Lowering The Flag To Get In A Saloon
( Originally Published 1902 )
AT the close of a patriotic parade one evening I saw two young men in the street of a city, one bearing a large banner with mottoes on it and the other carrying a beautiful silk flag. They halted in front of a saloon and undertook to enter it, but had considerable difficulty in doing so. The banner was so large that it could hardly be gotten in the door, and the long flagpole had to be tilted horizontally and the folds of the flag gathered in the hand to make the entrance possible. And with feelings of regret, not unmingled with indignation, I saw the American flag literally hauled down in the presence of a saloon. It would have been bad enough for the young men, if they had desired a drink, to have taken their emblems to their hall and returned to the bar, but to stain the stars and stripes with the slime of a filthy saloon, and to take such trouble to do so, was infinitely worse. It filled my soul with con-tempt to see that emblem, that had never surrendered to any earthly power, trailed in the dust in the presence of rum. Even the door through which they entered had a flag fastened above it. On patriotic occasions there is the sub-lime mockery of saloon decorations—flags, flags, nothing but American flags everywhere, on the outside and inside of the building.
There is no such enemy to the flag as the saloon, and if there were enough of them the stars and stripes would be an impossibility. The Old World idea of government was that God gave the authority to the kings and queens and emperors, and that they granted what rights they pleased to their subjects. Our American idea of government is that God gives the authority to the people themselves. But this individual sovereignty can only be maintained on two conditions—those of education and virtue. Where there is universal ignorance there is an absolute despotism every time ; where the few are educated, there is aristocracy; where the greater number are enlightened, there will be parliaments with increasing power; and where the education becomes general among the common people, there will be a republican form of government. Our fathers understood the philosophy of free institutions, and at the very beginning of their colonial life instituted the common school system, which is the pride and hope of the Republic ; and the people of today recognize that same philosophy by the manner in which they foster the public school system, and by the princely generosity with which they endow and maintain the higher institutions of learning. Is there anything in a saloon which suggests the education which is so necessary to the perpetuity of free government? There is everything to suggest besotted ignorance and wretched poverty.
The other condition of a republican form of government is virtue. No man can be said to govern himself, in whom the moral and spiritual faculties do not dominate the baser ones ; and no nation is able to govern itself where animal-ism, vice and crime predominate; where there is general wickedness enough amongst a people there must be absolute despotism to govern them ; since the world began it has always been so and will continue to be so. The vile slums of great cities, of necessity, have brutal bosses; if one is removed, another quickly takes his place, in answer to the law that vicious elements must be ruled with a rod of iron. There is nothing in all the land which develops animal-ism, breeds vice, fosters crime, as the saloon does ; nothing which so encourages that lawlessness which requires an absolute despotism. These vile drinking places not only destroy individual character, but they do all in their power to make impossible a democratic form of government. What a mockery, then, to decorate the saloons so profusely with bunting, when they are the worst enemies the flag could possibly have.
Christianity not only saves the individual from sin, but it promotes political liberty by checking the base and low in man and encouraging the high and holy. It is a friend to a representative form of government. It has been the Christ spirit of the nineteenth century, more than anything else, that has secured the steadily increasing liberties to the common people of the world.