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1895 "Flag Law"
as reported in Various Newspapers
Transcribed for Genealogy Trails by Teri Moncelle Colglazier


ILLINOIS FLAG LAW DENOUNCED - Unanimous Action by the Lutheran Teachers of the Northwest - Milwaukee, Wis., Aug. 1. -- The conference of the Lutheran teachers of the Northwest, the first representative body of Lutherans which has met since the passage of the so-called flag law of Illinois, took action respecting it this afternoon, adopting a resolution reported by a committee appointed at the session this forenoon. It is as follows: We, the Northwestern conference of Lutheran teachers of the Northwest, recognize in the so-called flag law of Illinois a gross violation of the rights of corporations not under the control of that State. It was adopted by a unanimous vote, the only question raised being the wisdom of taking action in Wisconsin on a matter concerning Illinois. [The Inter Ocean - 2 Aug 1895]

WILL FIGHT THE FLAG LAW - School Directors of McLean County, Illinois, Believe It to be Despotic and Un-american - Bloomington, Ill., Aug 26 - A convention of school directors of McLean County assembled here to-day to consider the new flag law of Illinois to the provisions of which strenuous objections have been made in many parts of the county. Notwithstanding a pouring rain, nearly 800 directors were present. The convention was decidedly animated. It was apparent that a large majority of the directors were opposed to the new law. Resolutions were offered, declaring the flag law un-American and despotic. An amendment to strike out these two words was, after a brief debate, tabled by an overwhelming majority. The resolutions were then adopted by a large majority. The State Attorney was called and asked to give his opinion as to the power of the School Directors to pay the expenses of a test case to determine the constitutionality of the law. He gave the opinion that the directors had no power to expend money for such purposes. A motion was then made to appoint a committee of three to raise funds by personal (illegible) to defray the expenses of the test case. [St. Louis Republic - 27 Aug 1895]

ILLINOIS FLAG LAW - Letter from H. H. Kingsbury, Author of the Law - Olney, Ill., Aug. 28. -- To the Editor. -- As there is a great deal being said just now about the flag law, I, as author of the bill, would like to say a few things through the columns of The Inter Ocean. In the first place, I want to thank The Inter Ocean for it’s strong endorsement of the law, and also the entire city and county press for the manly and patriotic support and defense of the law and the principles it was intended by the author to represent. But there are a few things in your editorial of Sunday, Aug. 18, that I must refer to. You say: “If Assistant Attorney General Newell be correct, and we believe he is, in defining the new flag law as applicable only to the public school,” etc. Now Mr. Newell is not correct. The law does apply to private and parochial schools. I quote the first section of the law: Section 1 Be it enacted by the people of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly, that it shall be the duty of all school directors and boards of education of all public schools in the State, and trustees and boards of directors of all colleges and educational institutions of every description in this State, whether State, county municipal, district, sectarian, or private to provide United States national flags of not less than 4x8 feet in size, and cause the same to unfurled and kept floating from a suitable flagstaff to be placed on the top of all public schoolhouses, college buildings, and all buildings used for educational purposes in this State, whether the same be conducted and controlled by the State, or by county, township, municipal, district, sectarian, corporation, or private authority, on each and every day when such schools, colleges and educational institutions are in session from 9 o’clock a. m. to 4 o’clock p. m. in each and every year. You will see by this that the law does apply to schools “of every description in this State.” notwithstanding Mr. Newell’s opinion, and I am not saying this in a spirit of criticism, as I have not seen Mr. Newell’s opinion. I have tried to get it, but have been unable to do so. I would be glad to receive a “marked” copy. Then you say “We should regard the law as unwise were it applicable to private or parochial schools.” And, again “We do not believe the law was intended to be applied to private or parochial schools. We should regard it as impertinent if it were.” Now, I cannot agree with you in the above. As author of the bill I intended it to apply to all schools in the State. In other words, I intended to say just what I did say. The law is as plain as the English language can make it. It says what it means, and means just what it says. When I drew the bill I did not “consider it unwise” to legislate for private and parochial schools, nor do I think so now. We pass laws governing railroads and other corporations, in which the people are not as much interested as they are in the education of the youth of our land. These private and parochial schools are educating our children, everybody’s children, who are to become citizens of our State and our Nation, not of some foreign nation but of our Nation -- free America -- over which the stars and stripes float, “and under whose folds every American citizen is protected whether at home or abroad, whether on land or on sea.” And we are having a verification of that right now with France. Then these children that are being educated in these schools are to become not only citizens of our State and Nation, but voters and office-holders, possibly Governors and Presidents, executors of the laws of our State and Nation, perchance commanding officers in our armies. Not the armies of Europe or Asia but of our armies. In view of these facts, how important that they should be taught patriotism, loyalty, love of country, and love of flag. In view of these facts has the State not a right? Yes, and is it not her duty to say what shall or what shall not be taught in these schools. And has the State not a right to say that the American flag shall wave over these schoolhouses and seats of learning in common with all other schoolhouses of the State? I say it has the right, and, while I am not a lawyer yet I do not believe that the Supreme Court will declare the law, or any part of it, unconstitutional. We had a number of as good lawyers in the Senate and House as there are in the State, and the question of constitutionality was not raised; and Governor Altgeld, himself a lawyer, and at one time an occupant of the judicial bench, and a writer of no mean ability, certainly did not consider the law unconstitutional, or ever vicious, or he, undoubtedly, would have vetoed it. Our Lutheran friends are making a mistake in opposing the law, and I advise them as a friend to comply with the law, and it might be beneficial to them financially. I don’t know how others may view this matter, but if I had children attending their school, and they refused to float the American flag in accordance with the law of the State, I should withdraw my children from their school, and I believe this will be done by many persons if they refuse to comply with the law. But why should they not comply with the law? They are American citizens, they are protected by the laws of the land and the folds of this same flag. And if the flag is good enough to protect both them and their property, both at home and abroad, is it not good enough to float over their schoolhouses, and even their churches? I think it is, and I believe they will conclude so, too, before three months; at least I hope so. It was not the intention of the law to “offend or humiliate any religious denomination,” but you strike the keynote of the design and intent of the law in the last part of your editorial, when you say that “the flag is not ordered to be hoisted over the public schools so much as an ensign of loyalty, which may be taken for granted, on the part of all the teachers and scholars, as an emblem of power. It floats from the schoolhouse as it floats from the masts of a man-of-way, or from the dome of the Capitol, as a symbol of might and power of the Republic, as a reminder of the allegiance that all owe to its laws.” This is the spirit in which it was written, introduced, and urged to its final passage. And if the superintendents of schools throughout the State, the directors, trustees, teachers, and all concerned in education, including our Lutheran brethren, will enter into, and obey the law in the spirit in which it was intended, they can make it an object-lesson to the youth of our State, and make the law the means of doing very much good to the rising generation. And I prophesy that in a year from now the flags would not be taken down from one-tenth of the schools if the law should be repealed. -- H. H. Kingsbury [The Inter Ocean - 30 Aug 1895]



FLAG LAW ASSAILED - Illinois State Grange Demands Its Speedy Repeal - Springfield, Ill., Dec. 12 -- The Illinois State Grange today adopted resolutions demanding the repeal of the flag law; that instructors in the public schools should teach, on one day in each scholastic month, the duties of citizens as to patriotism and respect for “Old Glory”; opposing the withdrawal from circulation of greenbacks; favoring the referendum in settling disputes, and recommending the remonetization of silver. A resolution was voted down favoring a graduated land tax. [excerpt - The Inter Ocean - 13 Dec 1895]



ALTGELD INDICTED - Failed to Have the American Flag Unfurled Over University of Illinois - Champaign, Ills., March 26. -- The Champaign county grand jury today indicted Governor John P. Altgeld and the entire board of trustees of the University of Illinois for not complying with the State law requiring that the American flag be displayed over the State university building. [The State (Columbia, South Carolina) - 27 Mar 1896]

THE UNIVERSITY AND THE FLAG - A Statement of the Case from President Draper - University of Illinois, Champaign, Ill., March 30. -- To the Editor. -- The indictment of the trustees of the State University for alleged violation of the flag law is quite likely to bring lasting harm to the institution unless the facts are plainly stated. Even then it is more than probable that for years to come men will antagonize and institution which they have been led to believe lacks the patriotism to fly the American flag. The facts are as follows. Some four years ago the university erected a flagstaff in front of Military Hall, at a very central and conspicuous point upon the campus. It has kept a twenty-foot flag floating from this staff every school day since that time, except in stormy weather, when its place has been taken by a storm flag of smaller dimensions. The flag has floated high above the university buildings and could be plainly seen for miles around in all directions. We have not only displayed the flag conspicuously, but everything ahs been done to inspire respect for it. This institution is in part founded upon the national land grant acts, and we have and officer detailed from the regular army for instruction in military science; accordingly, the customs and regulations of the army, touching the care of the flag, have been uniformly observed. The army authorities are opposed to allowing flagstaffs to depend upon other structures for support, or to allowing any attachment to the flagstaff except what is necessary to the support of the flag. It is doubtful if there has been another flag in Illinois displayed more conspicuously or treated with greater respect than the one at the University of Illinois. It has been raised each morning and lowered each night, without being allowed to touch the ground, and with military exactness and ceremony. All this was going on long before the flag laws were passed, and we are confident that both before and since their enactment we have been fully carrying out the intent of the Legislature. We have here a dozen buildings of all sizes. We have shops and barns in which we give instruction. Is it claimed that we must display the flag from each of these buildings in order to comply with the law? The central thought in all this matter must be love and respect for the flag. is not that to be attained in larger measure by the practice which we have uniformly observed than by a mere multiplicity of flags? The idea has gained ground that the university was opposed to the flag laws. That is a mistake. There would, of course, be a variety of opinions as to the details of those laws, but all are in favor of the end sought. It is to be hoped that an extreme and unexpected construction of the statutes, and harsh proceedings under them, will not arouse general opposition thereto. - A. S. Draper, President of the University of Illinois [The Inter Ocean - 1 Apr 1896]

TOO MUCH OLD GLORY - The Good People of Illinois Sick of Their Flag Laws - Springfield Republican - They are already getting sick of their flag law in Illinois, although it is less than a year old, or about of the same age as the Massachusetts law. The indictment of the trustees of the state university, including the governor of the State for failure to have a sufficient number of flags flying from the building, ahs brought out a pretty general expression of hostility to the law, even from the newspapers which had advocated its passage. An indignation meeting was held at Champaign on Saturday and the law was condemned more sharply than the action of the grand jury. It was denounced as “a piece of legislative buncombe [*].” a “shame on the intelligence of the people” and calculated rather to dwarf than to increase patriotism. Resolutions were passed calling for the repeal of the law at the earliest opportunity. Disapproval of the law has also been expressed by the teachers’ association of central Illinois and a demand made that it be modified so as to permit school directors and teachers to have the flag unfurled over the school-house at such times only as they may deem most fitting. Meantime several priests of Roman Catholic, and pastors of Lutheran churches have been indicted for failing to fly the flag over their parochial school-houses as required by law, and these classes are up in arms against the act. It is a prevalent opinion that the State had no business to force the flag upon these private schools, unsupported as they are by any public funds. The Massachusetts law is far more moderate than the Illinois statute. It relates only to the public schools, where the Illinois law takes in public and private schools and all public buildings as well. Public school committees are simply required to furnish flags and suitable flagstaffs “whereby such flag may be displayed.” etc. The furnishing of flags in compulsory, but not apparently the display of them. This is a comparatively harmless, though rather expensive, act, but like that of Illinois it is a product of that curious state of mind which prevailed throughout the country for a year or two prior to the Venezuelan message and the flaming up of the war spirit which has distinguished this congress. People got to thinking after the Hawaiian “back-down” that we were not as a nation self-assertive enough, that our rights were being trampled under foot, and that a craven spirit ruled official circles. After some brooding over this, there sprung up in all directions schemes to force a patriotic spirit into the people. We were in danger at one time of having laws passed compelling every house-owner to fly a flag about it. But we have had a lot of this steam blown off lately, and even school-house flag laws are beginning to look a little ridiculous. [Springfield Republican - 2 Apr 1896]

* buncombe - Buncombe county, North Carolina; from a remark made by its congressman, who defended an irrelevant speech by claiming that he was speaking to Buncombe (date 1845) - insincere or foolish talk; nonsense - [webster.com]

CATHOLIC PRELATES INDICTED - Charged With Violation of the Illinois School Flag Law - Jacksonville, Ill., May 23. -- Indictments have been returned by the grand jury of Morgan county against Bishop Ryan of the Roman Catholic diocese of Alton, Vicar General Hickey of the diocese of Springfield and the heads of the Illinois College at this place for not having the American flag on the school buildings under their control. The displaying of the American flag upon school building was made compulsory by a recent legislative enactment in this state. [28 May 1896 - St. Albans Daily Messenger]

FLAG LAW VIOLATORS - Trustees of the University of Illinois Must Stand Trial - Special to The Republic - Champaign, Ill., June 12. -- In the case of the people of Illinois against the trustees of the University of Illinois, who were indicted for alleged failure to comply with the flag laws, Judge Wright this morning overruled the motion by the defendants to quash the indictments. He spoke at length in the matter, and closed by overruling the motion to quash. This means that the trustees will have to appear in court and stand trial for violation of the criminal law. It is not known, at this time, when the case will come up for hearing, but it is through likely by the State Attorney that it can be reached by the latter part of next week. There were many people in this community who were of the opinion that the court would quash the indictment, and there was no small amount of surprise when it was learned that he had overruled the motion to quash. [13 Jun 1896 - St. Louis Republic]



FLAG LAW COLLAPSES - Trustees of the University of Illinois Again at Large - Urbana, Ill., June 26. -- Special Telegram -- The trustees of the University of Illinois were brought to trial this morning in the Circuit Court of Champaign County, Judge F. M. Wright presiding, for the alleged violation of the flag laws of the state. The proceedings of their trial were brief, and in a short time the indictments had been quashed and the trustees were all released form the connection with an annoying situation. Of the indicted trustees warrants had been served on the following: Richard P. Morgan, Dwight: Julia Holmes Smith, Chicago; Nelson W. Graham, Carbondale; James E. Armstrong, Chicago; Isaac S. Raymond, Sidney; Alexander McLean, Macomb; Samuel A. Bullard, Springfield and they were in court ready to stand trial. The case was called for 8:40 o’clock, but it was about half an hour later when Attorney Mann announced that the defendants were ready to proceed. On behalf of his clients Mr. Mann submitted a petition for a change of venue. When he had finished speaking the court announced that as the state’s attorney had not been previously notified, as the law requires, that a motion for a change of venue would be made, the petition would not be granted. The defendants then entered their plea of not guilty and the clerk proceeded to call the jury. Before the twelve jurors had been examined by the counsel on both sides, Mr. Mann arose and withdrew his plea of not guilty, and made a motion to quash the indictment. This motion was argued at some length, and the case finally was brought to a close by the court’s allowing the motion to quash the indictment and discharging the defendants. Judge Wright said that he thought the Legislature had clearly made a mistake in declaring something to be a misdemeanor that never was heard of before. [Daily Inter Ocean - 27 Jun 1896]



Illinois Flag Law Unconstitutional - Champaign, Ills., June 29. -- The trustees of the University of Illinois, who were indicted by the grand jury for violation of the Illinois flag law, were arraigned in the circuit court to answer to the charge. A former plea of guilty was withdrawn and Judge Wright decided that the law was unconstitutional. [Aberdeen Daily News - 29 Jun 1896]



CURRENT ILLINOIS FLAG LAW

(5 ILCS 465/3) (from Ch. 1, par. 3303)
Sec. 3. The directors or board of education of every school district in the State of Illinois shall cause to be erected and shall keep in repair on all public school houses or within the school grounds surrounding such public school buildings which may be in their respective school districts, a good and sufficient flag-staff or pole, together with all necessary adjustments, and shall provide a United States national flag of not less than four by eight feet in size, which shall be floated from such flag-staff or pole during the school hours of such days as the directors or board of education may determine: Provided, that the flag shall not be hoisted on any court house, state institution or public school building during any day when a violent storm or inclement weather would destroy or materially injure such flag.
(Source: P.A. 81-1509.)



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