Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 9.djvu/388

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366
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

all others when it would be most available to thousands. Though designed to honor labor, it is closed at the only time when multitudes of laborers have an opportunity to attend it.

And what is the reason of so apparently extraordinary and stultifying a course? After so much trouble to get it open, why do the commissioners shut it up this considerable portion of the time? The answer is, it is done in the name of religion! Religious people protest that its opening on Sunday would be a violation of the sacredness of that day, and a violation of the laws that enforce its religious observance. Influential religious bodies have passed resolutions and sent committees to Philadelphia to press this view upon the commissioners. Now, we strongly protest against this assumption that the opening of the exhibition any day of the week will be an irreligious act. The Jew may hold it wicked to visit the show on Saturday, and the Christian may hold it sinful to visit it on Sunday, and both may obey their consciences and stay away on the days they hold sacred; but to force their views upon people who think differently is not a dictate of religion but of persecuting bigotry. A century or two hence, in revising the "History of the Conflict," it will be contemptuously denied that religion was responsible for shutting up the Industrial Exhibition of 1876, against the people, and nullifying its usefulness one day in the week. It will be attributed to superstition, to theological influence and sectarian intolerance. It will be said it is a libel on religion to charge it with the narrowness and prejudice of the times when such a thing could be done.

The position of the Sunday question is simply this: there are two Sundays which we are called upon to recognize in different ways, and on totally distinct grounds, namely, the Sunday of rest from labor for secular reasons, and the puritanical Sunday, devoted to pious observances. The former is enforced by the state, on grounds of public and general utility; the latter is enforced by theological influences for reasons claiming to be religious, and stands upon an ecclesiastical basis. The secular Sunday—the Sunday of rest from labor—is an institution aiming to promote the social welfare, appealing to the sanctions of reason, and is enforced with the discretions of commonsense, and under limits which recognize the admissibility of a certain amount of labor for the general benefit. These are the considerations to which all parties appeal in advocating a day of rest, and they are the sole considerations by which legislators have any right to be moved in legally establishing it. Granting their right to ordain a general suspension of labor one day in the week, for the general good, they have no warrant to go a step beyond this in the direction of restraints upon the free action of individual citizens. They have no more authority to establish a particular religious day than to establish a particular religion. When people desist from work on Sunday, they comply with all that the state can justly require of them, and are left free to occupy themselves in any way they please, subject to the usual regulations of conduct which are in force at all times.

But ecclesiastical influence is constantly striving to turn the secular Sunday to theological account, and to invoke the interference of law with the freedom of citizens in religious matters. The history of the puritanical Sunday has been for centuries the history of meddling with the liberties of conduct, of the coercion of conscience, and the enforcement of observances on alleged religious grounds. The most innocent actions have been held as profanation of the Lord's day. All amusements were forbidden as wicked, and it was held as sinful to kindle the fire, or