January 9, 1890
DECEMBER 9, 1888, Senator Blair of New Hampshire, re-introduced his bill for a national Sunday law.
The first thing to be noticed about this bill is the title and the important modification of it as compared with the title of the original bill introduced in the Fiftieth Congress, and as compared with the title proposed by the American Sabbath Union a year ago last December. The title in the original bill read:—
“A bill to secure to the people the enjoyment of the first day of the week, commonly known as the Lord’s day, as a day of rest, and to promote its observance as a day of religious worship.”
This title threw the bill so open to criticism on account of its religious aspect that the American Sabbath Union asked that it should be made to read as follows:—
“A bill to secure to the people the enjoyment of the Lord’s day, commonly known as Sunday, as a day of rest, and to protect its observance as a day of religious worship.”
This however was pronounced by Senator Blair as stronger and more interfering than the other.
By the experience of the past summer, the advocates of the Sunday law have themselves learned that this has a stronger religious cast than can well be defended in legislation, and therefore, the title of the bill as now introduced, is stripped of its religious cast and is made to read simply thus:—
“A bill to secure to the people the privileges of rest and of religious worship, free from disturbance by others, on the first day of the week.”
If this title described the real object of the bill it would be a very innocent measure, provided it were true that the people have not already secured to them the privileges of rest and religious worship free from the disturbance of others, not only on the first day of the week, but at all other times. It is a fact, however, that there are no people in all this land who have not the privileges of rest and religious worship free from disturbance by anybody on the first day of the week, and all other days and nights of the week. The workers for Sunday law know this full well. The field secretary of the American Sabbath Union made a tour of all the States and Territories the past summer in the interests of Sunday laws. In Portland, Or., and in San Francisco, he complained especially of the loose way in which Sunday was observed. The writer of this article was present at the field secretary’s Sunday meeting in Portland and twice in San Francisco, and Mr. Crafts knows that the worship of the congregations to which he preached in those cities, and to whom he complained of the sorry manner of Sunday observance in those cities—were not disturbed in the slightest degree, nor was there any disposition on the part of anybody to disturb them. This he knows as well as we know it, and this they all know.
This being the title of the bill let us inquire how the object of the bill, as declared in the title, is proposed to be accomplished. Section 1 reads as follows:—
“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That no person or corporation, or agent, servant, or employee of any person or corporation, or in the service of the United States in time of peace, except in the necessary enforcement of the laws, shall perform, or authorize to be performed, any secular work, labor, or business to the disturbance of others, works of necessity and  mercy and humanity excepted; nor shall any person engage in any play, game, or amusement, or recreation to the disturbance of others on the first day of the week, common known as Sunday, or during any part thereof, in any Territory, district, vessel, or place subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States; nor shall it be lawful for any person or corporation to receive pay for labor or service performed or rendered in violation of this section.”
That declares that no person within the jurisdiction of the United States shall perform or authorize to be performed, any secular work, labor or business to the disturbance of others upon the first day of the week. Now 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 one 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.
Nor do we raise these questions because we doubt that there is another world or that there 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. No body 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, and that without any interference by the government. We deny the right of any of the Senators or Representatives in Congress to decide any of these matters for anybody but himself.
SEC. 2. “That no mails or mail matter shall hereafter be transported in time of peace over any land postal route, nor shall any mail matter be collected, assorted, handled, or delivered during any part of the first day of the week: Provided, That whenever any letter shall relate to a work of necessity or mercy, or shall concern the health, life, or decease of any person, and the fact shall be plainly stated upon the face of the envelope containing the same, the Post-master-General shall provide for the transportation of such letter or letters in packages separate from other mail matter and shall make regulations for delivery thereof, the same having been received at its place of destination before the said first day of the week, during such limited portion of the day as shall best suit the public convenience and least interfere with the due observance of the day as one of worship and rest: And provided further, That when there shall have been an interruption in the due and regular transmission of the mails it shall be lawful to so far examine the same when delivered as to ascertain if there be such matter therein for lawful delivery on the first day of the week.”
Upon this, under its first proviso, we would ask: How many letters would be stopped on Sunday after the thing got into good working order? Under this same proviso there is another clause that is of more serious moment, especially to those who observe Sunday. That is the clause which refers to “the due observance of the day as one of worship and rest.” Are the people who believe in keeping Sunday ready to have the government regulate their observance of that day? Are they ready to have the State assume the prerogative of deciding what is the due observance of that day as a day of worship and rest? This is what they do when they consent to the enactment of such a law as the Blair Sunday Bill is. Every man who believes in keeping Sunday, when he consents to this bill, resigns his religious liberty. He resigns his right to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience and yields to the government the right to dictate how he shall observe the day as a day of worship. The fact is, that in this thing the people who desire to keep Sunday and who believe that it should be religiously observed, have more at stake than any other people, and it is a mystery that they cannot see this. It is a mystery that the leaders in the movement cannot see that they are deliberately robbing themselves of the dearest rights known to man. The mystery is solved, however, by the fact that the lust for power has blinded them to the consideration, not only of the rights of other people, but of their own rights. It is in behalf of the rights of those who believe in keeping Sunday and of worshiping according to their own consciences, no less than in behalf of the rights of all of all other people, that the SENTINEL carries on its uncompromising opposition to all manner of governmental sanction or interference in the matter of Sabbath observance.
State regulation of the religious observance or worship, of the day, is the inevitable outcome of the legislation that is proposed, yet it is not intended by the managers of this movement that the State shall do this of itself. They intend that the church shall assume the supremacy and dictate the action and wield the power of the State. Thus a union of church State, the rule of the despotic tyranny of a hierarchy will be the inevitable outcome of this legislation. It when once the legislation is begun.
SEC. 3. “That the prosecution of commerce between the States and with the Indian tribes, the same not being work of necessity, mercy, or humanity, by the transportation of persons or property by land or water in such way as to interfere with or disturb the people in the enjoyment of the first day of the week, or any portion thereof, as a day of rest from labor, the same not being labor of necessity, mercy, or humanity, or its observance as a day of religious worship, is hereby prohibited, and any person or corporation, or the agent, servant, or employee of any person or corporation who shall willfully violate this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than ten nor more than one thousand dollars, and no service performed in the prosecution of such prohibited commerce shall be lawful, nor shall any compensation be recoverable or be paid for the same.”
With such a penalty upon the exercise of honest occupations and such a premium upon idleness, the government ought to be able soon to create enough evil to ruin itself, which it surely will if the thing should be carried into all the States. 
SEC. 4. “That all military and naval drills, musters, and parades, not in the time of active service or immediate preparation therefore, of soldiers, sailors, marines, or cadets of the United States on the first day of the week, except assemblies for the due and orderly observance of religious worship, are hereby prohibited, nor shall any unnecessary labor be performed or permitted in the military or naval service of the United States on the first day of the week.”
When everything shall have been forbidden the soldiers, sailors, marines and cadets, as is here proposed, except assemblies for the due and orderly observance of religious worship, suppose that they do not want to assemble for the observance of religious worship, will they then be assembled for that purpose? And how are they to know what is the “due” observance of religious worship in the meaning of the law, except they shall be instructed? Having gone so far in religio-political chicanery after the manner of Constantine, they might take the next and requisite step also, according to the example set by him, and teach them the “due” observance of religious worship, as he did, by having them to assemble and repeat at a given signal a prayer also enacted by Congress and adapted to the governmental authority of the United States.
SEC. 5. “That it shall be unlawful to pay or to receive payment or wages in any manner for service rendered or for labor performed or for the transportation of persons or of property in violation of the provisions of this act, nor shall any action lie for the recovery thereof, and when so paid, whether in advance or otherwise, the same may be recovered back by whoever shall first sue for the same.”
This section is identical, word for word, with the one in the original bill. Whenever anybody receives any pay at any time for work done on Sunday, the first man that will sue for the money, is to have it. It makes no difference who he is or where he comes from if he finds out that anybody has received money for work done on Sunday, all he has to do is to enter suit, and the law the law says he shall have it.
This section aptly befits the cause to which this bill is committed. The only effect the bill as a whole can have upon those who are not really religious is to compel them to be idle, and this section simply proposes to put a further premium upon idleness by compelling the man who chooses to work rather than to be idle, to pay the idler for the exercise of his own honest industry. The lazy loafer who will never do anything if he can help it, can spend his time watching the industrious citizen, and if he can detect him in committing the heinous crime of performing any honest work on Sunday, for which he shall receive any pay, the loafer can recover from the industrious man in his idleness several days. This is a fine thing indeed, an excellent provision of law, for the loafers.
Government is supposed to be founded in justice. Courts are supposed to be courts of justice. But we should like very much indeed for somebody to show upon what principle of justice this section is founded, and by what principle of justice any court can be guided in enforcing the provisions of it.
SEC. 6. “That labor or service performed and rendered on the first day of the week in consequence of accident, disaster, or unavoidable delays in making the regular connections upon postal-routes and routes of travel and transportation, the preservation of perishable and exposed property, and the regular and necessary transportation and delivery of articles of food in condition for healthy use, and such transportation for short distances from one State, District, or Territory into another State, District, or Territory as by local laws shall be declared to be necessary for the public good shall not be deemed violations of this act, nor shall the provisions of this act be construed to prohibit or to sanction labor on Sunday by individuals who conscientiously believe in and observe any other day than Sunday as the Sabbath or a day of religious worship, provided such labor be not done to the disturbance of others.”
This section is identical with the same section in the original bill down to the directions for the construction of the act. In the original bill the provisions of the act were to be so construed as “to secure to all the people the religious observance of the Sabbath day.” But the bill as now presented is to be so construed as neither to prohibit nor to sanction labor on Sunday by those who conscientiously believe in and observe any other day than Sunday as the Sabbath or a day of religious worship. Thus the government proposes to allow labor on Sunday by those who observe another day, yet it carefully refrains from adding to the permission any such sanction as would imply that it is right for such people to work on Sunday.
Yet nobody can be partaker of this permission, unless he conscientiously believes in, and observes another day than Sunday as the Sabbath or a day of religious worship. The conscientious belief in and observance of a day, therefore, as a day of religious worship, is required by the government in those who do not want to keep Sunday; and as the other sections of the bill require that Sunday shall be duly observed as a day of religious worship; that nothing shall be done that day except that which pertains to another world; to that which is sacred and holy; to the souls of men; and to the life to come; it is manifest that the object of the Blair Sunday-Rest Bill is the enforcement of THE RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE OF A DAY.
Consideration of the whole bill makes it plain that the modification of the title, to which we called attention at the beginning of this article, is so utterly disingenuous as to be fairly open to the direct charge of fraud. The object of the bill is not to secure to the people the privilege of rest and worship upon the first day of the week. It is to compel them to rest and to religiously worship on the first day of the week, or else on some other day if they do not choose to do it on Sunday. The modification in the title is simply to disarm suspicion; and the exemption of those who conscientiously observe another day as a day of religious worship, is put into the bill for no other purpose than to check-mate the opposition of the seventh-day observers. This would be manifest from the bill itself, even without anything further, but they have not left it to be gathered from the bill only. Mrs. M. E. Catlin, superintendent of Sabbath Observance Department of the W.C.T.U. for the District of Columbia, has distinctly declared it in these words: “I think that we have taken the wind out of their sails by giving them an exemption clause.” During the past summer Dr. Crafts has denounced the Seventh-day Adventists as the chiefest opponents of the bill, and they propose now to check this opposition by this provision in the new bill. But from what we know of that people, we hardly think they can be caught by any such chaff as that.
Nor is this the only effort that is made to disarm suspicion and check opposition. In some places the organizations that are formed auxiliary to the American Sabbath Union, take the name of “Civil Sunday” associations. And in conventions where. they cannot carry resolutions indorsing the Sabbath as a religious institution, they will modify them so as to carry them in favor of Sunday as a civil institution. By such modifications and compromises, they hope at last to succeed. But whatever turn they may take, now or in the future, will not relieve them from the just charge of desiring the enactment of a national law for the enforcement of the religious observance of a day; because their real intention has been clearly revealed in the first steps taken; and whatever modifications they may afterward adopt, will not in the least change the original intention, but only the appearance, and that simply for policy’s sake.
The only safe and consistent position to occupy in relation to Sunday laws is the position maintained by the AMERICAN SENTINEL, that of uncompromising opposition to every form of Sunday law that may be invented. Such legislation means only mischief, and let the opposition be carried on everywhere more vigorously than ever.
A. T. J.