July 9, 2018
A new union contract at UPS may allow the company to start delivering packages on Sundays, something Federal Express and the US Postal Service already do. Sunday mail service may be no big deal today, but historian Richard R. John writes that in the early days of the Republic it was an enormous issue.
In 1810, Congress passed a law requiring post offices to open to the public for at least one hour each Sunday. Furious church leaders sent hundreds of petitions to Congress and eventually initiated one of the nation’s first efforts to rally public opinion around a cause. Two decades later, a congressman declared that the American people had never before made a “stronger expression” of their views, whether considering the “numbers, the wealth, or the intelligence of the petitioners.”
John points out that it’s hard for modern Americans to understand what a big issue this was. In many communities in the early nineteenth century, local laws restricted most forms of commerce and activity on Sundays. Theaters often closed on Saturday nights, and Sundays were devoted to collective worship.
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