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January 12, 2005

Culture Wars Circa 1828

More from FreeThinkers: What gay marriage is to 2004, delivery of the mail on Sunday was to 1828-- an issue ripping up the headlines and dividing fundamentalists from defenders of a secular public sphere.

In 1810, the Congress had mandated that mail be delivered seven days per week and that all post offices be open for at least an hour a day-- especially important on Sundays for rural inhabitants who often came to town only on Sundays.

When Congress was pushed to repeal the law and bar mail delivery on Sundays, an initial Congressional report declared that barring Sabbath delivery would violate the Constitution by giving preference to Christians. As the report stated:

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 consience of a solitary individual than that of the whole community.
This report was widely reprinted and helped beat back the attack on Sunday delivery (which would end decades later when the telegraph encouraged cost-cutting by the post office.)

It's one more example that the founding generation of America had a pretty clear secular understanding of America's civic life.

Posted by Nathan at January 12, 2005 04:50 AM