“The Sunday Law in New York” American Sentinel 10, 39, pp. 306, 307.

WE made brief mention in these columns last week of the action of the Republican party in adopting this as one plank of its platform: “We favor the maintenance of the Sunday law in the interests of labor and morality.” We pointed out at the time that this meant nothing so far as the suppression of the liquor traffic was concerned; for the expression, “the Sunday law,” can mean nothing else than the whole body of law upon that subject. It cannot and does not mean simply a law forbidding the sale of liquor on Sunday, for as we showed a week ago, it just as much pledges the party adopting it to the enforcement of the statute forbidding the sale of ice on Sunday, as it does to the enforcement of the statute which forbids the sale of liquor upon that day.

We feel no interest, however, in this as a political question. We are interested in it only so far as it shows the temper of the people in regard to the making, sustaining, and enforcing of laws for the observance of Sunday.

The AMERICAN SENTINEL is and always has been opposed to the traffic in intoxicating beverages. We believe that it is an enemy to civilized society; that it increases the burden of taxation; that it makes widows, orphans, paupers, and criminals; that it endangers life and property, and that the evils resulting from it are not limited to those who actually drank intoxicating liquors. In short, we do not believe that “whiskey hurts only those who drink it.”

Being opposed to the traffic in intoxicating liquors as a whole, and believing that it is evil and only evil continually, we are, of course, opposed to any law which, by prohibiting it one day in the week, by implication legalizes it and makes it respectable upon the other six days of the week.

The Methodist General Conference of 1888, adopted this: “We are unalterably opposed to the enactment of laws that propose by license-taxing or otherwise to regulate the drink traffic.” Doubtless the thought underlying this resolution was that by government license, the liquor traffic becomes a protected monopoly and a political power; and that by withholding license the monopoly would be destroyed, the political power of the traffic be broken, and that general prohibition would follow.

We are likewise “opposed to the enactment of laws that propose by license-taxing or otherwise to regulate the drink traffic;” and for this reason if there were no other we oppose all laws prohibiting liquor-selling only on Sunday. And if the Methodists meant what they said in 1888, they must likewise oppose all laws which prohibit the selling of liquor upon Sunday only. Certainly the expression, “or otherwise,” is broad enough to cover such regulation of the drink traffic; so that we stand upon this question shoulder to shoulder with the great Methodist Church, so far as it stands true to the action of the General Conference of 1888.

But as we have before remarked, Sunday laws are not designed as temperance measures, but to guard from “desecration” a day held by many people to be sacred to the service of God. A few years since, the California Prohibitionist, published in San Francisco, said that if saloons would close on Sunday, it was about all that could be asked of them: and as we said last week, Sunday liquor-selling is not regarded by Sunday-law advocates generally, as any worse than other forms of Sunday “desecration.” For instance, the Christian Statesman recently remarked: “Sabbath laws need enforcement against the excursion as well [307] as against the saloon;” and the Baptist Examiner said, in its issue of September 19: “Do the liquor dealers and their friends fully understand what they are doing in their efforts to keep saloon doors open on the Lord’s day? Do they not see that they are forcing the issue—a clean sabbath or entire prohibition?” This is, as we said last week, saying to the liquor traffic just as plainly as words can express it, Coöperate with us in Sunday observance and your traffic is safe six days in the week; resist our efforts for general Sunday observance, and we will see to it that your traffic is prohibited every day.

The Voice, the great prohibition organ of this city, has in its issue of September 20, two articles, touching the Sunday-law plank, adopted by the Republican Convention at Saratoga. The Voice shows quite conclusively by quotations from prominent Republicans in this city, that the resolution referred to means little or nothing in respect to Sunday-liquor selling. As reported in the Tribune, of September 19, Mr. Warner Miller, the author of the resolution, said of it: “I do not see how any one can assert that the Republican party is a prohibition party from the resolution which I introduced.”

This shows very clearly that Mr. Miller did not mean that the resolution should be understood as pledging the Republican party to oppose the liquor traffic. The resolution is simply in the interests of general Sunday observance.

As we said before, we have not the slightest interest in this as a political question. We do not care which party is successful in New York State this fall. There are good men in all parties, and we doubt not that for the year to come, either party would give the State a fairly decent administration; but we do want the people to understand the issue before them in regard to Sunday and its enforcement by civil statute. We want our readers to know that Sunday enforcement has become a political question. 371 It has become a question upon which political parties feel bound to express themselves in their platforms; and the politicians, for the sake of gaining votes, are willing to pledge themselves to enact, maintain and enforce such laws, and this regardless of the inherent right of every man to be left perfectly free in matters of religion. We believe that the present agitation in this State for the closing of saloons on Sunday, will not result in curtailing the liquor traffic in the slightest degree, that just as much liquor will be sold and drank as formerly; that just as many men will be drunken as formerly; and that just as many innocent persons will suffer as the result of the liquor traffic as formerly. But religious bigotry and intolerance will be increased; high-sounding professions will be made. Sunday will be honored in the eyes of the people; and this is the great object which the master-mind that is back of all this Sunday agitation has in view.

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