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The Sunday Mail Argument (1810-1830)

For approximately 20 years, from 1810 to 1830, there was an ongoing battle fought between the religious traditionalists (conservatives) and members of the government over the lack of Sabbathrecognition. Mails were transported and delivered on Sundays and Congress had passed an act requiring post offices to be open for at least an hour each Sunday for the pick up of mail by individuals, etc.

Research and editing by Jim Alllison


April 30, 1810

An Act

Regulating the Post-Office Establishment (1)

Section 9. And be it further enacted, That every postmaster shall keep an office in which one or more persons shall attend on every day on which a mail, or bag, or other packet, or parcel of letters shall arrive by land or water, as well as on other days, at such hours as the Postmaster-General shall direct, for the purpose of performing the duties thereof; and it shall be the duty of the postmaster at all reasonable hours, on every day of the week, to deliver, on demand, any letter, paper, or packet, to the person entitled to or authorized to receive the same.

Footnote

(1) "United States Statutes at Large," Volume II, page 592 This act was repealed March 3, 1825, by an act entitled "An act to reduce into one the several acts establishing and regulating the Post-Office Department." The above section, however, was reenacted.

Source of Information:

"11th Congress, 2nd Session, An Act Regulating The Post-Office Establishment, Enacted April 30, 1810." American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 176.


January 4, 1811

Petitions

Mr. Findley presented a petition of the Synod of Pittsburg, in the State of Pennsylvania, praying that the laws and regulations for the government of the Post- office Establishment may be so altered or amended as to prohibit mail stages and post riders from traveling, and post-offices being kept open, on Sunday.

Referred to the Postmaster-General

Source of Information:

"11th Congress, 3rd Session, Petitions in Reference to Sunday Mails, Friday, January 4, 1811". Annals of Congress, pp 487. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 176.


January 18, 1811

Similar petitions presented and referred to the Postmaster-General.

Source of Information:

"11th Congress, 3rd Session, Petitions in Reference to Sunday Mails, Friday, January 18, 1811." Annals of Congress pp. 826. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 177.


January 25, 1811

Mr. John Porter presented a petition of sundry inhabitants of Philadelphia, to the same effect with the petition of the Synod of Pittsburg, presented on the fourth instant; which was read.

Source of Information:

"11th Congress, 3rd Session, Petitions in Reference to Sunday Mails, Friday, January 18, 1811." Annals of Congress pp. 827. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 177.


January 31, 1811

The Speaker laid before the House a report from the Postmaster-General, on the petitions of the Synod of Pittsburg, and of sundry inhabitants of the western country, in the States of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio, referred on the fourth and eighteenth instant; which was read, and referred to the Committee on Post-offices and Post-roads, to report specially by bill or otherwise.

Source of Information:

"11th Congress, 3rd Session, Petitions in Reference to Sunday Mails, Friday, January 18, 1811." Annals of Congress, pp. 855. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 177.


January 31, 1811

Remonstrance

The Postmaster-General, in obedience to the resolutions of the House of Representatives of the United States, passed on the fourth and eighteenth of the present month, respectfully reports:

That to keep the government and its agents informed of such events as might be interesting to the nation, with as little delay as possible; to equalize, among the merchants of the several capitals, the chances of receiving commercial information; and to cause the great lines of communication to and from the centre to the various parts of the nation to be kept up regularity and despatch, and the routes to be performed within the least time practicable; he has caused the mail on many of the most important routes to be transported on the Sabbath under a belief that it was "a work of necessity."

To guard against any annoyance to the good citizens of the United States, he carefully instructed and directed the agents of this office to pass quietly, without announcing their arrival or departure by the sounding of horns or trumpets, or any other calculated to call of the attention pof the citizens from their devotions; but until after the passage of the act of the 30th April, 1810, this office never demanded of the Postmasters, on the Sabbath Day, the performance of any duties other than those of taking from the mail portmanteaus of the letters destined for delivery at that particular office, and duly forwarding the mail according to the usual course of business. In all previous instances where letters were delivered to the citizens, it had been by the courtesy of the Postmasters, though often with the knowledge, and sometimes on the recommendation, of the Postmaster General.That, under and by virtue of the ninth section of the act of the thirtieth of April, 1810, the Postmaster-General conceived himself bound to compel the postmasters to receive letters from, and deliver letters to, the citizens, on the Sabbath day; and in conformity to that act, the following instruction was given to the postmasters, to wit:

"At post-offices where the mail arrives on Sunday, the office is to be kept open for the delivery of letters, etc., for one hour after the arrival and assorting of the mail; but in case that would interfere with the hours of public worship, then the office is to be kept open for one hour after the usual time of dissolving the meetings, for that purpose."

The Postmaster-General further remarks, that from the peculiar phraseology of the ninth section of said get, it is doubted whether he be warranted by law in limiting the right of the citizens to demand their letters to one hour on the Sabbath; and, in one instance, in Pennsylvania, an officer has been prosecuted, under the section aforesaid, for refusing to deliver a letter on the Sabbath, not called for within the time prescribed by this office. Although in cases of extreme anxiety or national calamity, it may be proper for postmasters to open their offices for the reception and delivery of letters on the Sabbath, and particularly to the officers of government, still it is believed that the good sense of the officers is a sufficient safeguard for the delivery of letters under all such circumstances; and that compelling the postmasters to attend to the duties of the office on the Sabbath, is on them a hardship, as well as in itself tending to bring into disuse and disrepute the institutions of that holy day.

GIDEON GRANGER,

Postmaster-General.

General Post-office, January 30, 1811

Source of Information:

"11th Congress, 3rd Session, Remonstrance Against the Delivery of Letters, Papers, and Packets, at the Post-Office on the Sabbath." Communicated to the House of Representatives, January 31, 1811. American State Papers, Class VII, pp 44-45. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 177-78.


January 31, 1811

Memorial And Petition

To the Honorable, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, in Congress, the

memorial, representation, and Petition of the undersigned citizens, resident in Philadelphia,

respectfully represents:

That, ever since the establishment of the Post Office in this city, the Postmaster, conforming to be established laws of the Commonwealth, has, until a short time since, kept the office for the receiving and delivery of letters, shut on the first day of the week, usually called the Lord's day; that as well himself, as the different persons employed in that Department, have hitherto enjoyed the privileges of that day in common with their fellow-citizens.

Your memorialists, however some few months past have observed the Post office open, for the distribution of letters on the said first day of the week; and are told that this measure, which infringes upon the laws of the State of Pennsylvania, is in consequence of a provision in the act passed by your honorable body, on the 25th of April, last, and which, by the 9th section thereof; provides "that every Postmaster shall keep an office, at which one or more persons shall attend on every day, on which a mail or bag, or other packet or parcel of letters shall arrive, by and or water as well as on other days, at such hours as the Postmaster General shall direct. And it shall be the duty of the Postmaster, at all reasonable hours on every day of the week, to deliver on demand any letter or packet, &c.

Your memorialists are informed that, under this clause, the Postmasters are compelled to keep the Post Office open on the Lord's day; to the evident infringement of the laws now in force in this State, against the violation thereof.

Your memorialists respectfully call the attention of your honorable body to this subject, even on the ground of utility. For many years the city of Philadelphia has carried on a prosperous and extensive commerce, without violating what they deem it their duty to state to be both the law of God and of man. Nor can they see any greater impropriety in keeping open the custom--house, the banks, insurance offices, and the stores of merchants, generally, than of the Post Office. For if the reception of letters can be made of any material advantage to our merchants, much more may those useful institutions be made subservient to their purposes.

Your memorialists cannot, in justice to their own feelings, refrain from observing that the violation of known and universally received precepts, when sanctioned by the most powerful influence in the Union cannot fail of having a tendency to justify every species of breach of the laws made for the strict observance of the first day of the week, as set apart by the command of God for his more immediate service.(1)

They do, therefore, most respectfully and earnestly petition your honorable body, that the said ninth section of the act, entitled, "An act regulating the Post-office Establishment," and passed the twenty-fifth of April last, may be so amended as to prohibit the delivery of letters, papers, and packets, on the first day of the week, commonly called the Lord's day. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.

JAMES P. WILSON, and others.

Footnote (1)

This is the real foundation of all Sunday -rest movements; though for clandestine purposes, reasons are often given of a very different nature, as, solicitude for the public health, -- as though the people were so devoid of common sense as not to know enough to rest when they are tired, without being compelled to do so by law! Mr. Chief Justice Ruffin, of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, in the case of the State u. Williams, 4 Iredell, 403, Said "The truth is, that it offends us, not so much because it disturbs us in practising for ourselves the religious duties, or enjoying the salutary repose or recreation, of that day, as that it is, in itself, a breach of God's law, and a violation of the party's own religious duty.'' Sabbath laws are the remnants of religious legislation; and it was only to appear to escape the force of incontrovertible argument that such a shallow subterfuge as the "civil" Sabbath was invented.

Source of Information:

"11th Congress, 3rd Session, Remonstrance Against the Delivery of Letters, Papers, and Packets, at the Post-Office on the Sabbath." Communicated to the House of Representatives, January 31, 1811. American State Papers, Class VII, pp 44-45. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 179.


January 3, 1812

Sunday Mails (1)

Mr. Rhea (2) made the following report:

The Committee on Post-offices and Post-roads, to whom were referred the petition of the Synod of Presbyters and other citizens of Christian denominations, residing in the western parts of the United States, and the report of the Postmaster-General thereon, have had the same under consideration, and do respectfully report:

That however desirable it would be to advise the adoption of such regulations, relative to the carrying and opening of the mail, as might meet the views of the venerable Synod of Pittsburg, and the other petitioners, your committee cannot, at this peculiar crisis of the United States, recommend any alterations in the law regulating the Post-office Establishment; and do respectfully submit the following resolution:

Resolved, That the petitioners have leave to withdraw their petitions.

The resolution was concurred in.(3)

Footnotes:

(1) American State Papers, Class VII, p 45

(2) Chairman of the Committee on Post-offices and Post-roads.

(3)This was the first of a series of adverse reports on this question of the discontinuance of Sunday Mails. As the petitions increased and the Of demands of the clergy became more strenuous, the adverse reports were more decided. Again and again they refused to run the government

according to the dictates of the ecclesiastical power; and, finally, when the question had become one of national interest, adverse petitions also coming in, and the best statesmen of the times opposing the "reform" movement, Senator Johnson wrote his celebrated reports which have

received such general approbation. These reports were so well written and treated the subject so thoroughly that the movements was checked. Senator Johnson took pride in continuing the movement for complete religious freedom initiated by the founders of our government. Subse-

quently his popularity made him Vice-President of the United States.

Source of Information:

"12th Congress, 1st Session, Sunday Mails, Communicated to The House of Representatives, January 3. 1812." American State Papers, Class VII, pp 45. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 180.


June 15, 1812

Sunday Mails

Mr. Rhea made the following report:

The Committee on Post-offices and Post-roads, to whom was referred the memorial of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, have had the same under consideration, and do respectfully report:

That, heretofore, during the present session of Congress, petitions of the Synod of Presbyters, and other citizens of several Christian denominations, residing in the western part of the United States, were referred to the Committee on Post-offices and Post-roads; that the prayers of the said petitions were, in their object, design, and end, similar to that of the memorial of the said reverend General Assembly that your committee, after having had the aforesaid

petitions under consideration, reported thereon or the third day of January last past:

"That, however desirable it would be to advise the adoption of such regulations, relative to the carrying and opening ofthe mail, as might meet the views of the venerable Synod of Pittsburg, and the other petitioners, your committee cannot, at this peculiar crisis of the United States, recommend any alterations in the law regulating the Post-office Establishment, and do respectfully submit the following resolution:

"Resolved, That the petitioners have leave to withdraw their petitions."

And the same resolution was afterwards concurred in.

Your committee further report, that there doth not appear any reason to induce a change or alteration of the report made in the case of the petition of the venerable Synod of Pittsburg; nor hath any reason occurred to induce your committee to report on the memorial now under consideration, different from the report on that petition; they do, therefore,

respectfully submit the following resolution:

Resolved, That the memorialists have leave to withdraw their memorial.

All which is respectfully submitted.

Source of Information:

"12th Congress, 1st Session, Sunday Mails. Communicated to The House of Representatives, June 15, 1812." American State Papers, Class X, Volume II, page 194. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 181-82.


January 16, 1815

General Post Office, January 16, 1815

SIR: The Postmaster-General, to whom were referred sundry memorials against the usage of transporting and opening the mails on the Sabbath, has the honor to report the following facts and observations:

The usage of transporting the mails on the Sabbath is coeval with the Constitution Of the United States, and a prohibition of that usage will be first considered.

The mail passes every day in the week from Portsmouth, N.H. to Savannah, in Georgia, and from Wiscasset, in Maine, to Schoodic Falls, without resting on the Sabbath. And the same practice prevails on the great route from Washington City to Ohio, Kentucky, and the Missouri territory; and from that city to Tennessee, Mississippi territory, and New Orleans; and from

Charleston S.C. to Tennessee and Kentucky; and on several other great chains of communication.

If the mail was not to move on Sunday on the first mentioned route, it would be delayed from three to four days in passing from one extreme of the route to the other. From Washington City to St. Louis, M. T. the mail would be delayed two days; from Washington City to New Orleans the mail would be delayed three days; from New Orleans to Boston it would be delayed from four to five days; and, generally, the mails would, on an average, be retarded equal to one-seventh part of the time now employed, if mails do not move on the Sabbath.

On the smaller cross routes, the transporting of the mail has always been avoided on the Sabbath, except when necessary to prevent grat delays, and to preserve connextions with different routes.

In relation to opening the mails on the Sabbath, it may be noticed that the ninth section of the "Act regulating the Post Office establishment," makes it the duty of the Postmaster to attend to the duties of his office "every day" on which mail shall arrive at his office, and at "all reasonable hours" on every day of the week. When a mail is conveyed on the Sabbath, it must be opened and exchanged at the offices which may reach in the course of the day; this operation, at the smaller offices, occupies not more than ten to twelve minutes: in some of the larger offices it occupies one hour; and it is believed, does not greatly interfere with religious exercises, as to the Postmasters themselves.

The practice of "delivering" letters and newspapers on the Sabbath is of recent origin, and directed by the above quoted section, commencing in 1810. Prior to that period, no Postmaster (except the Postmaster at Washington City) was required to deliver letters and newspapers on the Sabbath. The "reasonable hours" were to be determined by the Postmaster General, who established the following regulations, now existing: "At Post Offices where the mail arrives on Sunday, the office is to be kept open for the delivery of letter, &c. For one hour after the arrival or assorting of the mail; but in cases that would interfere with the hours of public worship, then the office is to be kept open for one hour after the usual time of dissolving the meetings for that purpose." Also, if the mail arrives at an office too late for the delivery of letters on Saturday night, the Postmaster is instructed to deliver them on Sunday morning, at such early hour as not to intrench upon the hours devoted to public religious exercises. If these regulations are not strictly attended to, it must be imputable to the urgency of applicants and the complaisance of Postmasters.

After the preceding statement, it is to be observed that public policy, pure morality, and undefiled religion, combine in favor of the due observance of the Sabbath. Nevertheless, a nation owes to itself an exercise of the means adapted to its own preservation, and for the continuance of those very blessings which flow from such observances; and the nation must sometime operate, by a few of its agents, even on the Sabbath; and such operation may, as in time of war, become indispensable; so that the many may enjoy an uninterrupted exercise of religion in quietude and in safety. In the present state of the nation, it may be supposed necessary, daily, to convey Governmental orders, instructions, and regulations, and to communicate and receive information. If this daily carriage of the mail be, as relates to the safety of the nation, a matter of necessity, it also becomes a work of mercy. When peace shall arrive, the necessity will greatly diminsh, and it will be at times a pleasure to this department to prevent any profanation of the Sabbath, as far as it relates to its official duty or its official authority.

The preceding statement of facts and observations are submitted with much respect for the memorialists, and with great deference to yourself and the Honorable the House of Representatives.

RETURN J. MEIGS, JUN.(1)

To the Honorable, the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

FOOTNOTE:

(1) Postmaster-General

Source of Information:

"Report of Postmaster-General, General Post-Offoce, January 16, 1815." American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 183.


January 20, 1815

Mr. Rhea, from the Committee on the Post-offices and Post-roads, to whom were referred sundry petitions and memorials remonstrating against the usage of transporting and opening the mail on the Sabbath, and the report of the Postmaster-General relating thereto, reported:

That they have had the same under consideration, and deeming it of great national importance, particularly in time of war, that no delay should attend the transportation of the mail, they deem it inexpedient to interfere with the present arrangement of the post-office Establishment, and, therefore, submit the following resolution:

Resolved That it is inexpedient to grant the prayer of the petitioners.

Source of Information:

"13th Congress, 3rd Session, Sunday Mails. Communicated to The House of Representatives, January 20, 1815." American State Papers, Class VII, page 46. The report was read and referred to a Committee of the Whole, and considered by them on Friday, February 20, 1815. See Annals of Congress, pages 1084, 1186. The minutes of its consideration in the Committee of the Whole are inserted herein, posl pages 185, 186. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 182.


January 27, 1815

Mr. Daggett made the following report:

The committee of the Senate, to whom were referred the petitions of numerous citizens of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, North Carolina, and Ohio, praying the Congress to prohibit the transportation and opening of the mail on the Sabbath, having attended to the duty assigned to them, respectfully report:

That the importance of the subject, and the motives which actuate so large a portion of their fellow citizens, are duly regarded and appreciated. Was the practice of the transportation of the mail on every day of the week now commenced, and that of opening it oil the Sabbath under no regulations, the committee would consider it necessary to make some legislative provision on the subject.

The general government from its establishment I has pursued a system of causing the mail to be transported on the Sabbath, on the great roads leading through and across the country, while the practice has been avoided on routes of less importance. The public convenience has justified these measures in the view of the government. In 1810. a law was made, directing "that every postmaster shall keep an office, in which one or more persons shall attend a on every day on which a mail, or bag, or other packet or parcel of letters shall arrive, by land or water, as well as on other days, at such hours as the Postmaster-General shall direct, for performing the duties thereof; and it shall be the duty of the postmaster, at all reasonable hours, on every day of the week, to deliver on demand, any letter, paper, or packet, to the person entitled to or authorized to receive the same."

The committee learn with pleasure that the Postmaster-General, under this law, has prescribed the following regulation:

"At post-offices where the mail arrives on Sun day, the office is to be kept open for the delivery of letters, etc., for one hour after the arrival and assorting of the mail; but in case that would interfere with the hours of public worship, then the office is to be kept open for one hour after the usual time of dissolving the meetings, for that purpose."

Presuming that the Postmaster-General will continue this regulation, and that he will, at all times, guard the post-office against improper practices, in respect to the opening the mail and the delivering of letters on the Sabbath; and considering the condition of the country, engaged in war, rendering- frequent communication through the whole extent of it absolutely necessary, the committee deem it inexpedient, at this time, to interfere and pass any laws on the subject-matter of the petitions referred, and they, therefore, respectfully submit the following resolution.

Resolved, That, at this time, it is inexpedient to interfere and pass any laws on the subject-matter of the several petitions praying the prohibition of the transportation and opening of the mail on the Sabbath.

Source of Information:

"13th Congress, 3rd Session, Sunday Mails, Communicated to The Senate, January 27, 1815." American State Papers, Class VII, page 47. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 183-85.


February 10, 1815

The House resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole, on the report of the Committee on Post-offices and Post-roads, that it is inexpedient to make any alteration in the present regulations respecting the transportation and opening the mails on the Sabbath.

Mr. Farrow moved to amend the report so as to declare it expedient, instead of inexpedient, to grant the prayer of the petitioners. This motion was negatived without debate, and the committee rose and reported the resolution unamended to the House.

Mr. King, of Massachusetts, moved to lay the report on the table; which motion, after debate, was negatived.

Mr. King then moved to add to the end of the resolution the words, "during the present war," so as to confine the resolve to the inexpediency of acting on the subject during the present war. The question on Mr, King's motion was decided in the negative.

Mr. Stanford then moved to amend the resolution by adding thereto the following: " So far as respects the progress of the mail and the issuance of letters on the Sabbath; but that the issuing of newspapers under the proper restrictions may be prohibited;" which motion was negatived.

The question on concurring in the resolution reported by the committee, was then decided by yeas and nays. For the report, 81; against it, 41.

So it was resolved that it is inexpedient to grant the prayer of the petitioners.

Source of Information:

"13th Congress, 3rd Session, Sunday Mails, Friday, February 10, 1815." Annals of Congress, Volume III. page 1146. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 185.


January 19, 1829

Mr. Johnson of Kentucky, made the following report:

"The committee to whom were referred the several petitions on the subject of mails on the Sabbath, or first day of the week, report:

That some respite is required from tile ordinary vocations of life is an established principle, sanctioned by the usages of all nations, whether Christian or pagan. One day in seven has also been determined upon as the proportion of time; and in conformity with the wishes of a great majority of the citizens of this country, the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, has been set apart to that object. The principle has received the sanction of the national legislature, so far as to admit a suspension of all public business on that day, except in cases of absolute necessity, or of great public utility. This principle the committee would not wish to disturb. If kept within its legitimate sphere of action, no injury can result from its observance. It Should, however, be kept in mind that the proper object of government is to protect all persons in the enjoyment of their religious as well as civil rights, and not to determine for any whether they shall esteem one day above another, or esteem all days alike holy.

We are aware that a variety of sentiment exists among the brood citizens of this nation, on the subject of the Sabbath day; and our government is designed for the protection of one as much as another. The Jews, who in this country are as free as Christians, and entitled to the same protection from the laws, derive their obligation to keep the Sabbath day from the fourth commandment of their decalogue, and in conformity with that injunction pay religious homage to the seventh day of the week, which we call Saturday. One denomination of Christians among us, justly celebrated for their piety, and certainly as good citizens as any other class, agree with the Jews in the moral obligation of the Sabbath, and observe the same day. There are, also, many Christians among us who derive not their obligation to observe the Sabbath from the decalogue, but regard the Jewish Sabbath as abrogated. From the example of the apostles of Christ, they have chosen the first day of the week instead of that day set apart in the decalogue, for their religious devotions. These have generally regarded the observance of the day as a devotional exercise, and would not more readily enforce it upon others than they would enforce secret prayer or devout ~ meditations. Urging the fact that neither their Lord nor his disciples, though often censured by their accusers for a violation of the Sabbath, ever enjoined its observance, they regard it as a subject on which every person should be fully persuaded in his own mind, and not coerce others to act upon his persuasion. Many Christians, again, differ from these, professing to derive their obligation to observe the Sabbath from the fourth commandment of the Jewish decalogue, and bring the example of the apostles, who appear to have held their public meetings for worship on the first day of the week, as authority for so far changing the decalogue as to substitute that day for the seventh. The Jewish government was a theocracy, which enforced religious observances; and though the committee would hope that no portion of the citizens of our country would willingly introduce a system of religious coercion in our civil institutions, the example of other nations should admonish us to watch carefully against its earliest indication.

With these different religious views, the committee are of opinion that Congress cannot interfere. It is not the legitimate Province of the legislature to determine what religion is true, or what false. Our government is a civil, and not a religious, institution. Our Constitution recognizes in every person the right to choose his own religion, and to enjoy it freely without molestation. Whatever may be the religious sentiments of citizens, and however variant, they are alike entitled to protection from the government, so long as they do not invade the rights of others.

The transportation of the mail on the first day of the week, it is believed, does not interfere with the rights of conscience. The petitioners for its discontinuance appear to be actuated by a religious zeal, which may be commendable if confined to its proper sphere; but they assume a position better suited to an ecclesiastical than to a civil institution. They appear in many instances to lay it down as an axiom that the practice is a violation of the law of God, Should Congress in legislative capacity adopt the sentiment, it would establish the principle that the legislature is a proper tribunal to determine what are the laws of God. It would involve a legislative decision on a religious controversy, and on a point in which good citizens may honestly differ in opinion, without disturbing the peace of society or endangering its liberties. If this principle is once introduced, it will be impossible to define its bounds. Among all the religious persecutions with which almost every page of modern history is stained, no victim ever suffered but for the violation of what government denominated the law of God. To prevent a similar train of evils in this country the Constitution has wisely withheld from our government the power of defining the divine law. It is a right reserved to each citizen; and while he respects the rights of others, he cannot be held amenable to any human tribunal for his conclusions.

Extensive religious combinations to effect a political object are, in the opinion of the committee, always dangerous. This first effort of the kind calls for the establishment of a principle which, in the opinion of the committee, would lay the foundation for dangerous innovation upon the spirit of the Constitution, and upon the religious rights of the citizens. If admitted, it may be justly apprehended that the future measures of the government will be strongly marked, if not eventually controlled, by the same influence. All religious despotism commences by combination and influence; and when that influence begins to operate upon the political institutions of a country, the civil power soon bends under it; and the catastrophe of other nations furnishes an awful warning of the consequences.

Under the present regulations of the Post-office Department, the rights of conscience are not invaded. Every agent enters voluntarily, and it is presumed conscientiously, into the discharge of his duties, without intermeddling with the conscience of another. Post-offices are so regulated that but a small proportion of the first day of the week is required to be occupied in official business. In the transportation of the mail on that day, no one agent is employed many hours. Religious persons enter into the business without violating their own consciences or imposing any restraints upon others. Passengers in the mail stages are free to rest during the first day of the week, or to pursue their journeys at their own pleasure. While the mail is transported on Saturday, the Jew and the Sabbatarian may abstain from any agency in carrying it, on conscientious scruples. While it is transported on the first day of the week, another class may abstain, from the same religious scruples. The obligation of government is the same on both these classes; and the committee can discover no principle on which the claims of one should be more respected than those of other; unless it be admitted that the consciences of the minority are less sacred than those of the majority.

It is the opinion of the committee that the subject should be regarded simply as a question of expediency, irrespective of its religious bearing. In this light it has hitherto been considered. Congress has never legislated upon the subject. It rests, as it ever has done, in the legal discretion of the Postmaster-General, under the repeated refusals of Congress to discontinue the Sabbath mails. His knowledge and judgment in all the concerns of that department will not be questioned. His intense labors and assiduity have resulted in the highest improvement of every branch of his

department. It is practiced only on the great leading mail routes, and such others as are necessary

to maintain their connections. To prevent this, would, in the opinion of the committee, be

productive of immense injury, both in its commercial and political, and also its moral, bearings.

The various departments of government require, frequently in peace, always in war, the speediest intercourse with the remotest parts of the country; and one important object of the mail establishment is to furnish the greatest and most economical facilities for such intercourse. The delay of the mails one whole day in seven would require the employment of special expresses, at great expense, and sometimes with great uncertainty.

The commercial, manufacturing, and agricultural interests of the country are so intimately connected as to require a constant and most expeditious correspondence betwist all our seaports, and betwixt them and the most interior settlements. The delay of the mails during the Sunday would give occasion for the employment of private expresses, to such an amount that probably ten riders would be employed where one mail stage would be running on that day, thus diverting the revenue of that department into another channel, and sinking the establishment into a state of pusillanimity incompatible with the dignity of the government of which it is a department.

Passengers in the mail stages, if the mails are not permitted to Proceed on Sunday, will be expected to spend that day at a tavern upon the road, generally under circumstances not friendly to devotion, and at an expense which many are but poorly able to encounter. To obviate these difficulties, many will employ extra carriages for their conveyance, and become the bearers of correspondence, as more expeditious than the mail. The stage proprietors will themselves often furnish the travelers with those means of conveyance; so that the effect will ultimately be only to stop the mail, while the vehicle which conveys it will continue, and its passengers become the special messengers for conveying a considerable portion of what otherwise constitutes the contents of the mail.

Nor can the committee discover where the system could consistently end. If

the observance of holiday becomes incorporated in our institutions, shall we not forbid the movement of an army; prohibit an assault in time of war; lay an injunction upon our naval officers to lie in the wind while upon the ocean on that day? Consistency would seem to require it. Nor is it certain that we should stop here. If the principle is once established that religion, or religious observances, shall be interwoven with our legislative acts, we must pursue it to its ultimatum.

We shall, ii consistent, provide for the erection of edifices for worship of the Creator, and for the support of Christian ministers, If we believe such measures will promote the interests of Christianity. It is the settled conviction of the committee, that the only method of avoiding these consequences; with their attendant train of evils, is to adhere strictly to the spirit of the Constitution, which regards the general government in no other light than that of a civil institution, wholly destitute of religious authority.

What other nations call religious toleration we call religious rights. They are not exercised in virtue of governmental indulgence, but as rights, of which government cannot deprive any portion of citizens, however small. Despotic power may invade those rights, but justice still confirms them.Let the national legislature once perform an act which involves the decision of a religious controversy, and it will have passed its legitimate bounds The precedent will then be established, and the foundation laid, for that usurpation of the divine prerogative in this country which has been the desolating scourge to the fairest portions of the Old World. Our Constitution recognizes no other power than that of persuasion, for enforcing religious observances. Let the professors of Christianity recommend their religion by deeds of benevolence, by Christian meekness, by lives of temperance and holiness. Let them combine their efforts to instruct the ignorant, to relieve the widow and the orphan, to promulgate to the world the gospel of their Saviour, recommending its precepts by their habitual example; government will find its legitimate object in protecting them. It cannot oppose them, and they will not need its aid. Their moral influence will then do infinitely more to advance the true interests of religion, than any measure which they may call on Congress to enact.

The petitioners do not complain of any infringement upon their own rights. They enjoy all that Christians ought to ask at the hands of any government --- protection from all molestation in the exercise of their religious sentiments.

Resolved, That the committee be discharged from any further consideration of the subject.

The report and resolution were concurred in by the Senate.

Source of Information:

"20th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Report on Sunday Mails, Communicated to the Senate, January 19. 1829." American State Papers, Class VII, page 225. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 233-244.


January 19, 1829

Mr. Johnson, of Kentucky, from the Committee on the Post-offices and Post-roads, to whom had been referred several petitions in relation to the transportation and opening the mails on the Sabbath day, made a report, concluding with a resolution, "that the committee be discharged from the further consideration of the subject."

Mr. Johnson moved that the reading of the report be dispensed with, and that it be printed. He requested that more than one copy for each Senator should be provided, that he might send copies to his constituents. He believed that legislation upon the subject was improper, and that nine hundred and ninety-nine in a thousand were opposed to any legislative interference, inasmuch as it would have a tendency to unite religious institutions with the government.

Mr. Chambers moved that one thousand copies be printed, and Mr. Hayne, that three thousand copies be printed for the use of the Senate.

Mr. Chandler said he had no objection to the printing of any number of copies, except as to principle: it did not appear to him that it was right to order a large number of copies to be printed until the Senate knew what it was, and that they should not be ordered until the report had been read, as it might seem to imply that they approved of the report.

Mr. Johnson said he had moved to dispense with the reading of the report, because he did not wish to trouble the Senate with the reading of any of his reports. He believed that these petitions and memorials in relation to Sunday mails, were but the entering wedge of a scheme to make this government a religious, instead of a social and political, institution; they were widely circulated, and people were induced to sign them without reflecting upon the subject,' or the consequences which would result from the adoption of the measure proposed. There was nothing

more improper than the interference of Congress in this matter.

Mr. Chambers disagreed with the gentleman from Maine, that ordering a large number would imply any assent to the principles adopted in the report. Neither did he agree with the gentleman from Kentucky, that the adoption of the measure prayed for would have a bad tendency, and that legislation upon the subject would be improper. Some had asserted that this measure did tend to unite religious with our political institutions, and others had asserted that such would not be the result. The petitioners took an entirely different ground. They said that the observance of the Sabbath was connected with the civil interest of the government. He did not mean to be understood, however, as having formed any opinion upon the subject.

Mr. Johnson said he would state, in justice to himself, that he believed the petitioners were governed by the purest motives; but if the gentleman from Maryland would look at the proceedings of a meeting at Salem, in Massachusetts, he would find it did not matter what was the purity of the motive; that the petitioners did not consider the ground they had taken as being purely that the Sabbath was a day of rest; they assumed that it was such by a law of God.(1) Now some denominations considered one day the most sacred, and some looked to another, and these petitions did, in fact, call upon Congress to settle what was the law of God. The committee had framed their report upon policy and expediency. It was but the first step taken, that they were to

legislate upon religious grounds, and it made no sort of difference which was the day asked to be set apart, which day was to be considered sacred, whether it was the first day or the seventh, the principle was wrong. It was upon this ground that the committee went in making their report.

Mr. Rowan called for the reading of the report, which was read.

Source of Information:

"20th Congress, 2nd Session, Sunday Mails, Monday, January 19, 1829." Register of Debates in Congress, Volume V, page 42. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 226-232.


February 3, 1829

Mr. McKean, from the committee on the Post Office and post roads, to whom were referred certain memorials against the transportation of the mail on the Sabbath, and the delivery of letters, &c. From the post offices on that day, reported:

The memorials on this subject, on account of the numerous sources from which they have been received, the number and respectability of the signatures, as well as the intrinsic importance of the question involved, require from the committee and the Legislature the most deliberate and respectful consideration. It is believed that the history of legislation ill this country affords no instance in which a stronger expression has been made, if regard be had to the numbers, the wealth, or the intelligence of the petitioners.

They present a subject not entirely clear of difficulty but one in which they feel a deep interest, and which, in their opinion, intimately concerns the moral character of the country.

It is not considered to be the duty of the committee, nor does it comport with its inclination, to enter at large into the origin of the Sabbath or the sanctity which belongs to it.

In all Christian countries it is considered not only as a day of rest from secular employment, but one that should be set apart for religions observances. So intimately is It interwoven with tile doctrines of Christianity, that it forms an important part of the creed Of every Christian denomination. They agree in the principle, though some of them differ as to the day.

The committee believe that a proper observance of the Sabbath is calculated to elevate the moral condition of society. In accordance with the recorded example of the Creator of the Universe, and enforced by scripture precepts, one day in seven should be abstracted from ordinary business, and devoted to moral and religious exercises. Wherever these duties have been regarded in the true spirit of Christianity. a moral influence has imposed salutary restraints upon the licentious propensities of` men. It has made them better citizens, and better men nn all the relations of society both public and private.

The institution of' the Sabbath is respected in various operations of our Government. In the halls of legislation, the courts of justice and the executive department except under peculiar emergencies, business is suspended, not by legal provision, but by force of public opinion. Restraints imposed on the consciences of individuals by human laws, sanctioned by severe penalties, have always failed to produce reformation. They have generally, if nor always, made men worse instead of better. Under such exercise of power Christianity degenerates Into an instrument of oppression, and loses all its beauty and moral excellence. It flourishes most unaided by the secular arm

The committee therefore, as citizens and legislators, would be ready to repel any attempt to bring the consciences of men under legislative control in this country; A disposition to do so can never proceed from the pure principles of Christianity

The standard of moral obligation should remain in the scriptures. and all acts which do not interfere with the rights of others should rest between the individual, his conscience, and his God.

The Federal Government was formed for civil, not religious purposes. The functions which belong to it will have been discharged within the sphere of its operation, in regulating the civil concerns of the nation. It is very properly inhibited from establishing a religious test, or in any manner interfering with the rights of conscience.

But it has been deemed necessary and proper, on many occasions, to require an oath for the due execution of a civil trust, or to elicit the truth in evidence; lands have been reserved for religious purposes, and ministers of religion have been employed as chaplains to Congress, and to act in a similar capacity in the army and navy. In thus recognising by official acts the duties and obligations of religion, the National Government has acted in conformity to public opinion, and as we believed, within the legitimate boundaries of its powers.

The committee entertain no doubt that the numerous petitioners for the discontinuance of the Sabbath mail, and the delivery of letters, &c. From the post offices, have generally acted from pure motives, and with a reference to what they consider the best interests of the country.

They did not ask Congress to impose certain duties on any portion of citizens which may interfere with their religious opinions, but to relieve from the performance of such duties.

The transportation of the mail is a great governmental operation, and the petitioners believe it should be suspended on the Sabbath, and the post offices closed, out of respect to the day, as well as the business of the legislative, judicial, and executive branch branches of the Government. They did not, probably, consider the greater difficulty could arise in designating the first day of the week as the Christian Sabbath for this purpose, than had been incurred in the instances referred to. It is not considered by the committee that the petitioners ask the introduction of any new principle into our laws, but the extension of one which has already been recognised. In the policy of the measure desired, the committee believe the petitioners are mistaken, but they do not consider the attempt made by them as tending to form the justly odious combination of church and state.

In the operations of the mail every part of the Union has a deep interest; our agricultural, commercial, manufacturing, and political concerns are all dependent, more or less, on this branch of the Government. It is considered an object of primary importance to distribute intelligence through the mail in less time than it can be disseminated in any other manner. From the letter of the Postmaster General annexed to this report, it will be seen he has steadily pursued this policy.

On the important lines of communication daily mails are established, and great expedition is required. The improvements which have been made in this respect, the general operations and entire condition of the department since it was placed under its present head, have elevated its character, and greatly extended its usefulness. By the annexed letter it will be seen that the discontinuance of the Sabbath mail will not only deprive our important commercial towns of the seventh mail, but that great delays must occur in the other sex weekly mails. The injurious consequences of these delays are easily seen.

If, at New York, for instance, intelligence be received on Saturday evening of a great increase of price in England or elsewhere of flour, cotton, or any other staples of the country, the mail will not convey this intelligence to the South or West until Monday morning, after a lapse of more than twenty-four hours from the time it was received; and, under the most favorable circumstances, every one of the six mails must be delayed a day on a route of a few hundred miles by the intervention of the Sabbath.

Is it to be believed that men of enterprise and capital will, under such circumstances, wait the tardy movements of the mail ? Expresses will be sent in every direction, and speculations to an unlimited amount will be made in the products of the country. Here is a great evil; the Government has failed to afford the means of information to the honest holders of this property, and they become a prey to the speculator, who takes the property for perhaps one-half of its intrinsic value. By the expresses the Sabbath is violated, and many citizens injured. The committee believe that such are the fluctuations of prices in many articles of commerce in some parts of the country, that a greater number of persons as expresses would often be employed on the Sabbath than are now engaged in the transportation of the mail. If this impression be correct, the cause of morality would not be promoted by the suspension of the mail on the Sabbath. But when, in addition to this consideration, the committee consider that the first duty of the Government is to protect its citizens in their property (and under no circumstances can protection be more needed than in the cases above stated) and the injurious consequences experienced by the industrious citizen whose property is sacrificed, they cannot hesitate in coming to the conclusion that the suspension of the mail on Sunday would be deeply injurious to the important interest of the country, and that the measure would probably produce a greater amount of moral evil than the present system.

If, as suggested by the Postmaster General, all travel on the Sabbath in accommodation stages or expresses were prohibited, to suspend the Sunday mail would produce an injury of a more limited extent; but such a regulation will not probably be adopted by the States, and, if adopted, could not be enforced against public opinion.

The reduction in the revenue of the Department is viewed by the committee as the smallest injury that would be likely to result from the change. It would, however, paralyze the operations of the Department, and render more uncertain the attainment of the primary objects for which it was established.

A well-regulated mail establishment is an indispensable requisite to a free Government, and to the commercial, agricultural, and manufacturing interest of an enterprising and growing people. Every buyer and seller should be informed of the state of the market, at home and abroad, with the greatest possible certainty and expedition. This can only be accomplished through the operations of the mail, regulated and directed by a discriminating mind, intimately acquainted with the local interest of the country. Every part must harmonize like a well-regulated machine, which, though complicated in its structure, has no disorder in its movements.

On the other branch of the case, that of postmasters being compelled, by law, to keep open their offices and deliver letters, newspapers & c., on the Sabbath, this, the committee believe, is not absolutely necessary for the successful transaction of any branch of business. The merchant or manufacturer could call at the post office on Monday morning, receive his letters, and be informed of any changes in the market before he commences business. It has been suggested, and is believed, that the most disorder is occasioned by a class of individuals not of business habits, and who seldom receive letters by mail, having leisure on the Sabbath, resort to the post office to hear news, and for pastime.

If no distribution of letters and newspapers were made on Sunday, the arrival of a mail stage in a town or village would excite no unusual attention, and, consequently, could occasion no material interruption to religious worship.

If, as is believed, the House will concur with the committee in opinion that no restraint ought to be imposed on the consciences of individuals by the force of human law, it will present an absurdity, if we permit to remain amongst our legislative acts an express provision requiring a portion of our citizens to perform certain duties on the Sabbath, which they conscientiously believe to be morally wrong.

The committee cannot see why it would not be equally proper to require, by law, our courts of justice to sit on the Sabbath, and that the executive and legislative duties should be performed on that day. Would such a law be deemed reasonable? Would the people approve of it, when it might drive from the public service many of the ablest and most useful officers, who would relinquish their stations rather than violate their consciences?

So respectful was the Legislature of Pennsylvania to the conscientious scruples of a small portion of the citizens of that State, that the law directing the return of her annual elections to be made on Saturday was changed to Friday.

The committee conceive that all such cases should be regulated by public opinion, and controlled by emergencies, without any positive legal injunction. It is believed that the statute books contain no provision, except int he instance of postmasters, requiring the performance of official duty on the Sabbath.

In conclusion, the committee earnestly recommend the repeal of so much of the eleventh section of the post office law of March, 1825, as requires postmasters to deliver letters, newspapers, & c. on the Sabbath.


Letter Annexed to above report


Post Office Department, January 19, 1829.

Sir:

My attention has been directed to your communication of the 6th instant, and all the investigation made which the pressing nature of my daily duties would admit. In answer to the first inquiry, "Whether, in my opinion, a prohibition of the transportation of the mails on the Sabbath, or first day of the week, would tend to impair the revenue of the Department, and, if so, to what probable amount?" I have the honor to state that daily mails are established on all the principal lines of communication on the Atlantic coast from Maine to Georgia, connecting, in this entire range, places of commercial importance. From New York city, by the way of Albany, Utica, and Rochester, to Buffalo, daily mails are conveyed, and also on several lines connecting with the principal route.

Daily mails are also transported from Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, to the western country, including Pittsburg, Wheeling, and other towns situated on the different routes to Cincinnati and Louisville, and six weekly trips to Nashville.

On these various routes there is received annually for postage the sum of $564,443.71, and there is paid for the transportation of the mail on them the sum of $234,880.62.

A discontinuance of the seventh mail, it is believed, would not materially lessen the expense of transportation. On many of the above routes the mail is increasing in size, and now often amounts to from fifteen to twenty-five hundred pounds. When a failure occurs, and throws two mails together, they are now so large on some routes as to exclude all passengers from the mail coach. To run six trips weekly requires as many teams as are necessary for a daily mail: and, in many instances, the contractors prefer running their stages daily to six trips weekly, at the same price.

If all travel in private carriages and stage-lines on the Sabbath could be suspended, and private expresses prevented, the revenue of the Department would not be much impaired by the discontinuance of the Sabbath mails. But if lines of stages for the conveyance of passengers continue to run on the principal routes, and private expresses are used, the revenue would probably be lessened between fifty and a hundred thousand dollars annually.

You inquire, secondly, "Whether such prohibition would have the effect to impede the progress and expedition of the mails on the other six days of the week: and, if so, to what probable extent?"

The discontinuance of the Sabbath mail, besides reducing the number of weekly mails to six, will produce, in receiving intelligence from this city, a delay of one day in every sixth mail to Philadelphia; two mails out of six to New York will each be delayed a day; three of the six to Boston will each be delayed a day; four at Portland, and five at Augusta, Maine. These delays will appear at once: by supposing the mail to be taken from Washington city for Philadelphia on Saturday, Sunday will intervene before its delivery at Philadelphia. The mail taken on Friday for New York will be delayed on the Sabbath before it can be delivered at that city, as well at the Saturday mail, which will make, as above stated, a delay of two mails each a day out of six between Washington and New York. The Boston mail, which is taken from Washington on Thursday, will be delayed as above, making a delay of three mails each one day out of the six. Between Washington and Portland, the mail taken on Wednesday from either place must rest on the Sabbath, making a delay of one day each to four mails int h six. A similar delay of five mails out of the six will take place between Augusta and Washington.

From Washington city, south, one mail in six will be delayed a day in being conveyed to Richmond and Peterburg, Virginia; three to Fayetteville, North Carolina; five to Charleston, South Carolina; and every mail received a Savannah from Washington will be delayed one day.

Between Wheeling and this city there will be a delay of one day each to two mails out of six; to Zanesville three; and four to Cincinnati and Louisville. From Pittsburg to Philadelphia, two mails out of six will each be delayed one day.

The mail from this city to New Orleans will be delayed two mails out of three each three days, and the third mail two days.

It may be difficult at first to comprehend the above delays; but they have been ascertained by arranging a schedule of six weekly mails. The Sabbath, it must be recollected, will occur at different points on each route, and constantly vary, in the progress of the mails, the places of detention.

In your third inquiry, you ask "Whether a discontinuance of the present practice of distributing letters, & c. from the several post offices on the Sabbath or first day of the week, would tend to impair the revenue of the Department and, if so, to what probably amount?" It is believed that the revenue of the Department would not be lessened to any considerable amount, if not letters or newspapers & c., were delivered at the different post offices on the Sabbath.

By the fourth inquiry I am requested to state "whether a change of the present mode of daily conveyance and distribution of mails would affect the commercial interest of the country; and, if so, in what manner?"

It has been considered of great importance to the commercial and agricultural interests of the country to convey through the mails, into every part of the Union, speedy intelligence of the state of the market at home and in foreign countries. To accomplish this desirable object, and afford the utmost facilities to all commercial transactions, great increase of expedition has been given to the mails within a few years on all the important lines of communication. Some years since, on a sudden rise in the price of cotton, private expresses were despatched to the South from New York and other places, in advance of the mail, and immense speculations were made in the purchase of that article. AT that time mail contractors were not prohibited from forwarding such expresses; and, having relays of horses on every route, they were frequently employed in this service at a high rate of compensation. Since that time the contracts have been changed so as to subject any contractor to a forfeiture of his contract if he engage, either directly or indirectly, int he transmission of commercial information, with a view to speculation, more rapidly than the mail. This provision, with the increased expedition which has been given, has rendered it extemely difficult, if not impracticable, for expresses, on the more important routes to travel more rapidly than the mail is conveyed.

An attempt was recently made to send an express between New York and Philadelphia in advance of the mail, but the enterprising contractor on that route delivered it at the latter place before the express arrived. On this line the mail is transported twelve miles an hour, when necessary to prevent a failure, or any other exigency requires it.

A suspension of the mail on the Sabbath would subject it to the delays before stated, and enable persons in our large cities or elsewhere, on the receipt of intelligence of a change in the price of our great staples, to send expresses without much effort, and speculate on the holders of such property.

In some of our large cities a failure of the mail, or the delay of a few hours in its delivery, has been of serious consequence to persons extensively engaged in commercial operations.

If, as before suggested, private expresses, and all stages for the conveyance of passengers, were suspended on the Sabbath, the discontinuance of the mail on that day would affect less seriously the commercial and other interest of the country.

A daily mail has been in operation on some routes almost ever since the organization of this Department under the Federal Government. Frequent ineffectual applications have been made to Congress to discontinue this mail. It has been viewed by many persons of great intelligence and piety as an evil, but no provision for relief has been adopted. The result of these applications has given a sanction to the policy of the Department, which I have considered as controlling any discretion the Postmaster General might be inclined to exercise on the subject. He cannot act on the moral principle unless he apply it to every daily mail in the Unio. This would involve a responsibility which no individual can exercise with impunity, and would be in opposition to the implied sanction of the National Legislature.

It has been, however, the practice of the Department, on each route where a daily mail is not established, so to regulate the conveyance, where practicable, as to make the Sabbath a day of rest.

By the eleventh section of the post office law, every postmaster is required, "at all reasonable hours, on every day of the week, to deliver on demand, any letter, paper, or packet, to the person entitled or authorized to receive the same." Before this law was enacted, no general instructions were given by the Department to deliver letters on the Sabbath; and if Congress, in pursuance of the strong expression made on this subject, shall think proper to repeal this section, I shall consider it to be my duty to rescind the instruction which has been given under it. At present, a postmaster is only required to keep his office open one hour on the Sabbath for the delivery of letters and newspapers.

It is believed that the delivery of letters has been considered as more likely to interrupt religious worship on the Sabbath than the conveyance of the mail. The passage of the mail stage through a village or town on Sunday, if postmasters were not required to distribute letters and newspapers, would excite as little attention as that of any other vehicle.

With great respect, I am your obedient servant,

John McLean

Hon. Samuel McKean, Chairman of the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads.

Source of Information:

"20th Congress, 2nd Session, House Committee Report on Sunday Mails, Communicated to the House, February 3, 1829." American State Papers, Class VII, pages 212-215.


January 8, 1830

To the Honorable, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United Stales of America in Congress assembled:

The undersigned, memorialists of the town of Newark, county of Essex, and State of New Jersey, being apprized of the numerous petitions presented to your honorable body, praying a repeal of the present laws for the transportation of the mails and the opening of the post-offices on the first day of the week, beg leave (in accordance with their sense of duty) humbly to memorialize your honorable body, and pray that no such repeal be made, nor any law

be enacted interfering with the Post-office Department, so as to prevent the free passage of the mail on all days of the week, or to exclude any individual from the right to receive his papers on the first, as well as on the seventh day.

Notwithstanding your memorialists have the fullest confidence in the wisdom and integrity of our national Legislature, they are induced to memorialize your honorable body at this time, from a fear lest the reiterated efforts of bigotry and fanaticism should finally prevail on your honorable body to legislate upon a subject which your memorialists consider is, by the Constitution of these States and the laws of nature, left free; and which, for the welfare of mankind, should be maintained so. Nor can they at this time refrain from expressing their astonishment at, and their disapprobation of, the reiterated and untiring efforts of a part of the community, who, through misguided zeal or ecclesiastical ambition, essay to coerce your honorable body into a direct or violation of the principles of the Constitution, by the enactment of laws, the object of which would be to sustain their peculiar tenets or religious creeds to the exclusion of others; thereby uniting ecclesiastical and civil law, ind leading ultimately to the abhorrent and anti-republican union of church and state.

Your memorialists would not presume to remonstrate, were it not that their opponents (after a most signal defeat in last Congress) have renewed their petitions with a vigor increased by disappointment, and a spirit as perseveringly determined as their premises are illiberal and unwarrantable.

Your memorialists approve of morality, reverence religion, and grant to all men equal rights, and are governed by the principles of our Constitution and the laws of our land; but we deprecate intolerance abhor despotism, and are totally opposed to all attempts of the religions of any sect to control our consciences.

Nor can your memorialists perceive wherein their opponents are deprived of their liberty of conscience by the uninterrupted course of the mails, for if it be right for them to travel on the first day of the week, it cannot be wrong for the mails; if it be consistent for them to do their business on the first day of the week, it cannot be inconsistent for the mails to be made up and opened, and papers delivered, on the same day; if the traveling they do, and the labors they perform, are matters of necessity, and therefore admissible, your memorialists humbly suggest whether the interests of a vast majority of the citizens the United States, conveyed by mails, are not matters of as great necessity ?

Your memorialists, in accordance with these views beg leave to protest against any interference with the transportation of the mails, or :he distribution of letters at the post-offices, on the ftrst day of the week. And your memorialists, as in duty bound, will ever pray, etc.

Source of Information:

"21st Congress, 1st Session, Sunday Legislation, an Anti-Republican Union of Church and State." American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Class VII, pages 238, 239 Selected and edited, under the authority of Congress, by Waiter Lowrie, Secretary of the Senate, and Waiter S. Franklin, Clerk of the House of Representatives. Published at Washington, 1834. American State Papers Bearing on Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 277-79.


January 8, 1830

This message is lengthy, but not superfluous. Long as it is, I wish it contained another solemn warning to Congress, to do nothing, in a legislative capacity, that would have any bearing on religious opinions.

A large number of the people, in concert, have petitioned Congress to stop the transportation of the mail on Sunday, because they believe, in their consciences, that Sunday should be kept holy and free from all servile labor. The report of the committee of the Senate, last session, on the petition, is replete with candor and strength of argument; the radical parts of which never have and never can be confuted; but still it has not put the matter to rest. New memorials are to be presented to Congress -perseverance is urged-irreligion is trumpeted, and the learning and religion of the petitioners are to outweigh all opposition.

The constitution of the United States is a charter of powers granted and rights retained; among all the enumerated powers given to Congress, there is none that authorises them to determine which day of the year or week the people shall abstain from labor or travel. Should they, therefore, make such a powerless law, it would be unconstitutional. There are many thousands in the United States, who conscientiously keep the seventh day of the week for Sabbath. Should Congress stop the transportation of the mail on the seventh day, and continue it on Sunday, what would the-petitioners says? Would they not complain of a partiality shown to the Sabbatarians, to the grief of the Sundarians ? It amounts to nothing to say there is a majority who prefer the observance of Sunday to any other day, for minorities have unalienable rights, which ought not, and cannot, be surrendered to government. The God we adore-the worship we pay him, and the times of performing that worship, are articles not within the compass of any Gentile legislature. The design of civil government, which is to protect the lives, liberty and property of the many units which form the whole body, is every way answered without that surrender. Government should defend the rights of the religionists, as citizens, but the religious opinions of none. If the petitioners arc secured in their persons and rights, why should they desire more ? Their consciences can never be charged with guilt for what others do; for conscience belongs alone to the homedepartment. Why should they wish to stretch and lop off, like Procrustes, and bring all to their standard 3 The driving of a carriage will neither terrify them nor break their devotion; for many of them are driven to the places of their devotion. If Sabbatical laws are necessary to govern the people on Sunday, and keep them from all business but religious duties, why not make a law to prevent Sunday schools; for there is no greater relation between education and religion than there is between travelling and religion. Paul, and his company and baggage, were five days travelling, by water, from Philippi to Troas. In Troas, they tarried seven days, the last of which was the first day of the week; of course one of the five days was Sunday, and yet there was no law of conscience, or law of Congress, to prevent them from transporting themselves and goods on Sunday.

Should Congress indulge the petitioners, and pass a -law to stop the transportation of the mail on every Sunday, it would be a nest-egg for themselves and for others. Encouraged by success, they would next proceed to have the days of Christmas, and Easter, and their associations and synods exempted in the same way, and where would it end? The Sabbatarians, with the Jews, finding Congress flexible, would, with equal right, claim a law to sanctify Saturday for their convenience. Whenever a legislature legalize holy-days, creeds of faith, forms of worship, or pecuniary reward for religious services, they intrude into the kingdom of Christ, and impeach the wisdom of the divine law-giver, for not knowing how, or his goodness, for not giving all laws necessary in his government. The deadly pill, at first, will always be rolled in honey. The honor of religion, the spread of the gospel, the piety and research of the reformers, the good of society, the safety of the state, and the salvation of souls, form the syrup, in which the poisonous pill is hidden. It is from men, high in esteem for holiness and wisdom, that the worst of usages and most cruel laws proceed; for base characters defeat their own wishes. The heart of King Asa was perfect all his days, yet he oppressed some of the people was mad at the seer who reproved him, and made a law that whosoever would not seek the Lord should be put to death.

Admit of the principle that religion is an institute of state policy, and the people hold their liberty by the tenure of the will of the legislature, which is very changeable, often corrupt, and many times very cruel. Admit of the principle, and you approve of that which has reared an

inquisition, and drenched the earth with blood.

Many plead for an equality of all Christian societies, and plead as strongly that they should become bodies politic, and be supported by the civil law. If this is proper for Christian societies, it is as proper for Jews, Pagan or Mahometan societies; but the liberty contended for, should be guaranteed to each individual, as his inalienable right, which cannot be meddled with, without usurpation in the rulers, which turns them to tyrants.

Those who wish to call in the strong arm of law to defend their opin. ions, give evidence that they have not logical reasoning, on moral and religious subjects, to support their weak dogmas.

I am sorry that Congress have committed themselves by a precedent of giving their chaplains a legal reward for religious services. How preposterous the sound! A far-fetched construction supports it. The law of reason and revelation enjoin a reward to the laborer; but if Congress should reward the chaplains with their own contributions, it would look more like simple Christianity. The people at large have none of the de. votibn or instruction of the chaplain, nor any voice in electing him; why then should they be taxed where they are not represented '1 The chaplain, who would not attend, on request, and trust to the promise of Christ and the benevolence of his friends for his reward, without legal obligation, would be selling his prayers for money, and turning the gospel into merchandise. The thing here spoken of, is a small thing, which the nation can never feel; but trace it to its root, and it contains that principle which is so pernicious in the world, and is now used as a stirrup, by the petitioners, to mount the steed and ride down the people.

In all other respects, Congress have been cautious and wise in everything that has any bearing on conscience and religious rights; and, even in this particular, they have made the best of a bad; for they have shown no partiality to sects or sentiments in their elections.

I have written a long epistle, but it is not likely that I ever shall write any more; for my age advises me that the time of my departure is near. Yours, with respect,

JOHN LELAND.

Source of Information:

(Extract of letter from John Leland to Col. R.M. Johnson on the subject of Sunday mail, Jan. 8, 1830, The Writings of John Leland, Edited by L.F. Greene, Arno Press & The New York Times N Y (1969) pp. 561-63) Originally published as: The Writings Of The Late Elder John Leland Including Some Events In His Life, Written By Himself, With Additional Sketches &c. By Miss L.F. Greene, Lanesboro, Mass. New York Printed By G.W. Wood, 29 Gold Street, 1845.


1830

Transportation of the Mail: Published in 1830.

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Ye observe days. -I am afraid of you.

Let every one be fully persuaded in his own mind.

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IF Christian legislatures have a right to regulate the religion of individuals, Mahomedan and Pagan legislatures have the same. The Pagans have their. appointed days to worship Jupiter, or Juggernaut. The Mahomedans have their weekly day (Friday) to adore their great prophet. Among the many sects of Protestants there exists a variety of opinions respecting days of rest and worship. The Quakers meet for worship two days in a week, without attaching. much sanctity to one day above another. Many keep the seventh day, like the Jews, from a belief that the observance of that. day is of moral, unchangeable and universal obligation. Some believe that half the time (the night).is enough for rest, and that one day is as good as another for worship.. A very considerable number keep the first day of each week as a Christian Sabbath, being of the opinion that God appointed one day in seven, by a moral precept to be observed by all men-that the seventh day was designated from creation. until the resurrection of Christ-that Christ changed the day from the seventh unto the first day of the week-altered the exercises of the day-and remitted the punishment for profaning the day from certain death to a small fine. Part of this last sect are now petitioning Congress to gratify their wishes, ands stop the transportation of the mail on Sunday. Why do they petition?' Are they interrupted at their meeting-houses by the mail stages ? This. is not likely, for many of themselves drive their carriages to their places of worship. If they are abused by the stage drivers, existing laws are sufficient to punish the rioters. If they enjoy all the liberty and protection that they need, why are they restless ? Do they wish Congress to decide the controversy in their favor, and legally declare that the first day of each week is too holy for men to labor and travel thereon ? Should that be the case, what would the Jews and- Sevendarian Christians say ? Would they not, with equal justice, petition Congress to stop the mail on the seventh day? Arid by the same rule, any of there might petition that their days of Associations, Synods, etc., might be exempted in the same way. There are many thousands in the United States, who have formed into societies to destroy intemperance: (and who does not believe that drunkenness is as great an evil as driving a stage on Sunday ?) should they petition Congress to stop all distilleries, would not the petitioners say that it was interfering with private right ? They act more wisely! they labor to direct public opinion, and leave individuals at their liberty. Let the petitioners learn of them and do likewise. Not one of them is compelled to contract, drive, or ride on Sunday, why then complain ? Conscience is a court of judicature, erected in every breast, to take cognizance of every action in the home department, but has nothing to do with another man's conduct. My best judgment tells me that my neighbor does wrong, but my con. science has nothing to say of it. Were I to do as he does, my conscience would arrest and condemn me, but guilt is not transferable. Every one must give an account of himself. When a parent properly admonishes his child to beware of vice, if the child commits an overt act, the parent feels no guilt, he only mourns the misfortune: if the parent has been remiss in giving advice, he feels guilty for the neglect, (which is his own crime,) but not for the crime of the child. The error of confounding opinion and conscience together has effected a world of mischief. For individuals, or for a legislature to make their own consciences (opinions) the standard to try the conduct of others by, is tyrannical usurpation. "Why is my liberty judged by another man's conscience ?" Transporting the mail on Sunday is contrary to the opinion of the memorialists, but can never pinch their consciences. The Quakers have the philanthropic opinion that war should never be waged: let them call it pure conscience, and petition Congress to never declare war, would the present petitioners wish that the prayer of the Quakers might be granted ? Let them answer the question.

If any improvement has been made on this subject, from the days of Constantine, until the present time, it consists in the discovery, found out by long experience, "that the only way to prevent religion from being an engine of cruelty, is to exclude religious opinions from the civil code." Let every man be known and equally protected as a citizen, and leave his religious opinions to be settled between the individual and his God: keeping this in view, that he who does not worship God in the way he chooses, does not worship him at all. Roger Williams, William Penn, and the early settlers of New York, embraced this principle, which has been interwoven in the constitution of government for the United States.

The powers given to Congress are specific-guarded by a "hitherto shalt thou come and no further." Among all the enumerated powers given to Congress, is there one that authorizes them to declare which day of the week, month, or year, is more holy than the rest-too holy to travel upon ? If there is none, Congress must overleap their bounds, by an unpardonable construction, to establish the prohibition prayed for. Let the petitioners ask themselves the question. If Congress should assume an ecclesiasticopolitical power, and stop the mail on the seventh day, and let it be transported on the first, would that satisfy them? If not, are they doing as they would be done by?

If Congress pass the prohibitory law prayed for, it is hoped that they will fix the boundaries of the day, to prevent contention.

Source of Information:

"Transportation of the mail," by John Leland, 1830.The Writings of John Leland, Edited by L.F. Greene, Arno Press & The New York Times N Y (1969) pp. 564-66) Originally published as: The Writings Of The Late Elder John Leland Including Some Events In His Life, Written By Himself, With Additional Sketches &c. By Miss L.F. Greene, Lanesboro, Mass. New York Printed By G.W. Wood, 29 Gold Street, 1845.


January 20, 1830

To the Honorable, the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress assembled:

The subscribers, inhabitants of the county of Salem, in the State of New Jersey, respectfully represent:

That your memorialists belong to various religious denominations of Christians, and some of them are conscientious in the belief that the seventh day of the week, commonly called Saturday, is the true Sabbath; that they have learned with regret that attempts are simultaneously making in different sections of the country to get up petitions and memorials to Congress to pass a law for stopping the United States mail on Sunday. While your memorialists acknowledge, with the most devout reverence, that "the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof,"

and do most solemnly disclaim all idea of "robbing Jehovah of the worship which is his due," as Christians and republicans they are constrained to remonstrate against the passage of such;i law, which they believe would be pregnant with serious evils to our country.

We are of the opinion that the report of the committee of the United States Senate of the last year, "on this subject, is conclusive, and that the first article of amendments to the Constitution, which declares that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of

the press," has virtually prohibited Congress from legislating upon this subject.

In the opinion of your memorialists, errors of opinion, whether of religion or of politics, may be;: safely tolerated in our country, and no surveillance is required to control them other than that of reason, "a free press," and the "free course of the gospel." From the judicious arrangement of the Post-office Department, there is no reason to dread any disturbance of religious societies in their devout worship on that day; and the passage of such a law would, in the opinion of your memorialists, by occasioning numerous expresses and other modes of conveyance, defeat the ostensible object of the law itself. Such a measure would be the result of a "zeal not according to knowledge," and is not warranted by the benevolent spirit of our holy religion, which is "gentle," and not coercive; which is "without partiality and without hypocrisy;" which inculcates an active benevolence; which discovers to us a Deity who delights not in "sacrifices and vain oblations," but in the offering of an humble and contrite heart, and whose goodness is over all his works.

The proposed measure would tend to circumscribe and restrict the benefits of a free press, which is the palladium of our liberties, and to check or to retard the diffusion of knowledge, which, in the order of Providence, is the surest means of spreading the gospel, and would obscure or render less refulgent "the light of Bethlehem's star." Works of mercy and of private and public necessity are always excluded from the general prohibition. The divine Author of our religion has shown us by his own example that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day. The proposed measure would lessen the good man's opportunities of doing good. Many religious tracts, pamphlets, and newspapers "devoted to the interest of Zion and the prosperity of the Redeemer's kingdom," are transmitted by mail; and why not " mail carriers," equally with "illiterate fishermen," become the heralds of salvation? Why attempt to restrict or limit the Almighty in the methods of his grace! To stop the mail would, in the opinion of the memorialists, be repugnant to a wise maxim, which applies to morals and religion, as well as to economics, "not to put off till tomorrow that which can be done to-day," and would resemble the conduct of the "slothful servant who hid his talent in a napkin."

It is an invaluable privilege, for which, as Christians and Republicans, we cannot be too thankful, that the Constitution of the United States guarantees to every one the rights of conscience and religion; and, in the opinion of your memorialists, the proposed measure would operate as a violation of these rights; would be made a precedent for others of the same kind, and more alarming; would pave the way to a union of church and state, against which our horrors are excited by the awful admonitions of history; which would be the deathblow to our civil and religious liberties, purchased by the virtue and valor, and sealed with the blood, of our fathers; and end in the worst of all tyranny "an ecclesiastical hierarchy. "

Source of Information:

"21st Congress, 1st Session, A Protest from Sabbatarians." American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Class VII, pages 240-41. Selected and edited, under the authority of Congress, by Waiter Lowrie, Secretary of the Senate, and Waiter S. Franklin, Clerk of the House of Representatives. Published at Washington, 1834. American State Papers Bearing on Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 280-83.


February 15, 1830

The memorial of the General Assembly of the State of Indiana, respectfully represents:

That we view all attempts to introduce sectarian influence into the councils of the nation as a violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution of the United States and of this State, and at the same time dangerous to our civil and religious liberties, inasmuch as those charters secure to every man the free exercise of his religion and the right to worship the Almighty God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and inasmuch as ally legislative interference in matters of religion would be an infraction of those rights;

We, therefore, most respectfully remonstrate against any attempt, by a combination of one or more sects, to alter the laws providing for the transportation of the mail, and against the passage of a law to regulate or enforce the observance of religious duties, or which may interfere with what belongs to the conscience of each individual.

That all legislative interference ill matters of religion is contrary to the genius of Christianity; and that there are no doctrines or observances inculcated, by the Christian religion which require the arm of civil power either to enforce or sustain them;

That we consider every connection between church and state at all times dangerous to civil and religious liberty;' and further,

That we cordially agree to and approve of the able report of the Hen. R. M. Johnson, adopted by the Senate of the United States at its last session, upon the petitions for prohibiting the transportation of the mail on Sunday; and while we protest in the most solemn manner against every attempt to enforce, by legislative interference, the observance of any particular day, yet believe that both the spiritual and temporal interest of mankind is promoted by setting apart one day in the week for the purpose of rest, religious instruction, and the worship of God.

Resolved, That his Excellency the Governor be requested to transmit a copy of the foregoing memorial to each of our Senators and Representatives in Congress, and to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Source of Information:

"21st Congress, 1ST Session, Memorial of the General Assembly of Indiana, Executive Department Indiana, Indianapolis, February 15, 1830." American State Papers, Class VII, page 240. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 271-72.


March 4, 1830

Post Office Department, March 4, 1830

Sir

I have the honor to transmit, in accordance with the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 24thultimo, a statement of the post routes within the United States on which the mail is transported on Sunday.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. T. BARRY

Hon. A. Stevenson, Speaker of the House of Representatives

The mail is transported on the following post routes within the United States on Sunday:. ..


March 4-5, 1830

Mr. Johnson of Kentucky, from the Committee on the Post-offices and Post-Roads, to whom had been referred memorials from inhabitants of various parts of the United States, praying for a repeal of so much of the post-office law as authorizes the mail to be transported and opened on Sunday, and to whom had also been referred memorials from other inhabitants of various parts of the United States, remonstrating against such an appeal, made the following report:

That the memorialists regard the first day of the week as a day set apart by the Creator for religious exercises, and consider the transportation of the mail and the opening of the post offices on that day the violation of a religious duty, and call for a suppression of the practice. Others, by counter memorials, are known to entertain a different sentiment, believing that no one day of the week is holier than another. Others, holding the universality and immutability of the Jewish decalogue, believe in the sanctity of the seventh day of the week as a day of religious devotion; and, by their memorial now before the committee, they also request that it may be set apart for religious purposes. Each has hitherto been left to the exercise of his own opinion; and it has been regarded as the proper business of government to protect all, and determine for none. But the attempt is now made to bring about a greater uniformity, at least in practice; and, as argument has failed, the government has been called upon to interpose its authority to settle the controversy.

Congress acts under a constitution of delegated and limited powers. The Committee look in vain to that instrument for a delegation of power authorizing this body to inquire and determine what part of time, or whether any, has been set apart by the Almighty for religious exercises. On the contrary, among the few prohibitions which it contains is one that prohibits a religious test; and another which declares that Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

The Committee might here rest the argument, upon the ground that the question referred to them does not come within the cognizance of Congress; but the perseverance and zeal with which the memorialists pursue their object seems to require further elucidation of the subject. And, as the opposers of Sunday mails disclaim all intention to unite church and state, the committee do not feel disposed to impugn their motives; and whatever may be advanced in opposition to the measure will arise from the fears entertained of its fatal tendency to the peace and happiness of the nation. The catastrophe of other nations furnished the framers of the constitution a beacon of awful warning, and they have evinced the greatest possible care in guarding against the same evil.

The law, as it now exists, makes no distinction as to the days of the week, but is imperative, that the Postmasters shall attend at all reasonable hours in every day to perform the duties of their offices; and the Postmaster-General has given his instructions to all Postmasters, that, at post offices where the mail arrives on Sunday, the office is to be kept open one hour or more after the arrival and asserting of the mail. But, in case that would interfere with the hours of public worship, the office is to be kept open for one hour after the usual time of dissolving the meeting. This liberal construction of the law does not satisfy the memorialists. But the committee believe that there is no just ground of complaint, unless it be conceded that they have a controlling power over the consciences of others.

If Congress shall by the authority of the law sanction the measure recommended, it would constitute a legislative decision of a religious controversy in which even Christians themselves are at issue. However, suited such a decision may be to an ecclesiastical council, it is incompatible with a republican legislature, which is purely for political, and not religious purposes.

In our individual character we all entertain opinions and pursue a corresponding practice upon the subject of religion. However diversified these may be, we all harmonize as citizens while each is willing that the other shall enjoy the same liberty which he claims for himself. But in our representative character our individual character is lost. The individual acts for himself; the representative acts for his constituents. He is chosen to represent their political, and not their religious views -- to guard the rights of man; not to restrict the rights of conscience.

Despots may regard their subjects as their property and usurp the divine prerogative of prescribing their religious faith; but the history of the world furnishes the melancholy demonstration that the disposition of one man to coerce the religious homage of another springs from an unchastened ambition rather than a sincere devotion to any religion.

The principles of our Government do not recognize in the majority any authority over the minority, except in matters which regard the conduct of man to his fellow man.

A Jewish monarch, by grasping the holy censer, lost both his sceptre and his freedom. A destiny as little to be envied may be the lot of the American people who hold the sovereignty of power, if they, in the person of their representatives, shall attempt to unite, in the remotest degree, Church and State.

From the earliest period of time, religious teachers have attained great ascendency over the minds of the people; and in every nation, ancient or modern, whether pagan, Mahometan, or Christian, have succeeded in the incorporation of their religious tenets with the political institutions of their country. The Persian idols, the Grecian oracles, the Roman auguries, and the modern priesthood of Europe, have all, in their turn, been subject of popular adulation, and agents of political deception. If the measure recommended should be adopted, it would be difficult for human sagacity to foresee how rapid would be the succession, or how numerous the train of measures which might follow, involving the dearest rights of all-the rights of conscience.

It is perhaps fortunate for our country that the proposition should have been made at this early period, while the spirit of the Revolution yet exists in full vigor. Religious zeal enlists the strongest prejudices of the human mind; and, when misdirected, excites the worst passions of our nature under the delusive pretext of doing God service. Nothing so infuriates the heart to deeds of rapine and blood; nothing is so incessant in its toils, so persevering in its determination, so appalling in its course, or so dangerous in its consequences. The equality of right secured by the constitution may bid defiance to mere political tyrants, but the robe of sanctity too often glitters to deceive. The constitution regards the conscience of the Jew as sacred as that of the Christian, and gives no more authority to adopt a measure affecting the conscience of a solitary individual than that of a whole community. That representative who would violate this principle would lose his delegated character and forfeit the confidence of his constituents.

If Congress shall declare the first day of the week holy, it would not convince the Jew nor the Sabbatarian. It will dissatisfy both and, consequently, convert neither. Human power may extort vain sacrifices, but Deity alone can command the affections of the heart.

It must be recollected that, in the earliest settlement of this country, the spirit of persecution, which drove the pilgrims from their native home, was brought with them to their new habitations; and that some Christians were scourged and others put to death for no other crime than dissenting from the dogmas of their rulers.

With these facts before us, it must be a subject of deep regret that a question should be brought before Congress which involves the dearest privileges of the constitution, and even by those who enjoy its choicest blessings. We should all recollect that Catiline, a professed patriot, was a traitor to Rome; Arnold, a professed whig, was a traitor to America; and Judas, a professed disciple, was a traitor to his Divine Master.

With the exception of the United States, the whole human race, consisting, it is supposed, of eight hundred million of rational beings, is in religious bondage; and, in reviewing the scenes of persecution which history everywhere presents, unless the committee could believe that the cries of the burning victim, and the flames by which he is consumed, bear to heaven a grateful incense, the conclusion is inevitable that the line cannot be too strongly drawn between church and state. If a solemn act of legislation shall, in one point, define the la\v of God, or point out to the citizen one religious duty, it may, with equal propriety, proceed to define every part of divine revelation, and enforce every religious obligation, even to the forms and ceremonies of worship, the endowment of the church, and the support of the clergy.

It was with a kiss that Judas betrayed his divine Master; and we should all be admonished -- no matter what our faith may be -- that the rights of conscience cannot be so successfully assailed as under the pretext of holiness. The Christian religion made its way into the world in opposition to all human governments. Banishment, tortures, and death were inflicted in vain to stop its progress. Rut many of its professors, as soon as clothed with political power, lost the meek spirit which their creed inculcated, and began to inflict on other religions, and on dissenting sects of their own religion. persecutions more aggravated than those which their own apostles had endured.

The ten persecutions of the pagan emperors were exceeded in atrocity by the massacres and murders perpetrated by Christian hands; and in vain shall we examine the records of imperial tyranny for an engine of cruelty equal to the holy Inquisition. Every religious sect, however meek in its origin, commenced the work of persecution as soon as it acquired political power.

The framers of the constitution recognized the eternal principle that man's relation with God is above human legislation and his rights of conscience inalienable. Reasoning was not necessary to establish this truth; we are conscious of it in our own bosoms. It is the consciousness which, in defiance of human laws, has sustained so many martyrs in tortures and in names. They felt that their duty to God was superior to human enactments and that man could exercise no authority over their consciences: it is an inborn principle which nothing can eradicate. The bigot, in the pride of his authority, may lose sight of it; but, strip him of his power, prescribe a faith to him which his conscience rejects, threaten him in turn with the dungeon and the fagot, and the spirit which God has implanted in him rises up in rebellion, and defies you.

Did primitive Christians ask that government should recognize and observe their religious institutions? All they asked was toleration; all they complained of was persecution. What did the Protestants of Germany, or the Huguenots of France, ask of their Catholic superiors? Toleration. What do the persecuted Catholics of Ireland ask their oppressors? Toleration. Do not all men in this country enjoy every religious right which martyrs and saints ever asked? Whence, then, the voice of complaint? Who is that, in the full enjoyment of every principle which human laws can secure wishes to wrest a portion of these principles from his neighbor?

Do the petitioners allege that they cannot conscientiously participate in the profits of the mail contracts and post offices because the mail is carried on Sunday ? If this be their motive, then it is worldly gain which stimulates to action and not virtue and religion. Do they complain that men, less conscientious in relation to the Sabbath, obtain advantages over them by receiving their letters and attending to their contents? Still their motive is worldly and selfish. But if their motive be to make Congress to sanction by law their religious opinions and observances, then their efforts are to be resisted as in their tendency fatal both to religious and political freedom.

Why have the petitioners confined their prayer to the mails! Why have they not requested that the Government be required to suspend all its executive functions in that day! Why do they not require us to exact that our ships shall not sail, that our armies shall not march, that officers of justice shall not seize the suspected, or guard the convicted? The spirit of evil does not rest on that day. They seem to forget that government is as necessary on Sunday as on any other day of the week. It is the Government ever active in its functions which enables us all, even the petitioners, to worship in our churches in peace.

Our Government furnishes very few blessings like our mails. They bear, from the centre of our Republic to its distant extremes, the acts of our legislative bodies, the decisions of the justiciary, and the orders of the Executive. Their speed is often essential to the defense of the country, the suppression of crime, and the dearest interests of the people. Were they suppressed one day of the week, their absence must often be supplied by public expresses, and, besides, while the mail bags might rest, the mail coaches would pursue their journey with the passengers. The mail bears, from one extreme of the Union to the other, letters of relatives and friends, preserving a communion of heart between those far separated and increasing the most pure and refined pleasures of our existence; also, the letters of commercial men convey the state of markets, prevent ruinous speculations, and promote general as well as individual interest; they bear innumerable religious letters, newspapers, magazines, and tracts, which reach almost every house throughout this wide Republic. Is the conveyance of these a violation of the Sabbath ?

The advance of the human race in intelligence, in virtue and religion itself, depends, in part, upon the speed with which a knowledge of the past is disseminated. Without an interchange between one country and another and between different sections of the same country, every improvement in moral or political science, and the arts of life, would be confined to the neighborhood where it originated. The more rapid and the more frequent this interchange, the more rapid will be the march of intellect and the progress of improvement. The mail is the chief means by which intellectual light irradiates to the extremes of the Republic. Stop it one day in seven, and you retard one seventh the improvement of our country.

So far from stopping the mail on Sunday, the committee would recommend the use of all reasonable means to give it a greater expedition and a greater extension. What would be the elevation of our country if every new conception could be made to strike every mind in the Union at the same time! It is not the distance of a Province or State from the seat of Government which endangers its separation, but it is the difficulty and unfrequency of intercourse between them. Our mails reach Missouri and Arkansas in less time than they reached Kentucky and Ohio in the infancy of their settlements; and now, when there are three millions of people, extending a thousand miles west of the Alleghany, we hear less of discontent than when there were a few thousand scattered along their Western base. To stop the mails one day in seven would be to thrust the whole Western country and other distant parts of this Republic one day's journey from the seat of Government.

But were it expedient to put an end to the transmission of letters and newspapers on Sunday because it violates the law of God, have not the petitioners begun wrong in their efforts? If the arm of Government be necessary to compel men to respect and obey the laws of God, do not the State Governments possess infinitely more power in this respect! Let the petitioners turn to them, and see if they can induce the passage of laws to respect the observance of the Sabbath; for if it be sinful for the mail to carry letters on Sunday, it must be equally sinful for individuals to write, carry, receive, or read them. It would seem to require that these acts should be made penal to complete the system. Traveling on business or recreation, except to and from church; all printing, carrying, receiving, and reading of newspapers; all conversations and social intercourse, except upon religious subjects, must necessarily be punished to suppress the evil. Would it not also follow, as an inevitable consequence, that every man, woman, and child should be compelled to attend meeting; and, as only one sect, in the opinion of some, can be deemed orthodox, must the law not determine which that is, and compel all to hear these teachers and contribute to their support? If minor punishments would not restrain the Jew or the Sabbatarian or the Infidel, who believes Saturday to be the Sabbath, or disbelieves the whole, would not the same system require that we resort to imprisonment, banishment, the rack, and the faggot to force men to violate their own consciences, or compel them to listen to doctrines which they abhor? When the State Governments shall have yielded to these measures, it will be time enough for Congress to declare that the rattling of the mail coaches shall no longer break the silence of this despotism.

It is the duty of this Government to afford to all, to Jew or Gentile, Pagan or Christi an, the protection and the advantages of our benignant institutions on Sunday, as well as every day of the week. Although this Government will not convert itself into an ecclesiastical tribunal, it will practice upon the maxim laid down by the founder of Christianity that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day.

If the Almighty has set apart the first day of the week as time which man is bound to keep holy and devote exclusively to his worship, would it not be more congenial to the prospects of Christians to appeal exclusively to the Great I,awgiver of the Universe to aid them in making men better-- in correcting their practices by purifying their hearts! Government will protect them in their efforts. When they shall have so instructed the public mind and awakened the consciences of individuals as to make them believe that it is a violation of God's law to carry the mail, open post offices, or receive letters on Sunday, the evil of which they complain will cease of itself, without any exertion of the strong arm of civil power. When man undertakes to be God's avenger he becomes a demon. Driven by the frenzy of a religious zeal he loses every gentle feeling, forgets the most sacred precepts of his creed, and becomes ferocious and unrelenting.

Our fathers did not wait to be oppressed when the mother country asserted and exercised an unconstitutional power over them. To have acquiesced in the tax of three pence upon a pound of tea would have led the way to the most cruel exactions; they took a bold stand against the principle, and liberty and independence was the result. The petitioners have not requested Congress to suppress Sunday mails upon the ground of political expediency but because they violate the sanctity of the first day of the week.

This being the fact, and the petitioners having indignantly disclaimed even the wish to unite politics and religion, may not the committee reasonably cherish the hope that they will feel reconciled to its decision in the case; especially as it is also a fact that the counter memorials, equally respectable, oppose the interference of Congress upon the ground that it would be legislating upon a religious subject and therefore unconstitutional.

Resolved, That the committee be discharged from the further consideration of the subject.

Source of Information:

"21st Congress, 1st Session, House Report on Sunday Mails, Communicated to the House of representatives, March 4-5, 1830," American State Papers, Class VII, pp 229. American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 244-268.


March 5, 1830

Mr. McCreery, from the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads, To whom were referred sundry memorials and petitions upon the subject of transporting and opening the public mail on the Sabbath day, submitted the following as his view of the subject:

All Christian nations acknowledge the first day of the week tn be the Sabbath. Almost every State in this Union has by positive legislation, not only recognised this day as sacred, but has forbidden its profanation under penalties imposed by law.

It was never considered by any of those States as an encroachment upon the rights of conscience, or as an improper interference with the opinions of the few, to guard !he sacredness of that portion of time acknowledged to be holy by the many.

The petitioners ask not Congress to expound the moral law; they ask not Congress to meddle with theological controversies, much less to interfere with the rights of the Jew or the Sabbatarian, or to treat with the least disrespect the religious feelings of any portion of the inhabitants of tile Union; they ask the introduction of no religious coercion into our civil institutions; no blending of religion and civil affairs; but they do ask that the agents of government employed in tile Post Office Department may be permitted to enjoy the same opportunities of attending to moral and religious instruction or intellectual improvement on that day which is enjoyed by the rest of their fellow-citizens. They approach the Government not for personal emolument but as patriots and Christians to express their high sense of the moral energy and necessity of the Sabbath for the perpetuity of our republican institutions and respectfully request that Congress will not, by legislative enactments, impair those energies.

Among the many reasons which might be advanced that it is both expedient and a duty to grant the prayer of the petitioners. the following only are submitted:

The petitioners ask the enactment of no law establishing the first day of the week as the Christian Sabbath; they only ask the extension and application to one Department of Government principle which is recognised, and has since the foundation of our Government been acknowledged in every other Department. The principle embraced in the petitions has been recognised by Congress by adjourning over the first dav of the week. At the first session of the first Congress a law was passed establishing judicial courts, and in that law Sunday is excepted from the days on which that court may commence its sessions. All the other Executive Departments of Government are closed on that day. Congress has never, by this, considered itself as expounding the moral law or as introducing any religious coercion into our civil institutions, or making any innovations on the religious rights of the citizens, or setting by legislation any theological question that may exist between Jew, Sabbatarians and other denominations. The good of society requires the strict observance of one day in seven. Paley, and other writers on moral philosophy, have shown that the resting of men every seventh day; their winding up their labors and concerns once in seven days; their abstraction from the affairs of the world, to improve their minds and converse with their maker; their orderly attendance upon the ordinances of public worship and instruction have a direct and powerful tendency to improve the morals and temporal happiness of mankind.

The wise and good Ruler of the universe made the appointment, not by mere arbitrary exercise of authority, but for our good; and, whatever difference of opinion may exist in respect to the proper day to be observed, almost all agree that one day in seven should be devoted to religious exercises. That being admitted, can any thing be more reasonable than the request of the petitioners that at least so much of the law should be repealed as requires the post office to be kept open every day of the week. Does not the enactment of that law plainly imply that mankind is under no moral obligation to refrain from secular labor on any day of the week? Is it not in direct opposition to the received opinion of almost all professing Christians? It is to that part of the law, more particularly, which requires, in terms, all the postmasters throughout the United States to deliver letters, packets, and papers on every day of the week, to which a minority of your committee object, and which is most offensive to the petitioners. In this statute is at once seen a palpable encroachment on the rights od conscience. It either drives every man who feels himself morally bound to observe the Sabbath in a religious manner from the service of his country, and equal participation in her favors, or subjects him to the hard terms remaining in office at the expense of his principles. It is freely acknowledged that the works of neccessity and mercy are not forbidden; and if the transportation of the mail on Sunday could be justified on that ground, (which is not admitted,) it cannot be contended that the keeping open offices where no mail arrives on that day is work of necessity.

The arguments which have been urged for the transportation of the mail, &c. On the Sabbath are mainly derived from commercial convenience, and from alleged derangement of business and intercourse. This doctrine militates against the first principles of good morals. If these are important at all, they are paramount to the claims of expediency; but this plea makes them subservient to the pressure of worldly business, and converts them into mere questions of profits and loss.

Granting the prayer of the petitioners cannot interfere with the religious feelings or consciences of any portion of the citizens, because they ask no service be performed, no principle to be professed. It is only asked that certain duties be not required on a certain day. Wer it imposing any service, or requiring the profession of any opinions, those whose religious sentiments were different might justly complain. But he who conscientiously believes that he is bound to observe the seventh day of the week in a religious manner can have no just reason to complain, because Government takes nothing away from him in permitting all classes of citizens to observe the first day of the week as a day of religious rest. The case would be quite different, did the privilege of resting on that day impose any thing on any class of citizens contrary to their conscience. Therefore,

Resolved, That it is expedient to grant the prayer of the petitioners.

WM. McCREERY

Source of Information:

"21ST Congress, 1ST Session, House, Minority Report of Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads, Sunday Mails, Communicated to the House of Representatives, March 5, 1830," American State Papers, Class VII, pp 229-231.


March 10, 1830

Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN presented the following preamble and resolution for consideration:

"The Sabbath is justly regarded as a divine institution closely connected with individual and national prosperity--no legislation can rightfully reject its claims; and although Congress of the United States, from the peculiar and limited constitution of the General Government, cannot by law force its observation--yet; as they should not, by positive legislation, encroach upon the sacredness of this day, nor weaken its authority in the estimation of the people--

"Therefore, it is

"Resolved, That the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads be instructed to report a bill, repealing so much of the act on the regulation of post offices as requires the delivery of letters, packets, and papers, on the Sabbath, and further to prohibt the transportation of the mail on that day."

No action was taken on said bill at this time, it was laid on the table.

Source of Information:

"21ST Congress, 1st Session, Senate, March 10, 1830."


March 20, 1830

Sir:-For forty years, next to the salvation of the soul, the rights of conscience have been articles of my highest solicitude. Not only that all sects and societies should be placed on a level, but that each lonely individual should have equal favor, and not be obliged to join any society to escape disabilities or oppression. Indeed, I stand pledged, that as long as I can use my tongue or pen, I will never lie dormant when religious liberty is in jeopardy. The report speaks for itself. If it can be bettered, I know not in which particular. It breaths the language of John Milton, Roger Williams, William Penn, Thomas Jefferson, etc., and, I think it is in perfect accordance with the letter and spirit of the New Testament. It has my unqualified approbation.

The report of the minority of the committee comes in company with the other. After what I have said, it will not be expected that I shall approve of the whole of it. It discards the idea of any theological controversy, and yet, in the very beginning, it lays the foundation of a religious war. There never was a Christian nation on earth, before the days of Constantine, who opened the flood-gates of error, and set Christians at war with each other. * * * * * *

A few years past, a moral society was formed in Berkshire, for the suppression of vice. An executive committee was appointed to stop travel on Sundays. Were it not a serious subject, it would provoke a smile to see Belzebub in chase of Lucifer, whip and spur-the committee breaking the Sabbath to prevent Sabbath breaking. When the pursuer had overtaken or met with his game, they sometimes compromised, and for a fine, the traveller was let go on; but, generally he was carried to a justice or the county court, and fined for breaking the Sabbath. But, a certain Mr. Clark, being stopped, resented the abuse, and brought suit against them, for assault and battery, before the supreme judicial court, where Mr. Clark recovered a considerable sum for damages; the decision being that they had no right to stop and unhorse him. This decision purified the consciences of the whole club. Strange, how the getting or losing of money will give direction to conscience! Whether these good souls, on conversion, paid back the fines which they had taken, I cannot certainly tell. My best information is that they did not.

I have lived long enough to see that individuals often break over the bounds of moral honesty to injure their neighbors; but, this is not more frequent, than it is for legislative bodies to overleap their legitimate guide, and usurp the empire of natural individual rights. The let alone policy may be extended too far; but less evils arise from that neglect, than arise from a redundancy of laws. The liberty of the native of the woods, under proper restraint, to pervert overt acts (if the expedient can be found) should be aimed at. If, on entering into social compact, individuals sur. render all to the public will, then government may direct our food, physic, costume, marriage, association, location, occupation, private opinion, religion, hearing, seeing, appetite, pronunciation, vibration of the arteries, and every breath we draw. But, if all this is surrendered, the individuals lose all accountability to their Maker, and government becomes responsible for all; for, it would be beneath the righteousness of the Divine Being, to hold a man to answer for himself, when he was divested of every attribute that constitutes a moral agent.

If I should vary a few degrees from the question of Sunday mails, it would be following a precedent which Congress has taught me. When members of that august assembly, think, until they are as full of matter as a bottle of wine that has no vent, they take the floor, and seem to tear up mountains by the roots-ride on the wings of the wind, and direct the storm. No matter what the question is, whether Missouri, retrenchment, or public land; the hall and gallery are struck with wonder at the profundity of the orator; but, if the small pox was in the question, neither speaker nor hearer would catch the disease. I see no great evil in all this. Their effusions may help the next question; at any rate the next election. Have not members of Congress as good a right to ramble, as the late Patrick Henry ? Must all be guaged to speak in the direct, logical, and irrefutable mode of Madison ? All souls were not cast in the same mould. It takes every man to make a world. I think Congress, on the whole, performs wonders. They have safely steered the ship between Scylla and Charybdis, notwithstanding adverse winds and mutinous sailors. The religion which I profess, forbids me to speak evil of the rulers of the people. I honor the throne, (government,) and the altar, (religion;) but, those who under a pretence of religion and good order, would shape my religion and guide my conscience, arc usurping, presumtuous tyrants. A man cannot give greater evidence that he is destitute of the meek spirit of Christianity, and ignorant of its genius, than when he makes, or urges others to make, laws to coerce his neighbors in matters of religion. It is like putting a tool on the stones of the altar, or making a new cart to carry the ark.

I cheerfully subscribe to the sentiment, that Christianity is not only a good religion, but, the only religion that ever met the sinner's wants and relieved his woes-the only religion that ever brought pardon to the guilty, and gave assurance of eternal life; but, as an institute of state policy, a question arises, whether it has ever done any good. Has any Christian nation ever exceeded Tyrus in wealth-Greece in science-ancient Rome and Carthage in bravery-or modern China in internal improvement ? And what nations now are more perfidious and bloodthirsty, than those who have formed crusades, established an inquisition, and massacred the South-Americans ? Let Christianity operate in its own natural channel, and it is a blessing of immense worth; but, turn it into a principle of state policy, it fosters pride, hypocrisy, and the worst kind of cruelty.

JOHN LELAND.

Source of Information:

Extract of letter from John Leland to Hon. R.M. Johnson, March 20, 1830.The Writings of John Leland, Edited by L.F. Greene, Arno Press & The New York Times N Y (1969) pp. 567-69) Originally published as: The Writings Of The Late Elder John Leland Including Some Events In His Life, Written By Himself, With Additional Sketches &c. By Miss L.F. Greene, Lanesboro, Mass. New York Printed By G.W. Wood, 29 Gold Street, 1845.


May 8, 1830

On a motion by Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN, the resolution submitted by him on the 10th March last, and subsequently laid on the table, "to instruct the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads, to report a bill repealing so much of the act on the regulations of Post Offices as requires the delivery of letters, packets, and papers on the Sabbath, and further to prohibt the transportation of mail on that day," was resumed, and an interesting debate arose, in which Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN advocated, and Mr. LIVINGSTON opposed, the resolution; after which, it was laid on the table, at four o' clock, on motion by Mr. BIBB.

Source of Information:

Mr. Frelinghuysen's actions on the subject of Sunday Mails, May 8, 1830, Gales & Seaton's Register of Debates in Congress, U. S. Congress, Senate, 21st Congress, 1st Session, pp 427.


May 8, 1830

The following preamble and resolution being under consideration, viz,

"The Sabbath is justly regarded as a divine institution closely connected with individual and national prosperity--no legislation can rightfully reject its claims; and although Congress of the United States, from the peculiar and limited constitution of the General Government, cannot by law force its observation--yet; as they should not, by positive legislation, encroach upon the sacredness of this day, nor weaken its authority in the estimation of the people--

"Therefore, it is

"Resolved, That the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads be instructed to report a bill, repealing so much of the act on the regulation of post offices as requires the delivery of letters, packets, and papers, on the Sabbath, and further to prohibt the transportation of the mail on that day."

Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN spoke as follows:

Mr. President: I have presented this resolution to the Senate, not only in the hope that we may consider and respect the claims of the Sabbath, but also that an occasion may be afforded of discussing the public in regard to the object of the memorialists.

When it was proposed to our fellow citizens, during the last Congress, respectively to petition for a repeal of the law which had required the transportation of the mail and the opening of post offices on Sunday, it produced a spontaneous, cordial, and unexampled concert and co-operation, from one limit of the union to the other. Thousands of our constituents, who would abhor all religious tests and ecclesiastical domination, sent up their request that a profanation of the Sabbath, as destructive of our temporal prosperity as it was offensive to God, might be repressed. Sir, it was a noble tribute to the just claims of a day held sacred by all Christian men. It was a nation's voice, speaking on a subject deeply involving its best interests. I could wish that the plea had been regarded and at least rightly apprehended. The petitioners would not have been charged with the design of uniting Church and State, in any dangerous alliance, had their motives been justly appreciated, or their language distinctly understood. In looking over the memorials that have loaded your tables for the last and present sessions, I find among them the first names of our country. The principle merchants in all our important cities, judges, jurists, and legislators, the farmer, manufacturer, and mechanic, of every denomination, have combined a weight of influence, and respectability of testimony, on the sacred authority of this holy day, as honorable to them as it should be persuasive and prevalent to us.

The honorable committee of the House of Representatives. To whom these memorials had been referred, in their report, made on the 3rd of February, 1829, observe, "It is believed that the history of legislation in this country affords no instance in which a stronger expression has been made, if regard be had to numbers, the wealth, or the intelligence of the petitioners."

Sir, what has wrought so sudden and singular a revolution in the public mind, if such indeed be the case? Whence has arisen this clamorous opposition to an object that so lately seemed to draw to itself such universal and popular approbation? When we open the volumes of remonstrances against the interference of Government to prevent its own violations of the Sabbath, but one prominent cause is urged. It is gravely asserted that the petitioners are striving to bring into the operations of our Government an ecclesiastical dominion to lord it over the consciences of men, and to encroach upon the rights and freedom of religious belief and opinion. Sir, it is due to all parties, as well as to ourselves, to examine this charge in the spirit of candor, divested of all prejudice, and with single, sincere desire that the truth may be known.

The men who have presented their respectful memorials to the Congress, are not among those that have ever been friendly to either civil or ecclesiastical bondage. I have traced among them the names on many illustrious worthies of our revolution. They seem to have rejoiced in an occasion that would bear their public testimony to the authority of the Christian Sabbath. Moreover, when we seek for the proof of this ungracious charge, we find that instead of desiring any inroad to be made upon the rights of conscience, the manifest design of the memorialists has been to increase the entrenchments around these high interests. They saw in this act of Congress, beside other exceptionable features, a direct invasion of religious liberty; that whilst it left all others tranquil, it attacked the principles of every postmaster in the land, with all the multitudes of clerks, assistants messengers, and mail carriers, and commanded them to disregard the divine authority and the legislation of almost every state, and to make the Sabbath a day of business, and of distracting servile labor. And without disturbing in the least degree the opinions or creed of any body of Christians, Congress is besought to repeal a statute thus adverse to individual privilege and public welfare. The truth is, Mr President, the whole spirit and scope of these applications have been tortured from their obvious intention, as I hope to show to every member of the Senate.

The eleventh section of the Act of Congress regulating the Post Office Department, requires that "postmasters shall, on every day of the week, keep open their post offices, for the delivery of letters, packets, and papers, at all reasonable hours." No other statute of similar requirement can be found in our civil or criminal code. It is an anomaly in our legislation. In all our public laws beside, we perceive a very commendable concern for the sanctity of the Sabbath. And when we recu[?] to their provisions we shall be furnished with a conclusive reply to the objection, that is derived from a diversity of sentiment, on the proper season that should be devoted to religious duties. Our predecessors have acted upon a true, republican principle, that the feelings and opinions of the majority were to be consulted. And where a collision might arise, inasmuch as only one day could be thus appropriated, they wisely determined, in accordance with the sentiments of at least nine-tenths of our people, that the first day of the week should be the sabbath of our Government.

This public recognition is accorded to the Sabbath in our Federal Constitution. The President of the United States in the discharge of the hight functions of his legislative department is expressly relieved from all embarrassment on Sunday. The business of the Supreme court, the highest judicial tribunal of the country, is by law directed to suspend its session on Sunday. Both houses of Congress, the offices of the State, Treasury, War, and Navy Departments, are all closed on Sunday. And all the States of the Union I believe, (twenty three of them certainly) by explicit legislative enactments, acknowledge and declare the religious authority of Sunday.

Sir, these State laws do not merely notice this day, but they require in terms its religious observance, and prohibits its profanations under proper penalties. And yet these regulations may be assailed with the equal propriety as the resolution I have submitted.

A brief allusion to the course of public enactments by the States, will fully illustrate the high consideration that has been devoted to the Sabbath, as a portion of time which duty, sound policy, and our best interests require, should be set apart for religious service and moral improvement. I have selected two or three cases only, not because they are the strongest, but because they present a fair estimate of the views that have been entertained by different legislatures of the Union. In the States of Georgia and North Carolina, so decided was the piety of their statesmen, that they not only prohibited the profanation, but required the observance of the Sabbath. Pursuing our researches into the legislation of all the old thirteen States, and most new western States, sections of a kindred spirit are found to be incorporated into their systems of laws. Sir, this forms a most grateful testimonial, that refutes all the outcry of "sectional conspiracies" and "unhallowed combinations." it exhibits a full, harmonious and honorable commentary upon the great political truth, that a free people can preserve their liberty through moral influences alone; and to cherish these, a Sabbath is vitally indispensable. Permit me, Mr. President, before I dismiss this part of the subject, to give an extract from public law of the Territory of Michigan, adopted on the 15th of May, 1820—it is the preamble to "an act to enforce the observance of the Sabbath ."

I deem it important, for the sound principles and practical wisdom which it combines. The extract follows: "Considering that, in every community, some portion of time ought to be set apart for relaxation from worldly cares and employments and devoted to the social worship of almighty God, and the attainment of religious and moral instruction, which are in the highest degree promotive of peace, happiness, and prosperity of a people: and whereas the first day of the week, commonly denominated the Sabbath, has at all times, among Christians in general, been devoted to these important purposes," &c,; therefore it is by that act ordained, "that the first day of the week shall be kept and observed by the good people of the territory as a Sabbath, holyday, or day of rest from all secular labor and employments." I cannot forbear to remark, sir, that such indications of correct sentiment are heard by us with peculiar satisfaction, as coming from our territorial districts. They are the best pledges that could be given, of the stability and prosperity on the rising communities on our borders.

The example of the old world also pleads powerfully on behalf of this sacred institution. London, with all its wealth, business, and enterprise, regards the Sabbath. No mail is opened or closed on this day. And although there is probably five times the commerce between London and Liverpool, as between New York and Philadelphia, no mail leaves the Metropolis for Liverpool between Saturday evening and Monday morning; and the mercantile classes of these populous communities make no complaint of this interruption. No sir, they rejoice at the relief and refreshment from the toils of worldly business, that one day in seven there may be a pause in the anxieties of eager speculation; that even the rage of selfish cupidity is compelled to suspend pursuits--Now, sir, in this review of the case, it must appear a most singular prejudice that is now excited and raised against all efforts to restore our national legislation to a consistency with its own principles, so often avowed. It is as absurd as it is unjust. Every State of the Union has, from its very origin, preserved just a connection between Church and State, as is now depreciated, and by a means much more vigorous than the repeal of this offensive section. They have fixed the day--they have enjoined its observance--they have specified and prohibited its profanations in particular details, and annexed the sanctions of legal penalities--and yet, after all this, when Congress are respectfully requested to be passive, and not to command its violation, but to leave the Sabbath alone, the note of alarm is sounded, (and a good many men are deluded by it,) that some dangerous conspiracy is mediated against the freedom of conscience.

This charge, perhaps, deserves a more particular examination. If it be meant to impute to the petitioners a desire, that the Government should establish a particular system of religious doctrines, to form a national creed; that it should erect an ecclesiastical council to adjust all differences in opinion, no complaint was ever more unfounded. But if it amounts merely to the imputation of an earnest wish, that the whole conduct of the nation, in the administration of its laws, and the transaction of its business, should be conformed to Christian principles; that our rulers might acknowledge their obligations to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, respect his laws, and legislate in his fear, the charge is true, sir, every word of it. And is this a dangerous union of Church and State? Does the expression of such pure and exalted sentiments in these memorials, deserve to be driven from your doors, to be put aside with the traitorous purposes and evil deeds of "Catiline, Judas, and Arnold." Sir, this unfounded implication of the motives of the petitioners may become the watchword and apology for all manner of wickedness. Men may be guilty of blasphemy, drunkenness, and murder, and when you approach them with the language of rebuke or admonition, they may, behind this shield turn to you with the cry of fanaticism, that you wish to bring religion in to matters of civil concern. They may tell you, that it is far better for her to move in her own proper and appropriate sphere; "Better to be locked up in a man's own bosom," and not become a busybody in other men's matters. Sir, why may not individuals as well as States &— when did the latter pp obtain exemption from the claims of religion? The same page that proclaims condemnation to the sinner, also declares "the nation that will not serve God shall perish." Congress are not asked to legislate into existence the precepts of piety. No, sir, these are enacted already; they can never be repealed — and it is a most dangerous and destructive delusion to suppose, that, although as individuals and families, we are bound to respect the principles of religion, yet when we assume the character of States and nations they cease to exert any legitimate influence. Such was not the political faith of the Father of his Country. Washington loved to cherish that connexion between Church and State which led to universal public and private virtue. And this result, he deeply realized, could flow alone from the prevalence of religious principle. Hear his forcible illustration of it, in his last counsels given to his country, in his Farewell Address of 1796: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them. Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." The reflection and experience of this illustrious man convinced him, that all attempts at sustaining a moral community, without founding its principles upon religious obligations, would be utterly vain and fruitless. He clearly perceived that without this, morality had no vital principle, and would b e a mere sounding brass to amuse the ear, but would exert too salutary restraint upon the conduct of ?people?. Sir, he made the connexion of religion with morality, the basis of all true patriotism. Let us ponder his admonition, and pursue his counsels.

I trust that I have shown, upon the most satisfactory human authority, and by the almost universal consent of this great community, tha tthe first day of the week in a consecrated portion of time: that so far as the laws of the country can have efficacy, in any case, they have effectually established the Sabbath day, as a day of rest from labor. Now, sir, I hope that the argument for its preservation will not be impaired by showing that the dictates of policy and the sanctions of religion alike maintain its importance. I insist, with deference, that the reasons which have been suggested for Sabbath Mails are not satisfactory. Sir, it is said that the discontinuance of them would induce private expresses on that today, and that this would only increase the evil. This graduating of moral evil forms but a miserable apology. I ask, what have we to do with the probably increase or diminution of vicious or criminal practices amongst individuals, in a simple inquiry — whether we shall, as a Christian people, acknowledge or preserve a Sabbath --- whether we shall, by our own conduct, countenance an institution of most salutary tendencies, or by our example brake down its authority and rub it of all its energies? Let us do right, and leave the consequences of personal violation so duty to those who may dare to encounter them. But, Sir, private expresses are subject to State laws, and would be controlled by their authority — while your mail stages claim an exemption (a doubtful one, certainly,) that is not reached by State prohibitions. Moreover, the example of the General Government is far more demoralizing than scores of private messengers. It goes down to the people with all the weight of authority, and exerts a tremendous influence.

Mr. President, our constituents look up here for correct moral lessons — they wait to hear of laws that will terrify the evil doer — that will cherish those great interests of religion and morality, which Washington instructed them to regard as the only sure foundation of political prosperity: and what, sir, will be their emotions, when they learn that this August body rejected their supplications, and decrees that servile and worldly labor shall be done one very day of the week, the commands of God to the contrary notwithstanding? Every good man will hang his head in despondency: infidelity will ring her triumphs, and the cause of God and the country severely suffer in the discomfiture. Therefore, I have contended that, if we must witness the violations of the Sabbath, let the guilt of them rest upon individuals, but let the Government be clear.

All these statement regulations would be quickened into active enforcement by your example. You have hitherto paralyzed their influence, and many of them are become lifeless enactments. But should we speak out firmly — should we arrest our own profanation — I would awaken vigilance in all the State Governments, and we might hope very soon to behold our whole country in the enjoyment of a tranquil Sabbath.

Again, sir, the plea has been made, that if the mail should be stopped every Sabbath day, the transmission of earlier information by other modes would be effected, to the injry of those who rely ont he mail for advices. Why, sir, intelligence is communicated now, by expresses, with far greater despatch than by your conveyance, and will continue to be so, whenever the occasion calls for extraordinary rapidity. Recollect the speed of the late Message. If flew as on the wings of the wind — it laughed at the progress of your mail. This is an objection, therefore, without any foundation in fact. But suppose it true: I wait for the evidence that any earlier information thus obtained ever contributes to the welfare of the merchant or manufacturer. No, sir, I believe ti to be ?blighted? With a curse on its way, which whether seen or not, actually and certainly attends it. Let it be granted that the suspension of our business on the Sabbath would diminish the amount of our profits, in proportion to the alleged loss of time, a very interesting question still remains to be solved — Will this be in any sense calamitous? I think not, sir. Let the benefits ont he other side be calculated. What shall we have in exchange? In the first place, the satisfaction of a peaceful conscience — a treasure not to be purchased or redeemed with money: in the second place, we shall possess a moral excellence as a people, a thousand fold more valuable than all the wealth and splendors of commercial greatness. Yes, Mr. President, grant me the intelligence and integrity, the public and private virtue which the Sabbath will cherish and promote; give me the people that love the repose of this day, that honor the institutions of religion, and I will point my country to her best earthly hope in the hour of peril -- - to her surest stay and defence. I trust, sir, that we shall never graduate public worth by dollars and cents. Let us, by arresting this national profanation, reject the miserable ?pelf? That is amassed by labor pursued on a volunteer Sabbath.

It may be enquired wherefore it is that our citizens have remained so long quiet on this subject. You are aware, sir, that unavailing efforts have been heretofore made. But the evils have become more palpable in later years. The rapid increase of our population — the emergencies of business — the rush of trade in all its various branches, with facilities of intercourse, have multiplied the encroachments on the Sabbath is such alarming extent, that unless some check be interposed, there is good reason to fear we shall in a very few years remember this day only in the melancholy spectacle of its universal desecration. It will be an ?era? Of portentous import. Sir, this day is the aegis of a republican and free people. It is the poor man's friend. It elevates him and his family by promoting decency of manners, neatness, and order. It is the only time which the necessities of his condition and the constitution of society spare to him for rest and reflections; and hence every inroad upon its sacredness is a direct attack upon his best privilege. I believe sir, that the grand Adversary of our race, could he be permitted to select the single subject, would strike the blow at this divine institution. He would say, resign to me this great moral lever — let my votaries drive on the pursuit of business, the schemes of enterprise and ambition, without interruption — let there be not time for man to reflect, to gather in his thoughts, to review his life, or to consider his origin and his destiny — and I desire no more.

Mr. President — the Sabbath was made for man — not to be condemned and forgotten — the constitution of his nature requires just such a season. It is identified with his pursuits, and his moral tendencies. God has ordained it in infinite benevolence. The reason for its institution, as recorded in his word, was his own example. It began with creation. The first week of time was blessed with a Sabbath. The garden of Eden would not have smiled in all its loveliness, had not the light of this day shone upon it. Blot it out, and the hope of this world is extinguished. When the whirlwind raged in France, how was it, Sir? They could not carry their measures of ferocity and blood, while this last palladium of virtue remained: Desolation seemed to pause in its course, its waves almost subsided: when the spirit of evil struck this hallowed day from the Calendar, and enacted a decade to the Goddess of Reason — after which the ??besom? swept all before it.

Our own experience must satisfy us that it is essential to the welfare of our condition. Put the mind to any action o fits powers — let its energies be exerted incessantly, with no season for abstraction and repose, and it would very soon sink under a task so hostile to its nature: it would wear out in such hard service. So let the pursuits of business constantly engage our speculations, and the whole year become one unvaried calculation of profit and loss, with no Sabbath to open the heart will become the victim of a cold and debasing ??? and have too greater susceptibility than the nether millstone. And if in matters that are lawful, such consequences would issue, what will be the results of a constant, unbroken progression in vice! Sir, I tremble at the prospect for my country. If this barrier against the augmenting flood of evil be prostrated, all your penalties and prisons will oppose an utterly inefficient check. Irreligion will attain to a magnitude and ??bardihoold?? That will scorn the restraints of your laws. Law, sir! Of what avail can this be against the corrupted sentiment of a whole people? Let us weigh the interesting truth — that a free people can only flourish under the control of moral causes; and it is the Sabbath which gives vigor, and energy, and stability to these causes. The nation expects that the standard of sound principles will be raised here. Let us give it a commanding elevation. Let its tone be lofty. It is in this way we should expect to excite the enthusiasm of patriotism, or any other virtue. When we would awaken in our youth the spirit of literary emulation, we spread out to their vision a rugged path and a difficult ascent, and raise the prize of fame high above the reach of any pursuit, but an ardent, laborious, and vigorous reach of effort. If we would enkindle the love of country, we do not humble her claims to a miserable posture, just above downright indifference — but we point to a devoted Leonidas, and the brightest names of the scroll, and thus urge our youth onward and upward. Let, us, then, sir, be as wise and faithful int he cultivation of sound moral principles.

Mr. President: I firmly believe that the repeal of this single action, and the suspension of the mail, would exert the happiest influence. It would call up public attention. It would present the claims of the Sabbath with such force of interest and weight of influence, as would, I hope, establish and perpetuate it as an effective defence around our free institutions. The mail arrested, and the post office closed on Sunday, by the solemn authority of Congress! Who can fail to perceive the noble impulse that would be given. Sir, this would correct all false and degrading estimates of this sacred day — it would almost of itself form a public sentiment. The floods of vice and infidelity would be stayed int heir course. Such high example would silence the cavils of the profane — And this, as I understand it, is the true old fashioned way to popularity. It is not that sicly principle, which flatters public vices, and connives at national sins— but which, in the purity of its purposes, dares to rebuke them, and by wise and wholesome measures to correct them.

Suffer me to urge, as a further motive, the tendency of our example in its influence upon the kingdoms of the old work. We have been greatly useful to them in the illustrations furnished by our history of the principles of civil liberty. The mass of their people begin to understand the true object of government. Until our political career commenced, power had long taught its subjects that this was a mysterious machinery, to be approached by no vulgar hand, and scrutinized by no common eye. We have broken the spell for them, and men have learned the value of freedom. We have taught them that personal liberty, security, and property are inalienable rights, that are to be protected and cherished, but which cannot be impaired or destroyed by human governments. They are prepared to receive from us instructive examples on the efficacy of a sound moral code in sustaining these interests.

I am persuaded that we shall not be deterred by the absurd imputation of a design to tyrannize over the consciences and rights of men. Sir, this charge is most unseasonable in an age of greater moral and intellectual light than the world has ever seen. It is, indeed, a strange engine of oppression. In all past time, to hold men in bondage is was found necessary to keep them in ignorance; but here is "a dangerous party," which some affect to fear, that none but tyrants have ever dreaded before. A party whose labors are spreading the means of general information; whose philanthropy is engaged in enlightening the ignorant and reclaiming the deluded, whose charities have penetrated the abodes of the convict and opened a ray of hope even to him; and such men are assailed and summoned to a defence of such conduct. I will not attempt the serious refutation of a groundless charge. I dismiss it, with this bare statement of its character.

I ask for the demonstration of a fair experiment — this we can make without harm. Many of our constituents (and they are, permit me to say, among the best friends and purest patriots of the country) believe that such a consecration of this day is fraught with signal blessings to all our interests, as a free people. They are a part of this nation, whose opinions upon any other subject would be respected. Grant them a practical exposition of their principles; and whenever we shall have suffered by a repeal of this offensive law — when it shall be seen that it has been in any degree disastrous to our public or individual prosperity, we may return to the practice of impiety, and proclaim abroad, that for a Christian People to regard the authority of God, and the repose of his Sabbath, is shown to be an injurious and unprofitable service.

Source of Information:

Speech of Mr. Frelinghuysen, on the Subject of Sunday Mails, May 8, 1830, U. S. Congress, Senate, 21stCongress, 1st Session, Gales & Seaton's Register of Debates in Congress, Appendix, pp 1-4.


1831

. .. The origin and outlines of civil government I have paid some attention to, in order to give that ordinance of God its proper reverence, and maintain that religious opinions are inalienable in nature, and should be forever excluded from the civil arm. For this opinion, I have often been represented a Deist; and, for this opinion, contended for in some remarks on the Sunday mail question, I am published in gazetts, as renouncing the faith, and being excluded for it. If those gentlemen who petition Congress to interfere in the controversy of religious opinions, should be asked, "who hath required this at your hands?" could they turn to the text in the New Testament and say, "there is our authority?" Is it possible for man to give greater evidence that he is ignorant of the precepts of Christianity, and destitute of the spirit of it, then lie does when lie makes use of the arm of the law to force others to believe as lie does, or compel them to support what he believes? All such renounce Christianity, and are excluded from the fellowship of the gospel.

Source of Information:

Excerpt from letter from John Leland to O. B. Brown, 1831. The Writings of John Leland, Edited by L.F. Greene, Arno Press & The New York Times N Y (1969) pp.608-610) Originally published as: The Writings Of The Late Elder John Leland Including Some Events In His Life, Written By Himself, With Additional Sketches &c. By Miss L.F. Greene, Lanesboro, Mass. New York Printed By G.W. Wood, 29 Gold Street, 1845)


January 22, 1831

Whereas, Much excitement exists, and deep interest is felt in many parts of the United States, in consequence of the powerful exertions which have been made, and are still making, to prevent the transportation of the mail on Sunday; and whereas, also, the rights and opinions of every religious sect, whether they observe the Christian Sabbath or not, are equally entitled to the respect and protection of the government; and whereas, also, it is thought proper and expedient that the Legislature of this State should express their opinion on this important and interesting subject, as it is confidently anticipated this measure will again be brought by its friends before the present Congress of the United States; therefore,

Be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Alabama in General Assembly convened, That the transportation of the mail on Sunday is of vital importance to the welfare and prosperity of the Union; and that its suspension on that day would be a violation of the spirit of the Constitution, and be repugnant to the principles of a free government.

Be it further resolved, That the sentiment expressed in the report of the committee at the last session of Congress, in opposition to the suspension of the mail on Sunday, is entitled to the highest consideration of the friends of the Constitution, and every lover of civil and political freedom.

And be it further resolved, That our Senators in Congress be instructed, and our Representatives requested to use their exertions in opposition to any measure that may tend to retard the transportation of the mail.

JAMES PENN,

Speaker of the House of Representatives.

SAMUEL B. MOOKE,

President of the Senate.

GABRIEL MOORE.

Approved: December 31, 1830.

Source of Information:

"21ST Congress, 2nd Session, Joint Resolution of the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Alabama in General Assembly Convened. Communicated to the Senate, January 22, 1831". American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 273-74.


February 14, 1831

Whereas, A variety of sentiment exists among the good people of the United States on the subject of the expediency or inexpediency of stopping the transportation of the mail on the Sabbath day; and inasmuch as Congress has been and is still urged to pass an act restricting the carrying of the mails to six days in the week only, by petitions and memorials from various quarters of the Union; and inasmuch as it is believed that such an innovation upon our republican institutions would establish a precedent of dangerous tendency to our privileges as freemen, by involving a legislative decision in a religious controversy on a point in which good citizens may honestly differ: and whereas, a free expression of sentiment by the present General Assembly on the subject may tend, in a great degree, to avert so alarming an evil as the union of church and state; therefore,

Resolved by the people of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly, That the able report made by Colonel Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky, in the Senate of the United States, on the 19th January, 1829, adverse to the stoppage of the transportation of mails on the Sabbath or first day of the week, meets our decided approbation.

Resolved, That the Governor be requested to transmit copies of the foregoing preamble and resolution to our Senators and Representatives in Congress, with the request that they use their exertions to prevent the passage of any bill which may, at any time, be introduced for such purpose.

We certify the foregoing to be a true copy of a resolution adopted by the General Assembly of the State of Illinois at their present session.

JESSE B. THOMAS, JUN.,

Secretary of the Senate.

DAVID PRICKETT,

Clerk to the House of Representatives.

Source of Information:

"21ST Congress, 2ND Session, Memorial of the General Assembly of Illinois. Communicated to the Senate February 14, 1831." American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 275-76)


March 13, 1833

Colonel Johnson not only proved himself a heroic soldier, but a profound and honest statesman. He has not only won the blood stained laurel, but the civic wreath. He not only merits our esteem and admiration for breasting the battle storm -- for risking his life in the deadly breach; but, also, for the firm, patriotic, and undeviating course that has marked his political life; and especially is he entitled to our love and gratitude, and to the love and gratitude of all good men,-of all who love their country---for his able, patriotic, and luminous report on the Sunday mail question.. .. I will hazard the declaration that Colonel Johnson has done more for liberal principles, for freedom of opinion, and for pure and unadulterated democracy, than any [other] man in our country -- by arresting the schemes of an ambitious, irreligious priesthood. Charge him not with hostility to the principles of religion, because he opposed the wishes and thwarted the designs of the clergy -rather say that he has proved himself the friend of pure religion, by guarding it against a contaminating alliance with politics. His strong and discriminating mind detected and weighed the consequences that would result from such a measure. He sifted the projectors of this insidious and dangerous scheme, and resolved to meet them full in the face, and by means of reason and argument to convince the honest and silence the designing. The honest he did convince--the designing he did defeat, though, strange to tell, did not silence: their obstinacy can only be equaled by their depravity. Their perseverance, however, can accomplish nothing, so long as the people prize their liberties, and can have access to the Constitution and Johnson's Reports.

That man who can contemplate the misery and degradation that have ever resulted to the many from a union of the ecclesiastical and secular powers, must be a stranger to every patriotic feeling, callous to every noble impulse, and dumb to all the emotions of gratitude, not to admire and revere, honor and support, the man who had the honesty and moral heroism to risk his popularity by stemming the current of public prejudice; by exciting the bigot's wrath, and provoking the vigilant and eternal hostility of a powerful sect, whose influence is felt, and whose toils are spread, from Maine to California, and from Oregon to the Atlantic. But the same determined spirit. the same sacred love of country, that prompted Colonel Johnson to face the country's open foe on the battle-field, urged him with equal ardor to grapple with its secret enemies in the Senate chamber.

He who considers the influence which those reports are calculated to exert over the destinies of this republic as trifling or of small importance, is but little acquainted with the history of the past, and consequently but ill qualified to judge of the future.

Colonel Johnson had been instructed by the philosopher and faithful historian, as well as by the teachings of his own mighty mind, that "human nature is never so debased as when superstitious ignorance is armed with power."

He knew full well that whenever the ecclesiastical and secular powers were leagued together, the fountains of justice were polluted--that the streams of righteousness were choked up, and that the eternal principles of truth and equity were banished the land-- that the people were degraded -- their understandings enthralled, and all their energies crushed and exhausted. He knew full well that all the evils combined, which convulse the natural world. were not so fatal to the prosperity of a nation as religious intolerance; for even after pestilence has slain its thousands,- the earthquake swallowed up its victims, and the desolating whirlwind swept the land.--yet may a new and better world spring from the desolation; but when religion grasps the sword, and superstitution rears her haggard form, hope has fallen forever. Do you call for the evidence? The histories of Spain, of Italy, and of Portugal are before you. They tell you these state were powerful once. What are they now! "Infants in the cradle, alter pears of nonentity."

Colonel Johnson had not only a regard for the political, but also for the religious, welfare of his country, when he drafted these reports. He had been instructed, by the history of the past, that in proportion as a sect becomes powerful, from whatever cause, it retrogrades in piety, and advances in corruption and ambition. He was aware that the Christian religion no longer partook of the character of its Founder, after the civil arm was wielded in its behalf. After it was taken into keeping by Constantine, that royal cut-throat-- that anointed parricide -- that baptized murderer -- from that time to the present, with but few intervals, it has been wielded as a political engine, prostrating the liberties and paralyzing the energies of the nations.

We hazard but little in predicting that the Reports of the Kentucky statesman, calculated as they are to guard us from a like curse. will survive the flourish -- will be read and admired -- honored and revered by the freemen of America, when the edicts of kings and emperors and the creeds of councils, shall have been swept from the memory of man.

Source of Information:

"Tribute to Col. Richard M. Johnson, Author of The Sunday Mail Reports Adopted by Congress in 1829 and 1830," By Mr. Ely Moore. From speech at Masonic Hall, New York, March 13, 1833, recommending Mr. Johnson as a candidate for the Vice-Presidency, published in Authentic Biography of Col. Richard M. Johnson, by William Emmons (Henry Mason, New York, 1833). pages 64-68. American State Papers Bearing on Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington D.C. 1911, pp 269-70.


Col. Richard Mentor Johnson.

Served under Martin Van Buren from 1837-1841 as the Ninth Vice-President of the United States.

http://www.angelfire.com/az/theredbadge/vps3.html


The following two selections are from the first and second editions (printings) of Jasper Adams sermon, "The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States." We include both because the footnotes are different.

(16) see NOTE *C* [again, located above]

(17) See Note *D*

.NOTE *D*

This appears to the author the most convincing ground upon which to rest the argument against Sunday mails. The institution of Sunday, and its appropriation to the duties of religion, had been established from the first settlement of the country. Laws were in force and had long been in force requiring its respectful observance, in all the thirteen States which were originally parties to the Constitution of the United States. No authority over the Christian religion, or its institutions, has been given to the National Legislature by this Constitution. All their measures ought to be consistent with its institutions, and none of them ought to be in violation of them. And until within a few years, our national legislation was, in this respect suitable and highly commendable. It is not known to the author, that until very lately there existed any Act of Congress requiring a violation of any Christian institution. (Mr. Frelinghtrysen's Speech in Senate, p. 5.) The Act of 3d March, 1825 section 11th, makes it the duty of every postmaster to deliver letters, papers, &c. on every day of the week, at all reasonable hours (Gordon's Digest, 427.) This is the first statute enacted by Congress, authorizing and requiring a violation of the religion of the country. Congress can rightfully make no change in the religion of the nation; but in this instance they have enacted, that as far as the mail department of the public business is concerned, there shall no longer exist the established (by law) observance of Sunday. This Act does not leave Christianity in the same situation in which it was, before it was passed. It employs some thousands in desecrating and destroying an institution peculiar to Christianity. It is, therefore, in the judgment of the author, unconstitutional, and ought to be rescinded. Nor is the argument from the alleged necessity of Sunday mails, any better than the constitutional argument. London is the first city on earth for wealth, business and enterprise; but no mail is opened or closed in it on Sunday. And notwithstanding the immense intercourse between London and Liverpool no mail leaves the Metropolis for Liverpool, between Saturday evening and Monday morning. (Mr. Frelinghuysen's Speech in the United States' Senate, 8th May, 1830.)

It is mentioned above by the author, that a very suitable concern has, in general, been manifested by the Federal Government, to prevent the desecration of Sunday. The rules and regulations of the Army of the United States, present an instance in point. By Art. 2nd of these rules and regulations, which every officer, before he enters on the duties of his office, is required to subscribe: "it is earnestly recommended to all officers and soldiers diligently to attend divine service; and all officers who shall behave indecently or irreverently at any place of divine worship, shall, if commissioned officers, be brought before a general court-martial, there to be publicly and severely reprimanded by the President; if non-commissioned officers or soldiers, every person so offending, shall for his first offence, forfeit one-sixth of a dollar, to be deducted out of his next pay; for the second offence, he shall not only forfeit a like sum, but be confined twenty-four hours; and for every like offence, shall suffer and pay in like manner. (Act of April 10th, 1806, Sec. 1.) (Gordon's Digesl, Art. 3269.) This Art. is taken almost verbatim from the "rules and orders" enacted by the Old Congress on the same subject. (See Journal of 30th June, 1775.) Will it be arrogating too much, if the author respectfully asks any military commander into whose hands these pages may come, candidly to examine the bearing which the above regulation may rightfully have upon military reviews held on Sunday, and upon marching on Sunday, when the exigencies of the service do not require it? He is under a belief, that military reviews are quite as common on Sunday as upon any other day of the week. He also within a few weeks observed, with regret, a statement in the newspapers, that certain of our citizens went from the city to a neighbouring island, for the purpose of attending a military review on Sunday.

(18) All the States of the Union, I believe, (twenty-three of them certainly, by explicit legislative enactments, acknowledge and declare the religious authority of Sunday." Speech of Mr. Frelinghuysen of New-Jersey, in the Senate of the United States, in the session of 1829-1830.

(19) Psalm 127. 1.

(20) The great interests of a country may be ranked thus:-1. Its religious and moral interests. 2. The peace of the country both in regard to foreign enemies and internal convulsions. 3. The intellectual interests, or the interests of education. 4. The pecuniary interests.

Source of Information:

The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States: Sermon preached in St. Michael's Church, Charleston, February 13, 1833 By Rev. J. Adams, Charleston, Printed by A. E. Miller, No.4 Broad-street, 1833. Courtesy of the William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan.

NOTE *D*

This appears to the author the most convincing ground upon which to rest the argument against Sunday mails. The institution of Sunday, and its appropriation to the duties of religion, had been established from the first settlement of the country. Laws were in force and had long been in force requiring its respectful observance, in all the thirteen States which were originally parties to the Constitution of the United States. No authority over the Christian religion, or its institutions, has been given to the National Legislature by this Constitution. All their measures ought to be consistent with its institutions, and none of them ought to be in violation of them. And until within a few years, our national legislation was, in this respect suitable and highly commendable. It is not known to the author, that until very lately there existed any Act of Congress requiring a violation of any Christian institution. (Mr. Frelinghtrysen's Speech in Senate, p. 5.) The Act of 3d March, 1825 section 11th, makes it the duty of every postmaster to deliver letters, papers, &c. on every day of the week, at all reasonable hours (Gordon's Digest, 427.) This is the first statute enacted by Congress, authorizing and requiring a violation of the religion of the country. Congress can rightfully make no change in the religion of the nation; but in this instance they have enacted, that as far as the mail department of the public business is concerned, there shall no longer exist the established (by law) observance of Sunday. This Act does not leave Christianity in the same situation in which it was, before it was passed. It employs some thousands in desecrating and destroying an institution peculiar to Christianity. It is, therefore, in the judgment of the author, unconstitutional, and ought to be rescinded. Nor is the argument from the alleged necessity of Sunday mails, any better than the constitutional argument. London is the first city on earth for wealth, business and enterprise; but no mail is opened or closed in it on Sunday. And notwithstanding the immense intercourse between London and Liverpool no mail leaves the Metropolis for Liverpool, between Saturday evening and Monday morning. (Mr. Frelinghuysen's Speech in the United States' Senate, 8th May, 1830.)

It is mentioned above by the author, that a very suitable concern has, in general, been manifested by the Federal Government, to prevent the desecration of Sunday. The rules and regulations of the Army of the United States, present an instance in point. By Art. 2nd of these rules and regulations, which every officer, before he enters on the duties of his office, is required to subscribe: "it is earnestly recommended to all officers and soldiers diligently to attend divine service; and all officers who shall behave indecently or irreverently at any place of divine worship, shall, if commissioned officers, be brought before a general court-martial, there to be publicly and severely reprimanded by the President; if non-commissioned officers or soldiers, every person so offending, shall for his first offence, forfeit one-sixth of a dollar, to be deducted out of his next pay; for the second offence, he shall not only forfeit a like sum, but be confined twenty-four hours; and for every like offence, shall suffer and pay in like manner. (Act of April 10th, 1806, Sec. 1.) (Gordon's Digesl, Art. 3269.) This Art. is taken almost verbatim from the "rules and orders" enacted by the Old Congress on the same subject. (See Journal of 30th June, 1775.) Will it be arrogating too much, if the author respectfully asks any military commander into whose hands these pages may come, candidly to examine the bearing which the above regulation may rightfully have upon military reviews held on Sunday, and upon marching on Sunday, when the exigencies of the service do not require it? He is under a belief, that military reviews are quite as common on Sunday as upon any other day of the week. He also within a few weeks observed, with regret, a statement in the newspapers, that certain of our citizens went from the city to a neighbouring island, for the purpose of attending a military review on Sunday.

(22). "All the States of the Union, I believe, (twenty-three of them certainly,) by explicit legislative enactments, acknowledge and declare the religious authority of Sunday." --Speech of Mr. Frelinghuysen of New-Jersey, in the Senate of the United Slates, 8th May, 1830.

(23). See NOTE *E*..

NOTE *E*

Source of Information:

The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States: Sermon preached in St. Michael's Church, Charleston, February 13th, 1833 by Rev. J. Adams, Charleston, Printed by A. E. Miller, No.4 Broad-Street, 1833. Courtesy of the William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan.


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