The Captivity of the Republic

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The Captivity of the Republic

A REPORT OF
Hearing by House Committee on Columbian
Exposition, January 10-13, 1893

AND THE PRESENT STATUS AND EFFECT OF
THE LEGISLATION ON

SUNDAY CLOSING OF THE WORLD’S FAIR

“Secular power has proved a satanic gift to the Church, and ecclesiastical power has proved an engine of tyranny in the hands of the State.”-Philip Schaff.

BY ALONZO T. JONES

[Religious Liberty Library, No. 6]
International Religious Liberty Association

1893

To the
more than 350,000 citizens
of the United States
who signed their names to the petition on page 4
this report is addressed
and
Respectfully Dedicated

THE
CAPTIVITY OF THE REPUBLIC.

February, 1863, there was begun an organized movement by a religious combination, composed of the “evangelical” churches of the country, to get the government of the United States committed by direct legislation to a recognition of “the Christian religion,” and a national adoption and enforcement of Sunday as “the Christian Sabbath,” or Lord’s day. They proposed first to accomplish their purpose by an amendment to the national Constitution, declaring this to be a “Christian nation,” and “so placing all Christian laws, institutions, and usages upon an undeniable legal basis in the fundamental law of the land.” CAR 3.1

In 1888, May 21, Senator H. W. Blair introduced “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.” And the 25th of the same month he introduced a joint resolution to amend the national Constitution so as to establish “the principles of the Christian religion” as the religion of the nation. These two pieces of legislation embodied the wishes of this religious combination; and immediately there was a strong effort made all over the country to secure the passage of the measures,-especially the bill establishing and enforcing the observance of Sunday. CAR 3.2

To this movement in all its phases and all its purposes, we have been uncompromisingly opposed from its very beginning. Accordingly, as soon as these measures were proposed in Congress, we took steps to counteract it as far as possible. In order to reach Congress the most effectually, we circulated a petition, which was in effect, and was intended to be, a remonstrance against anything of the kind forever. That petition runs as follows:- CAR 4.1

To the Honorable, the Senate of the United States [Duplicate to the House of Representatives]: CAR 4.2

“We, the undersigned, adult residents of the United States, twenty-one years of age or more, hereby respectfully, but earnestly petition your Honorable Body not to pass any bill in regard to the observance of the Sabbath, or the Lord’s day, or any other religious or ecclesiastical institution or rite; nor to favor in any way the adoption of any resolution for the amendment of the national Constitution, that would in any way tend, either directly or indirectly, to give preference to the principles of any religion or of any religious body above another, or that will in any way sanction legislation upon the subject of religion; but that the total separation between religion and the State, assured by the national Constitution as it now is, may forever remain as our fathers established it.” CAR 4.3

The Breckinridge bill to establish compulsory Sunday observance in the District of Columbia, by act of Congress, and also a bill to prohibit the delivery of ice in the District of Columbia on Sunday, were opposed in the same way. CAR 4.4

To this petition, or remonstrance, we obtained more than three hundred and fifty thousand bona-fide individual signatures. By these and diligent efforts before congressional committees, the Blair legislation was delayed till it died, and the Breckinridge bill was defeated. CAR 4.5

When the demand was made by this religious combination (which was now grown so as to embrace all the leading religious bodies in the country) that Congress should close the World’s Columbian Exposition on Sunday, this too was opposed with the former protests, and with the following one direct:- CAR 4.6

“We, the undersigned, citizens of the United States, hereby respectfully, but decidedly, protest against the Congress of the United States committing the United States Government to a union of religion and the State, in the passage of any bill or resolution to close the World’s Columbian Exposition on Sunday, or in any other way committing the Government to a course of religious legislation.” CAR 5.1

A hearing was held by the House Committee having the matter in charge, April, 1892, at which we presented arguments on the line of these protests. CAR 5.2

While we were circulating these petitions, many men were met who would not believe that there was enough of importance to the matter to sign their names to the petition, even when they believed that the petition was all right in itself. They would say, “I believe all that; but it is not of enough importance to pay any attention to. I would not take the time to sign my name to it, although I am in favor of all you are saying. No such thing as that will ever be done. There is not a bit of danger of it.” And because there were so many of that kind of people who did not believe that it would ever be done, it was done. And when they found out it was done, they began to try to have it undone. They began to wake up to see that they were mistaken, and that it had been done; and then seeing their mistake, they began trying to retrieve it by asking that the World’s Fair should be open on Sunday. CAR 5.3

But our petitions could no more be used for opening the Fair on Sunday than for shutting it on Sunday, as they were against Congress ever having anything to do with the question of Sunday in any way; and for the additional reason that the reasons given for congressional action in opening the Fair were precisely the reasons that had been given for congressional action in closing the Fair. The Fair was closed for religious reasons only; and the same religious reasons were given for opening it. Therefore as our petitions and our work were against Congress ever touching any religious question, or any religious observance, or any religious institution, for any reason; and against its ever touching any question for religious reasons; it followed that neither our petitions nor our work could be cast for opening the Fair, any more than for shutting the Fair. Our petitions and our work were all, and always, against Congress having anything to do with the question in any way, on constitutional grounds and for constitutional reasons. And when Congress had taken the step, and had done what it did, our petitions and our work were to have Congress take back the step and undo what had been done, because the step that had been taken and that which had been done, was wholly unconstitutional. So that our work, our petitions, and our principles were the same from beginning to end. CAR 5.4