An Old Bill Reintroduced

TimeWatch Editorial
December 05, 2016

On December 15, 1889, the Pacific Press Publishing Company published in the AMERICAN SENTINEL, a semi-monthly publication, devoted to the defense of American institutions and the preservation of the United states Constitution as it is, an article entitled, “The Blair Sunday Rest Bill and Joint Resolution.” The opening paragraph of the article describes some of the reactions that the bill initially received as follows.

It is well known to most of our readers that United States Senator Henry W. Blair, from New Hampshire, introduced in the Fiftieth Congress, May 21, 1888, what has been commonly known as the “Blair Sunday-Rest bill," which was read twice, and referred to the Committee on Education and Labor. It was quite fully discussed pro and con before the committee, with decided favors shown to those who favored the bill, by Mr. Blair, the author of the bill, who was also the chairman of the committee. Many millions of signatures to petitions for and against the bill came before Congress.” “The Blair Sunday Rest Bill and Joint Resolution,” THE AMERICAN SENTINEL, Pacific Press Publishing Company, December 15, 1889

THE AMERICAN SENTINEL describes itself as an eight page weekly journal, devoted to the defense of American institutions, the preservation of the United States Constitution as it is, so far as regards religion or religious tests, and the maintenance of human rights, both civil and religious. It further promises that it will ever be uncompromisingly opposed to anything tending toward a union of Church and State, either in name or in fact. It should be noted that the American Sentinel was the official organ of the religious liberty department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, later known as the Sentinel of Liberty, and finally simply Liberty magazine. In 1887 Alonzo T. Jones became editor of the American Sentinel. The American Sentinel continues its description of the fate of the original bill submitted by Senator Blair.

“Over this bill and the proposed Constitutional Amendment, the religious part of the country was greatly agitated; nor has that agitation ceased. Circulation of petitions has gone forward since. While that bill died with the last Congress as a matter of legislation, the friends of Sunday laws have labored hard for a similar bill, which they expect will crystallize into law during this present Congress. This expectation has been partially met, and Mr. Blair again comes before the country as the Sunday-law champion, the advocate of measures advocated by the American Sabbath Union and the Sabbath department of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.” “The Blair Sunday Rest Bill and Joint Resolution,” THE AMERICAN SENTINEL, Pacific Press Publishing Company, December 15, 1889

It was clear then, that the failure to pass a National Sunday Law in 1888 did not stop those who were driven by that agenda to continue determinedly to pursue their initial goal. Neither did Senator Blair abandon his purpose. Note how the article in the

On December 9, 1889, Mr. Blair introduced a modified form of his first Sunday bill.

“Senate bill 946":—


To secure to the people the privileges of rest and of religious worship, free from disturbance by others, on the first day of the week.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

That no person or corporation, or agent, servant, or employee of any person or corporation, or in the service of the United States in time of peace, except in the necessary enforcement of the laws, shall perform, or authorize to be performed, any secular work, labor, or business to the disturbance of others, works of necessity and mercy and humanity excepted; nor shall any person engage in any play, game, or amusement or recreation to the disturbance of others on the first day of the week, commonly known as Sunday, or during any part thereof, in any Territory, district, vessel, or place subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States; nor shall it

be lawful for any person or corporation to receive pay for labor or service performed or rendered in violation of this section.

Under the Sunday Legislation introduced on December 9, 1889, in its revised form by Senator Blair, even the military would be required to stand down on Sunday.

SEC. 4. That all military and naval drills, musters, and parades, not in the time of active service or immediate preparation therefore, of soldiers, sailors, marines, or cadets of the United States on the first day of the week, except assemblies for the due and orderly observance of religious worship, are hereby prohibited, nor shall any unnecessary labor be performed or permitted in the military or naval service of the United States on the first day of the week.

What is even more revealing is the fact that the bill restricts payment “in any manner.” That would apparently include payment in advance. Notice Section 5.

SEC. 5. That it shall be unlawful to pay or to receive payment or wages in any manner for service rendered or for labor performed or for the transportation of persons or of property in violation of the provisions of this act, nor shall any action lie for the recovery thereof, and when so paid, whether in advance or otherwise, the same may be recovered back by whoever shall first sue for the same.

The efforts to established Sunday Legislation and a Constitutional Amendment were never abandoned. House resolution 3854 “To prevent persons from being forced to labor on Sunday," was introduced by W. C. P. Breckinridge of Kentucky, on January 6, 1890; then to the Committee on District of Columbia; The hearing on the bill before the subcommittee, was held on February 18, 1890. Those who pursue these efforts have not surrendered. They have simply persistently sought other avenues to accomplish their goals.

I recently came across an article by Stephen Mansfield in Liberty Magazine, the descendant of THE AMERICAN SENTINEL entitled “Religion, the Founders, and the 2016 Presidential Race.” The article was Published in the September/October 2016 Magazine. His comments are indeed interesting and relevant to the intent of the First Amendment.

The framers of our Constitution considered a ban on religious tests a natural extension of the First Amendment. If Congress should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” then no single religion should dominate the federal government. Banning religious tests for federal office would serve this cause. Thus the language of Article VI, clause 3, of the U.S. Constitution: “. . . no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” These were common fears at the time: If we don’t have religious tests, then people of any faith can hold federal office. The answer of our Founders was clear and consistent: We want the people, not a simplistic religious test, to decide who is qualified for public office and who is not. The decision rests with the people.” Stephen Mansfield, “Religion, the Founders, and the 2016 Presidential Race” Liberty Magazine, September/October 2016

It would appear that the voices of the Founders are becoming more distant with each passing moment.

Cameron A. Bowen

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