“Why Is It Impossible?” The American Sentinel 5, 33, pp. 257-259.

August 21, 1890

LAMST week we published an account of the appropriation of public money by Congress for the support of church schools, and the statement of Senator Dawes, that it was necessary to continue such appropriations because the present administration had found it impossible to divorce the Government from parochial schools. In this article we propose to examine the reasons which are given, why this thing is held to be impossible. After stating the amount of appropriations to parochial schools, from the years 1886 to 1890, with an item of $356,967 for Catholic schools, and $204,993 for schools of other denominations, for the year ending June 30, 1890, Senator Dawes, who had charge of the bill, said:

That was the condition of things last year when the present management of the Indian Bureau came into power. That is maintained to-day in precisely the same condition.

This is a statement worth examining:—

1. It is shown by the Senator that the United States Government is allied with the churches in the United States to such an extent as to be spending more than one-half million dollars each year, for the support of the schools of these churches. That is, more than one-half million dollars is taken each year from all the people, and given outright to certain churches with which to conduct church schools, and to teach the religious dogmas of those churches.

.2. It is stated by the Senator that the question, whether the Government should be connected with parochial schools at all, is a “great question.” That is the truth. It is a great question. It is the great question that caused the Dark Ages, and has been the curse of every government until now. It is this question that our fathers sought to avoid, when they forbade Congress to have anything to do with religion. But, although the whole spirit and intent of the United States Constitution forbids this thing now being done by the Government for certain churches of the United States, yet, both the Government and the churches went deliberately ahead, and are still going ahead, and the people sit still, and let it go on without any protest.

This is a forcible and practical illustration of what THE SENTINEL has often said: that constitutional safeguards are such, only so long as the intelligence of the people is kept up to the level of the Constitution. A people may have a perfect Constitution, and yet, if they neglect it, so that the public intelligence falls below the level of the Constitution, and the real character of the Constitution is forgotten, then the Constitution is of no more value than so much blank paper. This is the condition of things in the United States now. So far as the subject of religion and government is concerned, the United States Constitution is as nearly perfect as a human production can be made. It declares an absolute separation between the Church, or churches, and the State; and prohibits the Government from having anything to do with establishing any religion, or with any religion already established in any way. And yet, the people of the United States have so far forgotten these principles, and the necessity of maintaining them, that Congress goes on, year after year, bestowing national aid upon certain churches, and the people say not a word. They still elect men to Congress who are carrying on the same iniquity, and the people suffer this thing to go on, until the churches get such a hold upon the Government that it [258] is officially declared that it is impossible to be broken. And this declaration is made by the very men who are sent to Congress, and sit there under a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Of what benefit is the Constitution of the United States, in its provision for the separation of Church and State, when the men who take oath to support it, thus violate it, and when the people are so careless and indifferent about the whole matter as to suffer it to go on year after year, with not a word of protest? This is indeed a great question.

And yet, as great a question as it is, and as great a question as it is acknowledged by Senator Dawes to be, he considers any discussion of the question to be “unprofitable and in every possible light an unfortunate discussion.” How is it possible that the discussion of the great fundamental principles of the United States Constitution can be unfortunate and unprofitable? If this statement be true, then it was an unfortunate and unprofitable thing for our fathers to put this principle in the Constitution at all; be-cause it is certain that every subject embodied in the Constitution is properly a subject of discussion. Therefore if the statement of Senator Dawes be true, that the discussion of the question as to whether the Government should be connected with parochial schools, in other words, whether there shall be a union of Church and State—if the discussion of that question can ever be unfortunate and unprofitable, then that is only to charge that the action of the fathers, in making such a provision in the Constitution, was only unfortunate and unprofitable. But Mr. Dawes even repeats this proposition. He says:—

The present management was in favor of divorcing the Government absolutely from them all, but it found it impossible to do that. Perhaps it would have been better, had the Indian education set out upon this principle, but it had gone so far and got so interwoven with the whole system of Indian education, that it was utterly impossible to retrace the step, and to avoid the precipitation upon the country of such a discussion as that, which could do no good anywhere.

Senator Dawes is from Massachusetts. Does he express the opinion of the people of that State, when he declares the discussion of the question of national support to parochial schools to be unfortunate, unprofitable, and such as can do no good anywhere? Are the people of the United States, as a whole, ready to admit that the discussion of one of the greatest principles embodied in the United States Constitution, can ever be either unfortunate or unprofitable, or such as can do no good anywhere? We cannot believe that such is the sentiment of the majority of the people of the United States, but we shall very soon know whether it is or not. If this is allowed to go on, as it has been going for the last five years, and as Congress proposes to keep it going, without such a discussion throughout the whole country as the importance of the subject demands, then we shall know that Senator Dawes has rightly represented the matter; and then we shall likewise know how great a mistake our fathers made, when they considered that question of sufficient importance to make it one of the leading principles of the Constitution of the country.

It is easy enough to understand how Senator Dawes, and other senators, should deem the discussion of this question to be unfortunate and unprofitable, and barren of good anywhere. These are politicians, and there are votes that depend upon the course they take; and therefore, it is easy to understand how they can count any question unprofitable that will put them into the place where the course which they may take may jeopardize votes. We speak this advisedly, because it stands on the face of the speech of Senator Dawes, all the way through. We do not remember ever to have read a speech delivered in the halls of Congress, in which the essential characteristics of the political straddler were more openly displayed than in the speech of Senator Dawes on the Indian Appropriation Bill, in the Senate of the United States, July 24, 1890. He pretended to speak in support of the administration in its endeavor to divorce the Government from the parochial schools. He pretended to speak in opposition to the State aiding the church schools. He started out in a tone, and with a statement of facts which seemed as though he was determined to smite the evil with mighty blows, right and left. He seemed to be rallying all his strength for a mighty effort, that which might naturally be supposed to be intended to crush, as with a pile-driver, the whole wicked scheme; but it ended every time in tickling as with a feather, all the churches concerned, and particularly the Roman Catholic Church. For instance, when he had given the items of appropriation of public money, to the amount of $2,060,369 in support of church schools, apparently with the idea of opposing any further appropriation—after he had thus raised this great question of giving aid to parochial schools, he then artfully dodged the issue, and passed off the discussion of this “great question” as one altogether “unfortunate,” “unprofitable,” etc.

Again, when he had given facts which involve the Catholic Bureau of Missions in the playing of as clear a Jesuitical trick as ever was played, and upon which it would be naturally expected he would denounce the whole scheme, he mildly toned down the vigorous array of facts, and partly apologized for it all, by saying:—

I had just as lief the Government money would go to carrying on that school, as any other denominational school; and if the Government is to go further into this connection with denominational schools, it might as well do this … If the Senate think it wise to go further, the Committee have nothing to say.

Again, he said of the Bureau of Catholic Missions, these words:—

They have been on the ground here for the last five years pushing Catholic schools upon the Government as earnestly as was in their power, and largely to that influence is attributed this great increase which has come to be three-fifths of all the appropriations. They are active.

And when he had shown that that Bureau in its activity and in open defiance of the Indian Bureau, and of the administration, had gone to Congress, and had got four additional schools, with the appropriation of thousands of dollars to each—when he knew all this, and when he made the statement in his speech; yet in direct and immediate connection with these statements, he said this:—

There is a very efficient, and urgent, and active Catholic Bureau of Missions in this city … which deserves both personally and in the purpose for which it is organized the highest commendation. I know personally those who are at the head of it, and I have taken occasion, with great pleasure, to say that they are men worthy of confidence.

That is to say, here is a Bureau, an organized church-association, organized solely for the purpose of pushing Catholic schools upon the Government, and to secure Government money for the support of these schools in violation of the Constitution of the United States; and yet, Senator Dawes stands before the Nation and declares that that Bureau “both personally and in the purpose for which it was organized, deserves the highest commendation,” and that the men who are at the head of it “are men worthy of confidence,” when he knew that the men at the head of that Bureau had played as deliberate a trick upon the United States, as could ever be played. How can the Constitution of the United States, how can the interests of the people, be safe in the hands of such men, and in the presence of such organizations?

And such are the reasons why the discussion of this great question is considered unprofitable and unfortunate. It is true that such a discussion, as was carried on by Senator Dawes, is unprofitable and unfortunate. It is true that that can do no good, but only harm everywhere. Because such pandering to the church power, such a tickling with straws, and such compromising of the Constitution, can have no other effect than to embolden the encroachments of the church power upon the Government; and the Constitution, until the whole shall be completely swallowed up.

This is why it is considered impossible to divorce this church power from the Government. This is why it is found impossible to retrace the steps already taken. Those who are in the place to retrace the steps, are so afraid of losing votes, so afraid of losing party prestige, [259] that they dare not discuss, much less denounce, the encroachment of church power upon the Constitution of our Government.

Do the American people endorse the speech of Senator Dawes? Is his position upon this question the position of the American people? Do the American people adopt his views, that the discussion of the constitutional question of the absolute divorcement of Church and State in every form, is unprofitable and unfortunate, and of no good to anybody? Do the American people endorse his view that it is impossible to break the hold which the church power has already secured upon the national Government? And yet one more question: Are the American people ready to admit, and sit quietly down with the admission, that the church power in the United States has already so far encroached upon the national Government, as to have absolutely strangled free discussion of one of the greatest principles of the Constitution, and thus virtually to have strangled all successful efforts at resistance.

A. T. J.

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