San Francisco News Letter/April 18, 1868
Since my last letter there has come to my knowledge a most extraordinary transaction. One of your citizens has been arrested for a violation of what you call the Sunday Law. He gave a theatrical exhibition and neglected to send the officers of the law complimentary tickets; a great blunder, and one likely to entail upon him considerable annoyance. However, the rdustraldibs—by which name in Hdkho we designate those who enforce the laws, in order to distinguish them from the fdustraldibs or thieves—magnanimously allowed the show to proceed, by which it does not appear that anybody was hurt. I learn, however, that several pious persons who were at church hardly three miles distant, were so annoyed by what they termed the “noisy and barbarous amusement” that they quite forgot to be sincere in praying for their enemies. I am told that the Sunday Law was framed expressly to prevent so deplorable a catastrophe, and, I can well believe it, for there seems to be no other valid reason for retaining it in your law-books. These pious persons—the Rev. Horatio Stebbins was not one of them, himself being guilty of the like practice—united in a petition for the immediate punishment of the offender, as an enemy to religion. This at first seemed strange to me, as I have always heard that pious people pray for mercy and forgiveness to their enemies. But a kind gentleman has since explained to me that these prayers, being addressed only to God, are not intended to influence their fellow men in dealing out justice to the enemies of the Church. This seems to me like asking a faithful dog to spare the child which has been torn from his keeping by a hungry wolf. But I have not yet been long enough among you to fully understand your ways. A longer familiarity with your customs will doubtless increase my respect for them. But as I was saying, these holy persons soon convinced an eminent rdustraldib, whose name I will not hand down to posterity, that what you call Christian Civilization was much in danger of immediate extinction, and furthermore, that such a result would be an evil; two truths of equal clearness. The worthy gentleman at once wrote out a warrant and dispatched one Michael Feeney to serve it. For my part I would have served it differently from what Mr. Feeney did. I would have burnt it. The upshot of it was that Mr. Charles Fitsch was arrested and tried for fracturing the Sabbath and disturbing the placid meditations of all holy Christians. Judge Provines, before whom the unhappy criminal was tried, has reserved his decision until the 20th inst. Meanwhile, however, I shall see him and direct him to discharge the prisoner, for to convict him would be unjust, and therefore, contrary to law, and unconstitutional, for of course, in a great country like yours, “constitutional” and “just” mean exactly the same thing.
In Hdkho, we believe like you in a Supreme Being, though never having seen him we are not very positive when we assert his existence. Still we worship him when we have nothing else to do, and read very attentively the laws which are attributed to him—though I must confess that none of these are authenticated by his signature, and the names of those who compiled them are not certainly known. Many of these laws require us to abstain from certain actions whose performance would injure no one, nor be a sin except for the laws themselves forbidding them.
When any person violated one of these, we say that inasmuch as it hurts no man, no man has the right to punish the offender. We think that as only God has suffered by the offence, only he can judge of the proper punishment. We make no laws except for our own protection, and leave God to take care of Himself. I assure you it would be esteemed quite absurd in Hdkho, and quite presumptuous too, to attempt to strengthen the laws of God by the laws of man; and he who should attempt to punish one who had in no way injured his fellow creatures, would himself be put to death. We would not even presume to punish those who injure their fellow men, except that we find God never does it for us.
(Source: California State Library, Microfilm Collection)