San Francisco: Agnew & Deffebach, 1862.
Softcover. Good. 5.75" x 8.5", 24 pp, in original printed wrappers. Light soiling, small chips to wrappers; very good. An interesting and scarce contribution to the then-ongoing debate over restriction of commercial activity and immoral behavior in California on Sundays. The first Sunday Laws (a.k.a. Blue Laws) in California were proposed in 1852, in an effort to curtail the immorality and irreligion that characterized the mining camps. Miners tended to spend their Sundays drinking, gambling, and engaging in other "coarse entertainments." Proponents of a law restricting such flagrant violations of the Sabbath argued that "the unbridled licentiousness and the prevelance of so much vice and immorality...have had strong tendencies to retard the permanent settlement of that country and depress the mind of emigrant families who have made this their permanent home." Their opponents argued that Church and State should remain separate and Sabbath-breaking should not be the subject of legislation. After twice failing to gain sufficient votes, the first Sunday law--prohibiting operation of a cock fight, horse race, gambling house, saloon, circus, theater, or "any place of barbarous or noisy amusements" on the Sabbath -- was passed in 1855. In 1858, a new law made it illegal to "keep open any store...banking house, [or] manufacturing establishment," or offer any merchandise for sale on Sunday. Both of these laws had vociferous opponents and were quickly subject to legal challenges. The report offered here gives the opinions of the Committee on Public Morals, a group of five legislators tasked with making a recommendation about whether the Sunday legislation should be repealed. Twenty-three pages are taken up with the detailed argument of the two members who favored repeal, and they nicely capture the debate of the preceding years, exploring the many religious, secular, and legal arguments put forth by both sides. The final page gives the brief report of those opposed to repeal, who simply assert that man needs one day in seven for "rest, recreation, or moral improvement," that the State had the right to legislate such a day of rest, and that it is in the best interests of the State--providing for security of life and property and a more virtuous and happier citizenry. Despite the extended argument of the opposition, Sunday closing laws remained in effect in California until 1883.