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    March 6, 1889

    “The Blair Education Amendment Bill” American Sentinel 4, 7.

    E. J. Waggoner

    We promised some time ago to comment on Senator Blair’s remarks on this bill, but since then other matter which seemed more important has crowded it out. Now, although the bill has been twice printed in the AMERICAN SENTINEL, we propose to print it again in connection with Mr. Blair’s remarks in the Senate, and to make such comments on both as will enable all to see just what is involved in the proposed amendment. The largely increased, circulation of the SENTINEL, since the bill was last printed, warrants and even makes necessary this repetition.AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.1

    Before proceeding to the consideration of the bill, it may be well to read what some of the most prominent men in the United States think of the Constitution as it is. The New York Independent, without any reference to the Blair amendment, sent out letters asking the following question: “Has there been such advance in political science, and such development of this Nation, during the past hundred years, as to demand any considerable modification in our Constitution? If so, in what lines should it be made?” To this the following answers, which appeared in the Independent, January 10, 1889, were received from men who certainly need no instruction in the United States Constitution. We first quote the closing paragraph of a long reply by Francis Wharton, LL.D.:—AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.2

    “The Constitution itself requires no amendment; but what is required is the removal from it of the patches impairing its symmetry, its comprehensiveness, its elasticity, its durability, which have been imposed on it by the judiciary.”AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.3

    Hon. George Bancroft, the historian, who is as familiar with the Constitution as ordinary people are with the alphabet, said:—AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.4

    “I have your letter asking what changes had better be made in the Constitution. I know of none; if any change is needed, it is in ourselves, that we may more and more respect that body of primal law.”AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.5

    This is to the point, and we commend it to the careful consideration of National Reformers. It is they that need amendment; not the Constitution of the United States. The remaining answers are from judges of the United States Supreme Court, whose special business it is to be familiar with the Constitution. Justice Bradley wrote, “I would have no change” and then added:—AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.6

    “I think it is a most happy arrangement that sudden whiffs and gusts of popular feeling are not always able to execute and carry out the rash purposes with which they are inspired.”AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.7

    To the same intent is the following from Justice Gray:—AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.8

    “I am so old-fashioned as to think that the Constitution, administered according to its letter and spirit, is well enough as it is. And I am of the opinion of the late Governor Andrew, that it is not desirable to Mexicanize our Government by proposing constitutional amendments as often as there is supposed to be a disturbance in its practical working.”AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.9

    If the so-called Educational Amendment should be adopted, the flood-gates of religious legislation would be opened, and the Constitution of the United States would in time become little more than a church creed. This is not empty assertion, as will presently appear.AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.10

    Justice Blatchford’s letter to the Independent, which we quote in full, is as follows:—AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.11

    “I am satisfied with the Constitution as it is. It cannot be bettered. Constitution tinkers are in a poor business. If there are ills, it is better to bear them than fly to others that we know not of.”AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.12

    There you have the opinion of men whose business it is to make a special study of the Constitution of the United States. Surely it should be entitled to some weight. Reason should teach men that there cannot be any serious defect in a Constitution under which this Government has grown to an extent and with a rapidity unprecedented in the history of Nations. But we come now to the proposed amendment, which reads as follows:—AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.13

    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following amendment to the Constitution of the United States be, and hereby is, proposed to the States, to become valid when ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the States, as provided in the Constitution:—AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.14


    “SECTION 1. No State shall ever make or maintain any law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.15

    “SEC. 2. Each State in this Union shall establish and maintain a system of free public schools, adequate for the instruction of all the children living therein, between the ages of six and sixteen years inclusive, in the common branches of knowledge, and in virtue, morality, and the principles of the Christian religion. But no money raised by taxation imposed by law, or any money or other property or credit belonging to any municipal organization, or to any State, or to the United States, shall ever be appropriated, applied, or given to the use or purposes of any school, institution, corporation, or person, whereby instruction or training shall be given in the doctrines, tenets, belief, ceremonials, or observances peculiar to any sect, denomination, organization, or society, being, or claiming to be, religious in its character, or such peculiar doctrines, tenets, belief, ceremonial, or observances be taught or inculcated in the free public schools.AMS March 6, 1889, page 49.16

    “Sec: 3. To the end that each State, the United States, and all the people thereof, may have and preserve Governments republican in form, and in substance, the United States shall guarantee to every State, and to the people of every State, and of the United States, the support and maintenance of such a system of free public schools as is herein provided.AMS March 6, 1889, page 50.1

    “SEC. 4. That Congress shall enforce this article by legislation when necessary.”AMS March 6, 1889, page 50.2

    This joint resolution was introduced into the Senate on the 25th of May, 1888, and after being read twice, was ordered to lie on the table. It remained there until December 22, 1888, when Mr. Blair, having obtained the consent of the Senate, called it up, and had it referred to the Committee on Education and Labor.AMS March 6, 1889, page 50.3

    The Charleston News and Courier has printed quite a number of letters from Southern college presidents and professors, concerning this bill, most of them favoring it on the ground that it would be a help to the Southern States. None of them look at the religious features of the bill, but only to the material help which it promises. It is this which will lead many to overlook the very objectionable clause in it; yet even this is condemned by some who are in the South, where the greatest benefit would be received in this line. Thus, Prof. C. F. Smith, of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, says:—AMS March 6, 1889, page 50.4

    “At first I was favorably inclined to the bill, as I feared that most of the Southern States would not be able to bear the burden of illiteracy thrust upon them by the Civil War. I am now opposed to the bill on general principles. I do not believe that many of the Southern States really need this help. Granted, however, that in many, or even most of the Southern States, the immediate result would be good,—that is, that more men would, in the next few years, be able to read and write with this help than without it,—in the long run I fear we should be more injured than benefited. Unless States are different from individuals, the policy of helping them to do what, even with great effort, they might do for themselves, could only end in making them dependent.”AMS March 6, 1889, page 50.5

    President J. F. Crowell, of Trinity College, North Carolina, is in favor of the bill because of the material help which will be afforded to the States, although he acknowledges that it is defective as a measure of financial administration, and on constitutional grounds, admitting that it will “stretch the Constitution till it cracks.”AMS March 6, 1889, page 50.6

    Prof. E. C. Woodward, of South Carolina College, Columbia, says: “The South needs additional educational facilities, but this bill does not offer the educational aid most needed by our people.”AMS March 6, 1889, page 50.7

    President W. S. Candler, of Emory College, Oxford, Georgia, says:—AMS March 6, 1889, page 50.8

    “In view of the sore need or more and better educational facilities in the South, I am strongly tempted to indorse the bill, but my judgment, unbiased by such considerations, is that the bill is not to be approved. I do not believe that the general Government is authorized to make any such appropriation to the cause of education. As to its possible effect on the South I cannot speak so confidently, but I fear it would be disappointing as a method of popular education, and, besides, would teach our people a parental view of this Government which would be vicious in its results. We need something more than money to educate the people, and there are many evils we can endure with less danger than we can invite a revolutionary departure from the constitutional functions of the National Government.”AMS March 6, 1889, page 50.9

    From the quotations already made, all of which have been copied from Public Opinion, January 26, 1889, it appears that the amendment is not to be commended even aside from its religious features, to which we shall now give attention. The second section is the one which contains the real point at issue. That requires each State to “establish and maintain a system of free public schools, adequate for the education of all the children living therein, between the ages of six and sixteen years, inclusive, in the common branches of knowledge, and in virtue, morality, and the principles of the Christian religion.”AMS March 6, 1889, page 50.10

    It would seem that the most superficial observer could see that this section is in direct opposition to the first, which ways that “no State shall ever make or maintain any law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” for it does provide for the establishment of a State religion. Some apologists for the bill have sought to evade this, by saying that the amendment does not require the States to maintain an establishment of religion, but only to maintain schools adequate for the education of children in the principles of the Christian religion.AMS March 6, 1889, page 50.11

    This is the thinnest kind of an evasion; for what would be the sense of maintaining schools adequate for the education of children in the principles of the Christian religion, if those principles were not taught? What is meant by “schools adequate for the education” of children in the principles of the Christian religion? Evidently, schools equipped with suitable text-books, and provided with teachers competent to give instruction in those principles. That would involve quite a change from our present school system, for our schools are not now capable of imparting such instruction. Now it is the height of folly to say that the Government would be at the expense of providing extra text-books and teachers, so as to make the schools adequate for the education of the children in the principles of religion, and yet not require any such instruction to be given. The very fact that the State is required to establish and maintain a system of schools adequate for the education of children in the common branches of knowledge, and in virtue, morality, and the principles of the Christian religion,” shows that they would be expected to teach those principles, just as much as the common branches of knowledge.AMS March 6, 1889, page 50.12

    E. J. W.

    (To be continued.)

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