“Trial of J. Q. Allison” American Sentinel 10, 22, pp. 170, 171.

THIS trial, referred to in these columns last week, took place in the Superior Court at Douglasville, Ga., May 15, before Hon. C. G. Janes, Presiding Judge. W. T. Roberts, Solicitor General, appeared for the State. Mr. Allison conducted his own case. Two witnesses were sworn for the State, both of whom testified that they lived near Mr. Allison, and that they had seen him plowing in his field on Sunday, the 21st day of April, as charged in the indictment.

Mr. Allison did not deny doing the work, but offered to show that it was not of a nature to disturb anybody, and that in fact nobody was disturbed thereby. Both the witnesses testified on direct examination that they would not have seen Mr. Allison at work had they not gone to the place where he was, on purpose to see him.

Mr. Allison attempt to cross-examine the second witness, as follows:—

Q. How near is your place to mine? where does your land come up to it; your field?

A. I suppose it is a hundred yards, or something like that.

Q. You worked there on the seventh day?

A. Yes, sir, I worked on Saturday.

Mr. Allison. I want to prove whether I disturbed him, or whether I had complained about his disturbing me.

The Court. Never mind about that; that has nothing to do with this case. The only question in the world is whether you worked on the first day of the week; that is the only question in the case; I mean, worked in your ordinary employment.

The solicitor general then asked the witness two questions to establish the fact that Mr. Allison was working at his usual employment; after which the judge asked Mr. Allison if he had any statement to make. From this point onward we copy verbatim from the notes of the official stenographer:—

The Court. What statement do you want to make?

Mr. Allison. I want to show where I get the authority that the seventh day is the Sabbath. (The defendant had produced his Bible, as if to read.)

The Court. That won’t do in this court.

Mr. Allison. I am not allowed to give the reasons?

The Court. No sir; we allow every man his own religious opinions, but this is simply a civil law.

Mr. Allison. Will you allow me to read a piece from the constitution of Georgia?

The Court. If it applies to this case—any law of the State—if you want to read it.

Mr. Allison. (Reading from the code.) “Freedom of Conscience.—All men have the natural and inalienable right to worship God each according to the dictates of his own conscience, and no human authority should in any case control or interfere with such right of conscience. Religious Opinions.—No inhabitant of this State shall be molested in person or property——“

The Court. If you want to make any statement about the facts of this case, you can do so;—you have no lawyer to represent you:—if you do not want to, you need not do so, as to whether you did this work on this day.

Mr. Allison. I work on the first day of the week, and rest the seventh day. I keep it. I do nothing but feed my mules and water them, and some such things. We don’t even do our cooking on the seventh day; we try to keep that holy. God has said we shall work six days, and rest the seventh. I rest the seventh, according to the commandment. I know that is the right day to keep, and I try to keep it.

The Court. You want to make any statement as to whether you did this work as charged against you?

Mr. Allison. Yes, sir, I do; I said I worked on the first day of the week; I do that.

The Court. I mean in this case, whether you did the work that the State has charged you with, and as sworn to by the witnesses?

Mr. Allison. Yes, I don’t deny that; I don’t deny working on the first day of the week, but I deny working on the Sabbath, that is, the Lord’s day.

The Court. You don’t deny doing the work that the witnesses swore to?

Mr. Allison. No, sir. [171]

The Court. You mean to swear that you did do it?

Mr. Allison. Yes, sir; I did the work.

The Court. That these witnesses said you did?

Mr. Allison. Yes, sir; but I claim that I have a right, under the Constitution and under the laws of God, that I have a right to work or not work and keep the day that he wants me to keep; that is the way I do. I claim I could not work on the seventh day, and then go right on and keep the first day of the week without displeasing God.

The Court. There is nothing in that. I have as much respect for your religion as anybody in any church in the country, or good men in the country. I would not interfere with you in any way in the enjoyment of your religion; this is simply a law of the State, and we are bound thereby. The State could say that you should keep Wednesday or Thursday, that it would be a crime to work on every other Wednesday or every other Thursday, and you would be bound to obey that law. I have a perfect respect for every man’s religion, and I think every man has a right to his religion, whether he is a Mohammedan, or Jew, or Christian, or a Buddhist, and whether he believes in the seventh day, or the first day, or any other day.

Mr. Allison. Don’t you think I would be worshiping some other god, if I was to obey the law in this matter believing as I do? Why God would not protect me, I would be worshiping another god.

The Court. Probably I would not be competent to argue this question with you, when you come to the Bible. This is an act of the State, and if you life in the State of Georgia, you must obey its laws.

Mr. Allison. Don’t you remember where you read about Daniel? They made a law special for Daniel, and they cast him into the lions’ den, and he broke the law, and God protected him in it.

The Court. I believe I have heard something about that, but the day of miracles is past. I am here simply to enforce the laws, and no matter what a man’s religious opinions are, if the laws of the State are that he shall not work on a certain day, and he continues to work on that day, I am bound to enforce the law; I am simply bound to do that; that is my duty; that is my oath. I state to you that you are guilty, according to your own statement, of the violation of the law, and you cannot live in the State of Georgia and do that. The trouble is this, that is you are allowed to do this—I understand you are a good man, your neighbors say you are, there is nothing in the world against you—but if you are allowed to do this, bad men would claim the same privilege, and desecrate what the great majority of people consider the Sabbath; but outside of any reason for it, that is the law.

As appears from the record, the verdict of guilty was entered without the jury leaving their seats. The court then took a recess until afternoon; and, upon reassembling, the judge proceeded to pass sentence upon Mr. Allison, prefacing it with the advice that if the defendant’s religion prevented him from obeying the Sunday laws of Georgia, he would better move out of the State and go where he would be allowed to live out his religion. He said if Mr. Allison persisted in working on Sunday, and came up before him again, he would put him where it would be a long time before he could get out of the State. Then, repeating what he said about Mr. Allison’s being a good man and a good citizen, and there being nothing in the world against him, he said: “I will let you off easy this time with the costs, $22.05, or in default thereof, twelve full months in the chain-gang.”

For some discussion of the principles involved in this case, see article on first page of this paper. [171]

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