Civil Government and Religion
WE here append some statements of prominent citizens of Arkansas, who are not observers of the seventh day, in relation to the workings of that Sunday law, which show that our report of the cases is not “manufactured” in any particular. CGRRLL 157.1
We first give in full a statement from Judge S. W. Williams, of Little Rock, an ex-judge of the State Supreme Court, and one of the foremost lawyers in the State:— CGRRLL 157.2
LITTLE ROCK, ARK., March 21, 1887. Rev. Dan. T. Jones,
SIR: As requested, I give you a short resume of the history of our Sabbath law of 1885. Up to the time of the meeting of the legislature in January, 1885, our Sunday law had always excepted from its sanctions the cases wherein persons from conscience kept the seventh day as the Sabbath. It has been the case for many years at the capital, that no Sabbath laws were observed by the saloon-keepers. After the election of 1884, the newly elected prosecuting attorney of that district, commenced a rigid enforcement of the law. A few Jewish saloon-keepers successfully defied it during the session of the legislature. This led to the total and unqualified repeal of the conscience proviso for the seventh-day in the old law. This was used oppressively upon the seventh-day Sabbath Christians, to an extent that shocked the bar of the whole State. A test case was brought from Washington County. Our Supreme Court could not see its way clear to hold the law unconstitutional, but the judges, as men and lawyers, abborred it. Judge B. B. Battle, one of the three judges, was, with Judge Rose and myself, a member of the standing committee on law reform of our State Bar Association. In our report, as you see, we recommended a change, which the Association adopted unanimously, Chief-Justice Cockrill and Associate-Justices Smith and Battle being members, present and voting. At the meeting of the General Assembly the next week (January, 1887), Senator Crockett introduced a bill repealing the obnoxious law, in so far as it affected those who keep holy the seventh day, still forbidding the opening of saloons on Sunday. Truly yours, SAM. W. WILLIAMS. CGRRLL 157.3
In the following letter, Judge U. M. Rose, of the law firm of U. M. & G. B. Rose, Little Rock, one of the leading lawyers in the State, and a member of the committee on law reform of the State Bar Association, gives his opinion of the reasons why the law was enacted, and also his views as a lawyer on the propriety of such legislation. We print his letter in full:— CGRRLL 158.1
LITTLE ROCK, ARK., April 15, 1887.
Rev. Dan. T. Jones,
DEAR SIR: Yours received. The law passed in this State in 1885, and which has since been repealed, requiring all persons to keep Sunday as a day of rest, although they might religiously keep some other day of the week, was enacted, I think, to meet the case of certain Jews in this city who kept saloons and other business houses open on Sunday. It was said that those persons only made a pretense of keeping Saturday as a day of rest. Whether these statements were true or not, I do not know. The act of 1885 was found to work oppressively on persons believing as you do that Saturday is the Christian as well as the Jewish Sabbath; and hence its repeal. It was manifestly unjust to them as well as to Jews who are sincere in their faith. CGRRLL 158.2
You ask me to express my opinion as to the propriety of such legislation as that contained in the repealed act. Nothing can exceed my abhorrence for any kind of legislation that has for its object the restraint of any class of men in the exercise of their own religious opinions. It is the fundamental basis of our Government that every man shall be allowed to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. It was certainly not a little singular, that while in our churches the command was regularly read at stated times, requiring all men to keep the Sabbath, which, amongst the Jews to whom the command was addressed, was the seventh day of the week, men should be prosecuted and convicted in the courts for doing so. As to the theological aspect of the matter, I am not competent to speak; but as a civil requirement, my opinion is that any legislation that attempts to control the consciences of men as to the discharge of religious duty, can only be the result of that ignorance and fanaticism which for centuries proved to be the worst curse that ever afflicted humanity. Very respectfully yours, U. M. ROSE. CGRRLL 158.3
Mr. E. Stinson is a farmer and teacher in Hot Spring County, and writes:— CGRRLL 159.1
MALCOLM, HOT SPRING CO., ARK., March 27, 1887.
DEAR SIR: In answer to your inquiry, will say that since the repeal of the exemption clause in our statutes which allowed persons who kept another day than Sunday as Sabbath, to go about their ordinary work or business on that day, several indictments have been found in Hot Spring County. In each and every case the parties so indicted have been conscientious observers of the seventh day, so far as I know them. To my knowledge, others have worked on Sunday who did not observe the seventh day, and no bills were found against them. I believe the prosecutions to be more for religious persecution than for the purpose of guarding the Sunday from desecration. The men who have been indicted are all good men and law-abiding citizens, to the best my knowledge. The indictments, to the best of my belief, were malicious in their character, and without provocation. I believe the unmodified Sunday law to be unjust in its nature, and that it makes an unjust discrimination against a small but worthy class of our citizens. I am a member of the Baptist Church, and not an observer of the seventh day; but I accept with gratitude the recent change in the laws of our State, which shows more respect for the conscientious convictions of all our citizens. I do not believe that if the same acts for which the indictments were lodged against Seventh-day Adventists, had been committed by those who did keep the seventh day, any notice would have been taken of them. Respectfully, E. STINSON. CGRRLL 159.2
We present in full a letter from the physician and the proprietor of the Potash Sulphur Springs Hotel, a health resort seven miles southeast of Hot Springs. These gentlemen are both old residents of the place, and are personally acquainted with some of those who were convicted of Sabbath-breaking in Hot Spring County. CGRRLL 160.1
POTASH SULPHUR SPRINGS, ARK., March, 1887.
To whom it may concern:—
We, the undersigned, herewith testify that the recent prosecutions against the observers of the seventh-day Sabbath in our vicinity, have brought to the surface a religious intolerance and a spirit of persecution, the existence whereof a great many imagine not to exist any more in our time. J. T. FAIRCHILD, M. D.
E. E. WOODCOCK. CGRRLL 160.2
Another letter, from Mr. Fitzhugh, a Justice of the Peace, and acting deputy-sheriff in Hot Spring County during the two years in which the unmodified Sunday law was in force, will show the estimate as citizens and neighbors, placed upon some who were indicted for Sabbath-breaking. CGRRLL 160.3
STATE OF ARKANSAS, COUNTY OF HOT SPRING,
SALIM TOWNSHIP, April 9, 1887.
On the second day of March, 1885, the legislature of Arkansas repealed the law allowing any person to observe as the Sabbath any day of the week that they preferred, and compelled them to keep the Christian Sabbath, or first day of the week. The effect of this change worked a hardship on a class of citizens in this county, known as Seventh-day Adventists, who observe the seventh instead of the first day of the week, as the Lord’s Sabbath. There were five or six of them indicted (and some of them the second time) by the Grand Jury of this county, for the violation of this law. In fact, these people were the only ones that were indicted for Sabbath-breaking, during the two years in which this law was in force. I was not intimately acquainted with but one of these people, Mr. John Shockey, who moved from Ohio, and settled within one and one fourth miles of me, some two and a half years ago. I know nothing in the character of this gentleman but what would recommend him to the world at large. As a citizen, he recognizes and regards the laws of our country (with the above exception); as a neighbor, he might well be called a Samaritan; as a Christian, he is strict to his profession, and proves his faith by his works.
BENJ. C. FITZHUGH, Justice of the Peace.
Malvern, Hot Spring Co., Ark. CGRRLL 160.4