The Edmunds Resolution

The Edmunds Resolution

MUCH has been said, but none too much, about the Blair resolution to amend the Constitution of the United States so as to “establish and maintain” the teaching of “the principles of the Christian religion,” or “of Christianity” in all the public schools in the Union. This, however, is not the only effort that has been made, or that is now being made, in this direction. There is being urged also what is known as the Edmunds resolution, so called because it was framed by Senator Edmunds, of Vermont. There is a large and influential element working in favor of the Edmunds resolution; and both these elements can easily be brought together in support of either, or any other measure of the same nature, according to the probability of their adoption. TER 3.1

These forces are being organized; public opinion is being moulded, and political influence is being courted. The people therefore cannot be too wide-awake, nor too prompt in opposing the movement. TER 3.2

We propose now to discuss the Edmunds resolution, with the arguments made in favor of it, but it will be of interest to trace the matter from the first step taken. April 19, 1870, Hon. S. S. Burdette, of Missouri, proposed an amendment to the United States Constitution upon this subject, reading as follows:— TER 3.3

“SECTION 1. No State or municipal corporation within any State of the United States shall levy or collect any tax for the support or aid of any sectarian, denominational, or religious school or educational establishment; nor shall the legislature of any State, or the corporate authorities of any municipality within any State, appropriate any money or make any donation from the public fund or property of such State or municipality for the support or aid of any sectarian, religious, or denominational schools or educational establishments. TER 3.4

“SEC. 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” TER 4.1

It will be seen at a glance that this only prohibits State aid to denominational or religious schools or establishments. It does not prohibit sectarian, religious, or denominational instruction in the public schools. It thus missed the mark so widely that it seems not to have been taken any notice of after its introduction. TER 4.2

It was not long, however, before another step was taken. December 19, 1871, Hon. William M. Stewart, United States senator from Nevada, proposed an amendment to the national Constitution, reading as follows:— TER 4.3

“SECTION. 1. There shall be maintained in each State and Territory a system of free common schools, but neither the United States nor any State, Territory, county, or municipal corporation, shall aid in the support of any schools wherein the peculiar tenets of any denomination are taught. TER 4.4

“SEC. 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” TER 4.5

This proposition seems to have excited some public discussion. It was strongly disapproved by many on the ground that such a measure was “both unnecessary and misleading”—unnecessary because no danger could arise in any State from such action; and mischievous because it would only tend to provoke a controversy which was uncalled for. Nothing seems to have come of Mr. Stewart’s proposition except the discussion referred to. TER 4.6

Nothing more was done for four years, or until December 14, 1875, when Hon. James G. Blaine, then a member of the House of Representatives, proposed an amendment, as follows:— TER 4.7