Lord's Dat, the legal name of Sunday. In the early ages of Christianity it does not seem to have been supposed that Sunday had taken the place of the Jewish sabbath; but from the days of the apostles it was regarded with veneration, as the dies dominica, or the Lord's day. In Great Britain and the United States there is however a different feeling toward Sunday from that which prevails elsewhere in Christendom; and this is manifested equally in the provisions of law and in common usage. From early times the day was set apart as one not to he employed in secular business, and hence came the maxim quoted by Coke: Dies dominions non est juridicus. So early as in the 27th of Henry VI. (1449) an act was passed prohibiting fairs and markets on certain feast days, Easter Sunday, and " other Sundays." In the 1st of James I. (1603) dealers in leather were prohibited from exposing for sale shoes, etc, on Sundays; and in the 1st of Charles I. (1625) a statute prohibited meetings of persons for any sports and pastimes out of their parishes, or for "bull or bear baiting, common plays, interludes, or other unlawful games and exercises, within their parishes." But in the 29th of Charles II. (1678) the statute was passed which may be regarded as the foundation of all the present law on the subject, in England and in the United States. It enacted "that no tradesman, artificer, workman, laborer, or other person whatsoever, shall do or exercise any worldly labor, business, or work of their ordinary callings, upon the Lord's day or any part thereof (works of necessity and charity only excepted);" and "that no person or persons whatsoever shall publicly cry, show forth, or expose to sale, any wares, merchandises, fruit, herbs, goods, or chattels whatsoever, upon the Lord's day or any part thereof." This act was followed by a series of decisions which, proceeding upon the ground that all prohibitory and penal statutes must be construed rigorously, have certainly confined the operation of the statute within narrower limits than were intended.

Thus, while it says that "no other person whatsoever" shall, etc, it has been held that, because general words following particular words must be construed as ejusdem generis, therefore the previous particular words, "no tradesman, artificer, workman, laborer," are to be taken as including all those to whom the statute applies; and on this ground it was held by Lord Tenterden that drivers and proprietors of stage coaches are not included, and that a contract to carry a passenger in a stage coach on a Sunday is not unlawful in England. So, too, the words "any worldly labor" are, after some fluctuation, now controlled and limited by the subsequent words " or work of their ordinary callings;" and therefore one who sold a horse on Sunday was permitted to recover the price because it was not " the exercise of his ordinary calling." - In this country we have but little nice construction of this kind applied to what are called, in common parlance, the Sunday laws, although the statutes for the most part speak of Sunday as the Lord's day.

The Puritan colonists, if they did not introduce, at least adopted and established to the full extent of their influence, the idea that Sunday was the Christian sabbath, and that it was to be kept holy not merely by the absence of all labor, but by that of all amusement. One reason for this probably was, although they may not have been conscious of its operation, an earnest desire to confirm and perpetuate the distinction, or rather the opposition and hostility, between them and the Roman Catholic church, and that English Episcopal church which they considered as only the Roman church thinly disguised. Hence their customs in relation to Sunday were rigid to the last extreme, and their laws almost equally so. These laws remained in full force as long as they were sustained by the feelings and habits of the people. But the excessive severity of the earliest years of our colonies could not be maintained either in usage or in law. There was a gradual relaxation, which by the time of the revolutionary war had become very considerable.

When the colonies became states, the Sunday laws assumed a form which they have maintained substantially ever since; although it is certain that the observance of these laws has become much less constant and universal than it was formerly, and violations are now habitual and disregarded, which formerly would have been visited with immediate punishment. The laws, in their letter, are very similar in nearly all the states, and they provide generally, but with some diversity of language, that no persons shall engage in any labor, business, or work, excepting only works of necessity and charity, on the Lord's day. - Among the questions which have arisen under these laws, the most important was, whether a contract made on Sunday in violation of law was nevertheless valid, leaving the parties liable to punishment for their breach of the law; but after some diversity of decision, the prevailing if not the universal conclusion now is, that the contract itself, by means of its illegality, is wholly void, conferring no rights and imposing no obligations upon any party. It is, however, admitted that a contract begun on Sunday, and agreed upon as to all its terms, but not in fact completed until the next day, is binding.

Thus, if A agrees to sell an article to B for a certain price, and the whole bargain is arranged and agreed to on Sunday, and, in the execution of it, on Monday morning A gives to B the article and B gives to A his promissory note for the price, the property in the article passes, and the note is as valid as if the whole bargain had been made on Monday. But whether a bargain wholly made on Sunday, and therefore void thus far, can be rendered valid by a mere subsequent recognition, is uncertain on the authorities; but their tendency is to the negative. So, too, it has been held that if a sale is made on Sunday and the property then delivered to the buyer, and the price is not then paid, the seller cannot maintain an action for the price, because the contract, being void, imposed no obligation on the buyer; and neither can the seller, if the buyer refuses to return the article, maintain an action for it or its value, because he has parted with the possession by his own wrongful act, and both parties being violators of the law and in equal fault, the law leaves them to suffer the consequences of their acts, and will not interfere to help either against the other.

But other courts have decided that as the Sunday contract is by the statute made wholly void, neither party can make use of it as a defence to a suit brought to recover money paid or property delivered under it. - The question as to what is covered by the exception of works of necessity or charity has frequently been raised. Thus, when a defect in a highway endangered passengers, it was held in Massachusetts to be not only the right but the duty of the proper authorities to repair it on that day. In Pennsylvania, where a son hired a carriage to visit his father, it was declared to be a legal contract, there being no evidence that it was a mere "excursion of pleasure." And in Alabama it was held that a creditor might lawfully enter into a contract with his debtor on Sunday, if he could satisfy a jury that it was necessary to do this on that day in order to save his debt or obtain indemnity. The question was once made whether marriage could lawfully be contracted or solemnized on the Lord's day, but the opinion appears to be universal that the Sunday laws have no application to either the contract or the ceremony.

But it now appears to be settled law, that there is no class of contracts and no acts of a business character which of themselves, and by their own nature, are works of necessity or charity; while any act may be made so by circumstances. Thus, even the solemn act of making a will is not one which may lawfully be made on Sunday, unless the circumstances of the case give to the execution of that will at that time the character of a work of necessity or charity; while, as we have seen, even a bargain of business may be justified and made valid by necessity. In relation to the degree or kind of necessity required to justify an act, a considerable change in public opinion has unquestionably taken place. But not many years since prosecutions were maintained for slaughtering animals for food in weather so hot, that if killed on Saturday the meat would be spoiled on Monday; but now such things are never heard of. On one point, which has come before various courts, there is as yet no settled law. If A makes a bargain with B on Sunday in violation of law, and by an abuse of this bargain inflicts an injury on B, has B no remedy ? Thus, if A hires B's horse for a specific journey on Sunday, B cannot recover the hire of the horse; but if A goes four times as far and rides the horse to death, has B still no remedy ? So it has been held in some states, while in others the doctrine is, that while B acquires no rights under the contract, he has all his rights to recover damages for the wrong done to him.

This seems the better doctrine, and is in conformity with the established principle that the Sunday laws are intended to prohibit and do prohibit only contracts and the transaction of business on that day, but are not intended to permit a man to commit with impunity on that day a wrong which, if committed on any other day, would expose him to punishment, or give the injured party a claim for damages. - The extent of the Lord's day is not quite certain. Some of our statutes define it, but not all. In Connecticut it has been defined by the courts as extending only from daybreak to the closing of daylight on the Sunday. Generally in New England it is from sunset on Saturday to sunset on Sunday; but for many purposes, and probably in most of the states for all purposes, it begins only at midnight between Saturday and Sunday and ends with the next midnight. Some of the state statutes contain exceptions, providing that the Sunday laws shall not apply to those who conscientiously observe Saturday as the sabbath, if they do not disturb others in their observance of Sunday. - Formerly, a question was raised, not before the courts, but before congress, which produced much excitement, and almost rose to the dignity of a political question, as to the running of the mails on Sunday. But it was practically settled by the system which now prevails through the country, by which the short and local mails do not run on Sunday, nor are the post offices generally open for delivery; but the long mails continue on their route, and the largest post offices are open a part of the day. - Besides the Sunday laws above referred to, special regulations are made for the preservation of order and quiet on the Lord's day, either by general statutes or by municipal regulation.

By these it is common to require the closing of the customary places of amusement on that day, and also the places where spirituous or intoxicating liquors are kept for sale, and public sports, games, and plays are prohibited under penalties. As these regulations require observances more or less opposed to the practices which prevail in continental Europe, a strong disposition has been manifested, especially by the immigrant population, to contest them as unwarranted restraints upon liberty, and as interfering with the religious freedom which it is assumed is guaranteed by both federal and state constitutions. It is not to be denied that the right to require the observance of a day as sacred on religious grounds, while a large portion of the political community does not assent to its sacred character, is not one to be conceded without question, nor one easily defended under constitutions which recognize religious equality, and under which therefore it would seem to be incompetent to compel any one to submit to observances on the sole ground that the religion of others required them.

But while no respectable court has denied the competency of the legislative requirements for the observance of the first day of the week, it has not generally been deemed necessary to place their decisions on the ground of the sacred character of the day, inasmuch as, on other and purely secular grounds, it would undoubtedly be competent to establish regulations of police which should make abstinence from the customary labor and sports for one day out of seven compulsory upon all classes of the people.