessity now that there was not then. From Saturday night at 12 to Sunday night at 12, let the day be so observed.” “If corporations have neither souls nor characters, individuals have both; and if corporations cannot appear at the throne of God, the men who hold the stock must.” “Back of this question lies the voice of the Almighty. It cannot be decided by argument. God has not left this question to human reason. God has declared “Remember the Sabbath day to  keep it holy,’ and there it stands, because God has declared it. Right shall prevail. The civil Sabbath shall be preserved. Let those in the Senate and House, who are afraid, stand aside. Let those who stand for God and right and humanity stand, and God will give the victory. It is God’s cause, and it must prevail.”
The next speech was by Mr. Dewey, of the Knights of Labor, who declared that they “want two days,—one for worship and one for rest”; and (he did not say here but he has,said it before) they want full pay for both days—seven days’ pay for five days’ work.
The next speaker was Rev. L. W. Bates, of Georgetown, D. C. His speech was also entirely religious, based the Sunday on religious grounds, and demanded it for religious reasons. He calls for the Sunday law because, “Thus saith the Lord. God has told us how to keep the Sabbath. It is as binding on us as it was on Moses. I would deprecate the duty of attending the funeral of one of the members of my church who had met his death while engaged in Sunday pleasure.”
The evening meeting was addressed by the Rev. F. D. Power, D.D., of Washington; Rev. W. A. Bartlett, D.D.; Hon. C. P. Wickham, M. C., of Ohio; and Hon. Elijah A. Morse, M. C., of Massachusetts. Dr. Power argued strongly for the governmental enforcement of the Christian Sabbath, in return for the good the Church does, and the help it is to the State. He said, “God will not hold that man nor that nation guiltless which despises his grace.”
Dr. Bartlett urged the Sabbath as a Christian institution, and laws for its enforcement, “because it is the conservator good government.”
Mr. Wickham declared that “what day shall be observed has. nothing at all to do with this question or this convention. We must keep within the civil bounds. This is a civil act. If we put this in human law, it must be on human ground. It comes within the police power. It has no relation to the religious observance of a day.” He then read from a decision written by Allen G. Thurman, when a member of the Supreme Court of Ohio, to the effect that Sunday laws do not rest on a religious basis; and which, to sustain its statements, cites decisions of Pennsylvania and South Carolina which do rest on a religious basis wholly.
The last speech of the convention was by Mr. Morse, who traced the Puritan Sunday back through the Dark Ages to Constantine, and declared that it in common with the commands “Thou shalt not kill,” and “Thou shalt not steal,” is “of divine origin.” He declared that to reform the wicked city of Nineveh, Jonah preached to them to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.” And to reform the city of Babylon, Daniel did the same thing. He then said, “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day; and a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God.
“When the street railroad compelled men to break the fourth commandment, they had next to invent bell-punches to keep them from breaking the eighth. Who knows but what if the car-wheels and locomotives had rested on the preceding Sunday that terrible accident would not have happened?” “When, in my grandfather’s day, in Midland, Massachusetts, they begun the Sabbath at sundown Saturday night, the people could go to sleep without fear. Now we have to buy locks for our doors.” And then in a Puritan sing-song tone, he said, “I will stand in my place and vote for any law to prevent the desecration of the holy Sabbath.
‘Day of all the week the best,
Emblem of eternal rest.’
‘If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.’”
A vote was then taken on instructing the officers of the convention to indorse the Breckinridge bill for the assembly. The noes were as loud and about as numerous as were the ayes; but the chairman got clear of that by coolly deciding that those who voted against it were not members of the convention; and therefore their report in the paper was that the bill “was indorsed unanimously by a rising vote.”
Thus was conducted and thus was closed the convention held in the interests of “the American civil Sabbath.”
A. T. J.