1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 26
Sunday by William Feilden Craies ; Note: Craies wrote only the section Law Relating to Sunday.
The original article omitted the footer initials W. F. C.
16590611911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 26 — SundayWilliam Feilden Craies ; Note: Craies wrote only the section Law Relating to Sunday.
The original article omitted the footer initials W. F. C.

SUNDAY, or the Lord's Day (ἡ τοῦ ἡλίου ἡμέρα, dies solis; ἡ κυριακὴ ἡμέρα, dies dominica, dies dominicus[1]), in the Christian world, the first day of the week, celebrated in memory of the resurrection of Christ, as the principal day for public worship. An additional reason for the sanctity of the day may have been found in its association with Pentecost or Whitsun.[2] There is no evidence that in the earliest years of Christianity there was any formal observance of Sunday as a day of rest or any general cessation of work. But it seems to have from the first been set apart for worship. Thus according to Acts xx. 7, the disciples in Troas met weekly on the first day of the Week for exhortation and the breaking of bread; 1 Cor. xvi. 2 implies at least some observance of the day; and the solemn commemorative character it had very early acquired is strikingly indicated by an incidental expression of the writer of the Apocalypse (i. 10), who for the first time gives it that name (“the Lord's Day”) by which it is almost invariably referred to by all writers of the century immediately succeeding apostolic times.[3] Indications of the manner of its observance during this period are not wanting. Teaching of the Apostles (c. 14) contains the precept: “And on the Lord's day of the Lord (κατὰ κυριακὴν κυρίου) come together and break bread and give thanks after confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.” Ignatius (Ad Magn. c. 9) speaks of those whom he addresses as “no longer Sabbatizing but living in the observance of the Lord's day (κατὰ κυριακὴν ζῶντες) on which also our life sprang up again.”[4] Eusebius (H.E. iv. 23) has preserved a letter of Dionysius of Corinth (A.D. 175) to Soter, bishop of Rome, in which he says: “To-day we have passed the Lord's holy day, in which we have read your epistle”, and the same historian (H.E. iv. 26) mentions that Melito of Sardis (A.D. 170) had written a treatise on the Lord's day. Pliny's letter to Trajan in which he speaks of the meetings of the Christians “on a stated day” need only be alluded to. The first writer who mentions the name of Sunday as applicable to the Lord's day is Justin Martyr; this designation of the first day of the week, which is of heathen origin (see Sabbath), had come into general use in the Roman world shortly before Justin wrote. He describes (Apol. i. 67) how “on the day called Sunday” town and country Christians alike gathered together in one place for instruction and prayer and charitable offerings and the distribution of bread and wine; they thus meet together on that day, he says, because it is the first day in which God made the world, and because Jesus Christ on the same day rose from the dead.

As long as the Jewish Christian element continued to have any influence in the Church, a tendency to observe Sabbath as well as Sunday naturally persisted. Eusebius (H.E. iii. 27) mentions that the Ebionites continued to keep both days, and there is abundant evidence from Tertullian onwards that so far as public worship and abstention from fasting are concerned the practice was widely spread among the Gentile churches. Thus we learn from Socrates (H.E. vi. c. 8), that in his time public worship was held in the churches of Constantinople on both days; the Apostolic Canons (can. 66 [65]) sternly prohibit fasting on Sunday or Saturday (except Holy Saturday); and the injunction of the Apostolic Constitutions (v. 20; cf. ii. 59, vii. 23) is to “hold your solemn assemblies and rejoice every Sabbath day (excepting one), and every Lord's day.” Thus the earliest observance of the day was confined to congregational worship, either in the early morning or late evening. The social condition of the early Christians naturally forbade any general suspension of work. Irenaeus (c. 140-202) is the first of the early fathers to refer to a tendency to make Sunday a day of rest in his mention that harvesting was forbidden by the Church on the day. Tertullian, writing in 202, says “On the Lord's day we ought abstain from all habit and labour of anxiety, putting off even our business.” But the whole matter was placed on a new footing when the civil power, by the constitution of Constantine mentioned below, began to legislate as to the Sunday rest. The fourth commandment, holding as it does a conspicuous place in the Decalogue, the precepts of which could not for the most part be regarded as of merely transitory obligation, and never of course escaped the attention of the fathers of the Church; but, remembering the liberty given in the Pauline writings “in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath” (Col. 16; cf. Rom. xiv. 5, Gal. iv. 10, 11), they usually explained the “Sabbath day” of the commandment as meaning the new era that had been introduced by the advent of Christ, and interpreted the rest enjoined as meaning cessation from sin. But when a series of imperial decrees had enjoined with increasing stringency an abstinence from labour on Sunday, it was inevitable that the Christian conscience should be roused on the subject of the Sabbath rest also, and in many minds the tendency would be such as finds expression in the Apostolic Constitutions (viii. 33): “Let the slaves work five days; but on the Sabbath day and the Lord's day let them have leisure to go to church for instruction in piety.” There is evidence of the same tendency in the opposite canon (29) of the council of Laodicea (363), which forbids Christians from Judaizing and resting on the Sabbath day, and actually enjoins them to work on that day, preferring the Lord's day and so far as possible resting as Christians. About this time accordingly we find traces of a disposition in Christian thinkers to distinguish between a temporary and a permanent element in the Sabbath day precept; thus Chrysostom (10th homily on Genesis) discerns the fundamental principle of that precept to be that we should dedicate one whole day in the circle of the week and set it apart for exercise in spiritual things. The view that the Christian Lord's day or Sunday is but the Christian Sabbath transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week does not find categorical expression till a much later period, Alcuin being apparently the first to allege of the Jewish Sabbath that “ejus observationem mos Christianus ad diem dominicam competentius transtulit” (cf. Decalogue).

Law Relating to Sunday

The earliest recognition of the observance of Sunday as a legal duty is a constitution of Constantine in 321 A.D., enacting that all courts of justice, inhabitants of towns, and workshops were to be at rest on Sunday (venerabili die solis), with an exception in favour of those engaged in agricultural labour. This was the first of a long series of imperial constitutions, most of which are incorporated in the Code of Justinian, bk. iii. tit. 12 (De feriis). The constitutions comprised in this title of the code begin with that of Constantine, and further provide that emancipation and manumission were the only legal proceedings permissible on the Lord's day (die dominico), though contracts and compromises might be made between the parties where no intervention of the court was necessary. Pleasure was forbidden as well as business. No spectacle was to be exhibited in a theatre or circus. If the emperor's birthday fell on a Sunday, its celebration was to be postponed. The seven days before and after Easter were to be kept as Sundays. In Cod. i. 4, 9, appears the regulation that prisoners were to be brought up for examination and interrogation on Sunday. On the other hand, Cod. iii. 12, 10, distinctly directs the torture of robbers and pirates, even on Easter Sunday, the divine pardon (says the law) being hoped for where the safety of society was thus assured. After the time of Justinian the observance of Sunday appears to have become stricter. In the West, Charlemagne forbade labour of any kind. A century later in the Eastern Empire No. liv. of the Leonine constitutions abolished the exemption of agricultural labour contained in the constitution of Constantine; but this exemption was specially preserved in England by a constitution of Archbishop Meopham. The canon law followed the lines of Roman law. The decrees of ecclesiastical councils on the subject have been numerous. Much of the law is contained in the Decretals of Gregory, bk. ii. tit. 9 (De feriis), c. 1 of which (translated) runs thus: “We decree that all Sundays be observed from vespers to vespers (a vespera ad vesperam), and that all unlawful work be abstained from, so that in them trading or legal proceedings be not carried on, or any one condemned to death or punishment, or any oaths be administered, except for peace or other necessary reason.” Works of necessity (especially in the case of perishable materials or where time was important, as in fishing) were allowed, on condition that a due proportion of the gain made by work so done was given to the church and the poor. The consent of parties was insufficient to give jurisdiction to a court of law to proceed on Sunday, though it was sufficient in the case of a day sanctified by the ecclesiastical authority for a temporary purpose, e.g. a thanksgiving for vintage or harvest.

In England legislation on the subject began early and continues down to the most modern times. As early as the 7th century the laws of Ina, king of the West Saxons, provided that, if a “theowman” worked on Sunday by his lord's command, he was to be free and the lord to be fined 30s.; if a freeman worked without his lord's command, the penalty was forfeiture of freedom or a fine of 60s., and twice as much in the case of a priest. The laws of Æthelstan forbade marketing, of Æthelred folkmoots and hunting, on the Sunday. In almost all the pre-Conquest compilations there are admonitions to keep the day holy. The first allusion to Sunday in statute law proper is in 1354 (28 Edw. III. c. 14 rep.), forbidding the sale of wool at the staple on Sunday. The mass of legislation from that date downwards may be conveniently, if not scientifically, divided into five classes—ecclesiastical, constitutional, judicial, social and commercial. The terms “Sunday” and “Lord's day” are used in the statutes, but the term “Sabbath” occurs only in ordinances of the Long Parliament. “Sabbath-breaking” is sometimes used to describe a violation of the Sunday observance acts, but is objected to by Blackstone as legally incorrect. Good Friday and Christmas Day are as a rule in the same legal position as Sunday. In English law Sunday is reckoned from midnight to midnight, not as in canon law a vespera ad vesperam.

The acts to be mentioned are still law unless the contrary is stated.

Ecclesiastical.—Before the Reformation there appears to be little or no statutory recognition of Sunday, except as a day on which trade was interdicted or national sports directed to be held. Thus the repealed acts of 1388 (12 Ric. II. c. 6) and 1409 (11 Hen. IV. c. 4) enjoined the practice of archery on Sunday. The church itself by provincial constitutions and other means declared the sanctity of the day, and was strong enough to visit with its own censures those who failed to observe Sunday. At the Reformation it was thought necessary to enforce the observance of Sunday by the state in face of the question mooted at the time as to the divine or merely human institution of the day as a holy day. Sunday observance was directed by injunctions as well as by statutes of Edward VI. and Elizabeth. The second Act of Uniformity of 1551 (5 & 6 Edw. IV. c. 1.) enacted that all inhabitants of the realm were to endeavour themselves to resort to their parish church or chapel accustomed, or upon reasonable let thereof to some usual place where common prayer is used every Sunday, upon pain of punishment by the censures of the church. The same principle was re-enacted by the Act of Uniformity of 1558 (1 Eliz. c. 2), with the addition of a temporal punishment, viz. a fine of twelve pence for each offence. This section of the act is, however, no longer law, and it appears that the only penalty now incurred by non-attendance at church is the shadowy one of ecclesiastical censure. Protestant dissenters, Jews and Roman Catholics were in 1846 (9 & 10, Vict. c. 59) exempted from the act, and the pecuniary penalties were abrogated as to all persons; but the acts as to Sundays and holy days are still binding on members of the Church of England [Marshall v. Graham, 1907, 2 K.B. 112].

An act of 1551 (5 & 6 Edw. VI. c. 3) directed the keeping of all Sundays as holy days, with an exception in favour of husbandmen, labourers, fishermen and other persons in harvest or other time of necessity. Canon 13 of the canons of 1603 provides that “all manner of persons within the Church of England shall celebrate and keep the Lord's day, commonly called Sunday, according to God's holy will and pleasure and the orders of the Church of England prescribed in that behalf, that is, in hearing the word of God read and taught, in private and public prayers, in acknowledging their offences to God and amendment of the same, in reconciling themselves charitably to their neighbours where displeasure hath been, in oftentimes receiving the communion of the body and blood of Christ, in visiting the poor and sick, using all godly and sober conversation.” The Long Parliament, by an ordinance of 1644, c. 51, directed the Lord's day to be celebrated as holy, as being the Christian Sabbath. Ordinances of 1650, c. 9, and 1656, c. 15, contained various minute descriptions of crimes against the sanctity of the Lord's day, including travelling and “vainly and profanely walking.” These ordinances lapsed at the Restoration. The Act of Uniformity of 1661 (13 & 14 Car. II. c. 4) enforced the reading on every Lord's day of the morning and evening prayer according to the form in the Book of Common Prayer—a duty which had been previously enjoined by canon 14 of 1603. By the Church Building Act 1818, the bishop may direct a third service, morning or evening, where necessary, in any church built under the act (s. 65). By the Church Building Act 1838, he may order the performance of two full services, each if he so direct to include a sermon (s. 8). The Burial Laws Amendment Act 1880, which authorizes burial sin churchyards of the Church of England without the use of the funeral

office of that church, does not allow such burials to take place on Sunday, Good Friday or Christmas Day if the parson of the church objects. Under the Metropolitan Police and Streets Acts, the Town Police Clauses Act 1841 and the Public Health Acts, street traffic may be regulated during the hours of divine service.

Constitutional.—Parliament has occasionally sat on Sunday in cases of great emergency, as on the demise of the Crown. Occasionally divisions in the House of Commons have taken place early on Sunday morning. The Ballot Act 1872 enacts that in reckoning time for election proceedings Sundays are to be excluded. A similar provision is contained in the Municipal Corporations Act 1882, as to proceedings under that act.

Judicial.—As a general rule Sunday for the purpose of judicial proceedings is a dies non juridicus on which courts of justice do not sit (9 Co. Rep. 66b). By s. 6 of the Sunday Observance Act 1677 legal process cannot be served or executed on Sunday, except in cases of treason, felony or breach of the peace. Proceedings which do not need the intervention of the court are good, e.g. service of a citation or notice to quit or claim to vote. By s. 4 of the Indictable Offences Act 1848 justice may issue a warrant of apprehension or a search warrant on Sunday. The rules of the Supreme Court provide that the offices of the Supreme Court shall be closed on Sundays, that Sunday is not to be reckoned in the computation of any limited time less than six days allowed for doing any act or taking any proceeding, and that, where the time for doing any act or taking any proceeding expires on Sunday, such act or proceeding is good if done or taken on the next day. In the divorce rules Sundays are excluded from compilation. In the county court rules they are excluded if the time limited is less than forty-eight hours, and the only county court process which can be executed on Sunday is a warrant of arrest in an Admiralty action. Where a time is fixed by statute, the Sundays are counted in. Where a term of imprisonment expires on Sunday, Christmas Day or Good Friday, the prisoner is entitled to discharge on the day next preceding (Prison Act 1898, s. 11).

Social.—Under this head may be grouped the enactments having for their object the regulation of Sunday travelling and amusements. The earliest example of non-ecclesiastical interference with recreation appears to be the Book of Sports issued by James I. in 1618. Royal authority was given to all but recusants to exercise themselves after evening service in dancing, archery, leaping, vaulting, May-games, Whitsun-ales, morris-dances and setting up of Maypoles; but bear and bull-baiting, interludes and bowling by the meaner sort were prohibited. The Sunday Observance Act 1625 (1 Car. I. c. 1), following the lines of the Book of Sports, inhibited meetings, assemblies or concourse of people out of their own parishes on the Lord's day for any sports and pastimes whatsoever, and any bear-baiting, bull-baiting, interludes, common plays or other unlawful exercises and pastimes used by any person or persons within their own parishes, under a penalty of 3s. 4d. for every offence. The right to enforce ecclesiastical censures is left untouched by the act. The act impliedly allows sports other than the excepted ones as long as only parishioners take part in them. In 1897 some lads were prosecuted at Streatley under this act for playing football in an adjoining parish, but the justices dismissed the charge, treating the act as obsolete. But in 1906 the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals instituted a prosecution under the act with the object of preventing extra-parochial rabbit-coursing on Sundays. The Game Act 1831 (1 & 2 Will. IV. c. 32, s. 3) makes it punishable to kill or take game, or to use a dog, net or other instrument (e.g. a snare), for that purpose on Sunday. The prohibition only applies to game proper and does not extend to rabbits.

There is no law in England against fishing on Sunday except as to salmon. Fishing for salmon on Sunday by any means other than a rod and line is prohibited by the Salmon Fishery Act 1861, and free passage for salmon through all cribs, &c., used for fishery is to be left during the whole of Sunday.

The Sunday Observance Act 1781 (21 Geo. III. c. 49), drawn by Dr Porteus, bishop of London, enacts that any place opened or used for public entertainment and amusement or for public debate upon any part of the Lord's day called Sunday, to which persons are admitted by payment of money or by tickets sold for money, is to be deemed a disorderly house. The keeper is to forfeit £200 for every day on which it is opened or used as aforesaid on the Lord's day, the manager or master of the ceremonies £100 and every doorkeeper or servant £50. The advertising or publishing any advertisement of such an entertainment is made subject to a penalty of £50. Proceedings under this act for penalties may be instituted by a common informer within six months of the offence. It was held in 1868 that a meeting the object of which was not pecuniary gain (though there was a charge for admission), but an honest intention to introduce religious worship, though not according to any established or usual form, was not within the act. The hall used was registered for religious worship. On this principle, forms of worship such as Mormonism or Mahommedanism are protected. In 1875 actions were brought against the Brighton Aquarium Company and penalties recovered under the act. As doubts were felt as to the power of the Crown to remit the penalties in such a case, an act was passed in 1875 to remove such doubts and to enable the sovereign to remit in whole or in part penalties recovered for offences against the act of 1781.

The substantive effect of the act is to hit all Sunday exhibitions or performances where money is charged for admission. In 1895 it was decided that the chairman of a meeting held to hear a lecture was not liable as manager of the meeting, and the solicitor of the liquidator of a company was held not to be liable for merely letting the hall for the meeting. In 1906 an attempt was unsuccessfully made to apply the act of 1781 to open-air meetings for rabbit coursing. The rules for the government of theatres and places of public entertainment, and the terms of the licences issued, usually prohibit performances on Sundays. The lessees of certain places of public resort in London have in some cases obtained their licences from the London County Council on condition that they do not hold Sunday concerts, but the recent policy of the Council has been not to interfere with or restrict the giving of Sunday concerts unless they are given for private gain or by way of trade. The Council has no legal authority to dispense with the Sunday Observance Act 1781, which enforces penalties on giving entertainments to which persons are admitted by payment of money or by tickets sold for money. The law has been judicially interpreted, however, to mean that charges for reserved seats are not incompatible with free admission. In consequence of this ruling Sunday concerts have been regularly given at the Albert Hall, which is not under the licensing jurisdiction of the London County Council, and at the Queen's Hall and other places within that jurisdiction. No charge is made for admission, but those who wish for seats must pay for them, and the proceeds of the concerts are not made the subject of profit. At the licensing sessions conflicts have annually arisen on this subject between the advocates and opponents of Sunday music.

Bands play on Sundays in most of the parks in London, whether royal or under municipal control; and it is said that local authorities cannot make bylaws forbidding bands of music in the streets on Sunday (Johnson v. Croydon Corporation, 1886, 16 Q.B.D. 708). Libraries, museums and gymnasiums maintained by local authorities may, it would seem, be lawfully opened on Sundays, and the national galleries and museums are now so open for part of Sunday.

Commercial.—At common law a contract made on Sunday is not void, nor is Sunday trading or labour unlawful, and enlistment of a soldier on a Sunday has been held valid. At an early period, however, the legislature began to impose restrictions, at first by making Sunday trade impossible by closing the places of ordinary business, later by declaring certain kinds of trade and labour illegal, still later by attempting to prohibit all trade and labour. 28 Edw. III. c. 14 (1354, now repealed) closed the wool market on Sunday. An act of 1448 (27 Hen. VI. c. 5) prohibits fairs and markets on Sunday (necessary victual only excepted), unless on the four Sundays in harvest—an exemption repealed in 1850 (by 13 & 14 Vict. c. 23) 4 Edw. IV. c. 7 (1464 rep.) restrained the shoemakers of London from carrying on their business on Sunday. An act of 1627 (3 Car. I. c. 2) imposes a penalty of 20s. on any carrier, wagoner or drover travelling on the Lord's day, and a penalty of 6s. 8d. on any butcher killing or selling on that day. The act does not apply to stage coaches. Both this and the act of 1625 were originally passed only for a limited period, but by subsequent legislation they have become perpetual. Next in order is the Sunday Observance Act 1677 (29 Car. II. c. 7), “An act for the better observance of the Lord's day, commonly called Sunday.”

After an exhortation to the observation of the Lord's day by exercises in the duties of piety and true religion, publicly and privately, the act provides as follows: No tradesman, artificer, Workman, labourer or other person (ejusdem generis) whatsoever shall do or exercise any worldly labour, business or work of their ordinary callings upon the Lord's day or any part thereof (works of necessity and charity only excepted); and every person being of the age of fourteen years or upwards offending in the premises shall for every such offence forfeit the sum of 5s.; and 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 upon pain that every person so offending shall forfeit the same goods so cried, or showed forth, or exposed to sale (s. 1). A barber was held in 1900 not to be a tradesman, artificer, &c. within the act, and to be free to shave customers on Sunday[5]; nor is a farmer. No drover, horse-courser, Wagoner, butcher, higgler or any of their servants, shall travel or come into his or their lodging upon the Lord's day or any part thereof, upon pain that each and every such offender shall forfeit 20s. for every such offence; and no person or persons shall use, employ or travel upon the Lord's day with any boat, wherry, lighter or barge, except it be upon extraordinary occasion to be allowed by some justice of the peace, &c., upon pain that every person so offending shall forfeit and lose the sum of 5s. for every such offence. In default of distress or non-payment of forfeiture or penalty the offender may be set publicly in the stocks for two hours (s. 2), a punishment now obsolete. Nothing in the act is to prohibit the dressing of meat in families, or the dressing or selling of meat in inns, cooks' shops—which include fried fish shops (Bullen v. Ward, 1905, 74 L.J.K.B. 916)—or victualling houses for such as cannot be otherwise provided, nor the crying or selling of milk before nine in the morning or after four in the afternoon (s. 3). Prosecutions must be within ten days after the offence (s. 4). The hundred is not responsible for robbery of persons travelling upon the Lord's day (s. 5). This act has frequently received judicial construction. The use of the word “ ordinary” in section 1 has led to the establishment by a series of decisions of the principle that work done out of the course of the ordinary calling of the person doing it is not within the act. Thus the sale of a horse on Sunday by a horse-dealer would not be enforceable by him and he would be liable to the penalty, but these results would not follow in the case of a sale by a person not a horse dealer. Certain acts have been held to fall within the exception as to works of necessity and charity, e.g. baking provisions for customers (but not baking bread in the ordinary course of business), running stage-coaches, or hiring farm-labourers. The legislature also intervened to obviate some of the inconveniences caused by the act. By 10 Will. III. c. 13 (1698) mackerel was allowed to be sold before and after service. By 11 Will. III. c. 21 (1699), forty watermen were allowed to ply on the Thames on Sunday. By 9 Anne, c. 23 (1710), licensed coachmen or chairmen, might be hired on Sunday. By an act of 1794 (34 Geo. III. c. 61), bakers were allowed to bake and sell bread at certain hours. These acts are all repealed. Still law are the acts of 1762 (2 Geo. III. c. 15 s. 7), allowing fish carriages to travel on Sunday in London and Westminster; 1827 (8 Geo. IV. c. 75), repealing s. 2 of the act of 1677 as far as regards Thames boatmen. The Bread Acts of 1822 (3 Geo. IV. c. 106) allow bakers in London, and of 1836 (6 & 7 Will. IV. c. 37) allow bakers out of London, to carry on their trade up to 1.30 p.m. Since 1871, by an act annually continued (34 & 35 Vict. c. 87), no prosecution or proceeding for penalties under the act of 1677 can be instituted except with the consent in writing of the chief officer of a police district or the consent of two justices or a stipendiary magistrate, which must be obtained before beginning the prosecution, i.e. before applying for a summons (Thorpe v. Priestnall, 1897, 1, Q.B. 159).

The act of 1871 does not apply to breaches of the Bread Acts (R. v. Mead, 1902, 2 K.B. 212).

A good many bills have been introduced with respect to Sunday trading. Most have been directed to the closing of public-houses on that day; but the Shop Hours Bill introduced in 1907 contained clauses for closing shops on Sundays, with the exception of certain specified trades. The result of the act of 1871 in London has been in substance to make the Lord's Day acts a dead letter as to Sunday trading. The commissioner of police rarely if ever allows a prosecution for Sunday trading. Sunday markets are usual in all the poorer districts, and shopkeepers and hawkers are allowed freely to ply their trades for the sale of eatables, temperance drinks and tobacco. But the conditions of licences for the sale of intoxicants and for refreshment houses are strictly enforced with respect to Sunday. In districts where the town councils have control of the police, prosecutions for Sunday trading are not infrequent; but they seem to be instituted rather from objection to the annoyance caused by street traders than from religious scruples. The limitation of the time for prosecution to ten days, and the necessity of the previous consent of the chief constable, have a great effect in restricting prosecutions. In most districts there is a distinct disposition to refrain from enforcing the strict letter of the older law, and to permit the latitude of what is described as the “Continental Sunday,” except in the case of businesses carried on so as to interfere with the public comfort. In most districts liberality in administration has progressed pari passu with a change in public opinion as to the uses to which Sunday may properly be put; it is becoming less of a holy day and more of a holiday.

There is great activity among those interested in different theories as to the proper use of Sundays. On the one side, Lord's day observance societies and the organizations concerned in the promotion of “temperance” (i.e. of abstinence from alcoholic drinks) have been extremely anxious to enforce the existing law against Sunday trading and against the sale of intoxicants to persons other than bona fide travellers, and to obtain legislation against the sale of any alcohol on Sundays. On the other side, the Sunday League and other like organizations have been active to organize lectures and concerts and excursions on Sundays, and to promote so far as possible every variety of recreation other than attendance at the exercises of any religious body. Travelling and boating on Sunday are now freely resorted to, regardless of any restrictions in the old acts, and railway companies run their trains at all hours, the power to run them being given by their special acts. Tramcars and omnibuses run freely on Sundays, subject only to certain restrictions. Hackney carriages may in London ply for hire on Sundays (1 & 2 Will. IV. c. 22).

Besides the general act of 1677, there are various acts dealing with special trades; of these the Licensing Acts and the Factory and Workshop Acts are the most important. By the Licensing Acts, 1872 and 1874, premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquors by retail are to be open on Sunday only at certain hours, varying according as the premises are situate in the metropolitan district, a town or populous place, or elsewhere. The hours may be varied to fit in with the hours of religious worship in the district. An exception is made in favour of a person lodging in the house or a bona fide traveller, who may be served with refreshment during prohibited hours, unless in a house with a six-day licence. In the case of six-day licences, no sale of liquor may be made except to persons lodging in the house. Attempts have often been made to induce the legislature to adopt the principle of complete Sunday closing in England as a whole, or in particular counties.[6] In the session of 1886 a bill for Sunday closing in Durham was passed by the Commons but rejected by the Lords. The advocates of Sunday closing in Wales have been more successful. The Sunday Closing (Wales) Act 1881 contains no exceptions of towns and the only exemption is the sale of intoxicating liquors at railway stations. Public billiard tables may not be used on Sunday (8 & 9 Vict. c. 109) The Factory and Workshop Act (1901) forbids the employment of women, young persons or children on Sunday in a factory or workshop (s. 34). But a woman or young person of the Jewish religion may be employed on Sunday by a Jewish manufacturer if he keeps his factory or workshop closed throughout Saturday, and does not open it for traffic on Sunday, and does not avail himself of the exceptions authorizing employment of women or young persons on Saturday evening or for an additional hour on other weekdays (ss. 47, 48). There are a few other legislative provisions of less importance which may be noticed. Carrying on the business of a pawnbroker on Sunday is an offence within the Pawnbrokers Act 1872. Distilling and rectifying spirits on Sunday is forbidden by the Spirits Act 1880. The effect of Sunday upon bills of exchange is declared by the Bills of Exchange Act 1882. A bill is not invalid by reason only of its bearing date on a Sunday (s. 13). Where the last day of grace falls on a Sunday, the bill is payable on the preceding business day (s. 14). Sunday is a “non-business day” for the purposes of the act (s. 92).

Scotland.—The two earliest acts which dealt with Sunday are somewhat out of harmony with the general legislation on the subject. That of 1457, c. 6, ordered the practice of archery on Sunday; that of 1526, c. 3, allowed markets for the sale of flesh to be held on Sunday at Edinburgh. Then came a long series of acts forbidding the profanation of the day, especially by salmon-fishing, holding fairs and markets, and working in mills and salt-pans. The act of 1579, c. 70, and 1661, c. 18, prohibit handy labouring and working, and trading on the Sabbath. Under the act of 1579 the House of Lords in 1837 held that it was illegal for barbers to shave their customers on Sundays, although the deprivation of a shave might prevent decently disposed men from attending religious worship, or associating in a becoming manner with their families and friends through want of personal cleanliness. The later legislation introduced an exception in favour of duties of necessity and mercy, in accordance with ch. 21 of the Confession of Faith (1690, c. 5).

In more modern times the exigencies of travelling have led to a still further extension of the exception. In these acts the word Sabbath is generally used as in the Commonwealth ordinances. The Sabbath Observance Acts were frequently confirmed, the last time by the Scots parliament in 1696. The Scottish Episcopalians Act 1711 (10 Anne, c. 10) contains a proviso that all the laws made for the frequenting of divine service on the Lord's day commonly called Sunday shall be still in force and executed against all persons who shall not resort either to some church or to some congregation or assembly of religious worship allowed and permitted by this act. The Scots acts were held by the High Court of Justiciary in 1870 to be still subsisting, as far as they declare the keeping open shop on Sunday to be an offence by the law of Scotland (Bute's Case, 1 Couper's Reports, 495), but all except those of 1579 and 1661 above specified were repealed in 1906. The Licensing (Scotland) Act 1903 provides by the scheduled forms of certificate for the closing on Sunday of public-houses, and places licensed for the sale of excisable liquor, and in the case of inns and hotels forbids the sale of intoxicants except for the accommodation of lodgers or travellers. There has been litigation as to the legality of running tram-cars on the Sabbath.

By the Herring Fishery (Scotland) Act 1815, s. 11, herring nets set or hauled on the coast or within two leagues thereof on Sundays are forfeited. By the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1868, s. 15, fishing for salmon on Sunday, even with a rod and line, is an offence, as is taking or attempting to take or assisting in fishing for salmon.

As to contracts and legal process, the law is in general accordance with that of England. Contracts are not void, apart from statute, simply because they are made on Sunday. Diligence cannot be executed but a warrant of imprisonment or meditatio fugae is “exercisable.”

Ireland.—In Ireland an act of 1695 (7 Will. III. c. 17) covers the same ground as the English act of 1677, but the acts referred to under England do not apply. An act of 1851 (14 & 15 V. c. 93, s. 11) provides for the issue and execution of warrants for indictable offences and search-warrants on Sundays. But proceedings to obtain sureties for the peace taken on Sunday are void. The Irish act of 1787 against killing game on Sunday (27 Geo. III. c. 35, s. 4) includes rabbits and quail, landrail or other wild fowl. The Sunday closing of public-houses with exemptions as to certain cities and as to railway stations, packet-boats and canteens, is enforced by legislation of 1878, continued annually until 1906 and then made perpetual with certain modifications (1906, c. 39, s. 1), and in the case of six-day licences by acts of 1876, 1877 and 1880.

In 1899 a race-course used for Sunday racing was closed by injunction as causing a nuisance to the Sunday peace and quiet of the neighbourhood and the services of the adjacent churches.

Where railway trains are run on Sundays one cheap train each way is to be provided (7 & 8 Vict. c. 85, s. 10; repealed in 1883 as to Great Britain).

British Colonies.—The English law as to Sunday observance was the original law of the colonies acquired by settlement, and in many of them so much of it as does not relate to the Church of England is left to operate without colonial legislation. In other colonies it is supplemented or superseded by colonial acts. Canada has an act (No. 27 of 1906) prohibiting all buying and selling and all exercise by a man of his ordinary vocations or business, either by himself or his employees on the Lord's day, except in case of works of necessity or mercy. In New Zealand an act of 1884 (c. 24, s. 16; amended 1906, c. 36) prohibits the carrying on on Sunday of any trade or calling, but the exceptions are numerous, and, besides works of necessity or charity, include driving live stock, sale of medicines, sale or delivery of milk, hairdressing or shaving before 9 a. m., driving public or private carriages, keeping livery stables, working railways, ships and boats, and letting boats for hire, and work in connexion with post offices and telegraphs and with daily newspapers. (W. F. C.)

Foreign Countries.—Consequent on the introduction of a Weekly Rest Day Bill (which obtained a second reading) in the English House of Lords in 1908, a parliamentary paper was published in 1909 (cd. 4468) containing “Reports from His Majesty's Representatives Abroad as to Legislation in Foreign Countries Respecting a Weekly Rest Day.” The principal points are summarized below:—

Austria.—Legislation is embodied in laws of 1895 and 1905, which prohibit any industrial work on Sunday, rest on that day beginning not later than 6 a.m., and lasting for not less than twenty-four hours. Permission is given for absolutely necessary work, provided the employer submits to the authorities a list giving the names of the persons employed, and the place, duration and nature of their employment. Sunday work is permitted in certain industries. As to buying and selling, Sunday trading is permitted for not more than four hours, local authorities being the power for arranging the time; they may also forbid Sunday trading altogether, if they think it necessary. Traders who do not employ workmen may not work for themselves unless the doors by which the public may enter are closed. On feast-days, employees must, according to their respective religious beliefs, be allowed the necessary time for attendance at morning service. Offences are punishable by fine; a warning, however, is given on the first offence, and the fine (4s. 2d. for the first offence) rises for each subsequent offence.

Belgium.—Laws of 1905 and 1907 forbid work on Sunday to persons engaged in industrial and commercial enterprises, with certain exceptions, such for example, as industries which exist only at certain periods of the year, or which have a press of work at certain times, or open-air industries which depend on the weather.

Denmark.—The only legislation is a law of 1904 concerning the public peace on the National Church holidays and Constitution Day. It forbids all kinds of occupations, which, on account of noise, might disturb the holiday's peace. In the large towns carriage traffic for business purposes is also forbidden after 10 a.m.

France.—A law of the 13th of July 1906 established a weekly day of rest, for every workman or employee of not less than twenty-four consecutive hours. The weekly day of rest must be Sunday. The law applies irrespective of the duration or character of the work done, and to employees in all establishments of a commercial or industrial character. There are certain necessary exceptions, such as shops for retailing food, occupations in which place, season, the habits of the public, &c., make observance impossible, and in such the weekly day of rest must be given in rotation to the employees or a compensating holiday instead.

Germany.—Regulations as to Sunday rest are contained in the Trade Regulations (Gewerbeordnung) of the 26th of July 1900, according to which manufacturers cannot compel workmen to work on Sundays or holidays, except in certain cases of necessity. Nor in trading businesses may assistants, apprentices or workmen be employed at all on Christmas Day, Easter Sunday and Whitsunday, or on other Sundays and holidays more than five hours. The regulations do not apply to hotels, cafes, &c., or to theatres or other places of amusement, or to means of communication. Infringement of the regulations is punishable by a fine, not exceeding 600 marks or by imprisonment.

Hungary.—By a law of 1891 and others of 1903 and 1908 all industrial work is prohibited on Sundays and St Stephen's Day (the patron saint of Hungary). Certain categories of industries are exempted on account of necessity or the needs of the consuming public; independent small craftsmen who work at home without assistants are also exempted. The law is enforced by the police authorities and infringement is punished by fine.

Italy.—A weekly rest day has been enacted by a law of the 7th of July 1907. Exceptions to the law are river, lake and maritime navigation; agricultural, hunting and fishing industries; state railways and tramways and state public services and industrial undertakings.

Other European countries which have legislation are the Netherlands (law of 1889, as amended by a law of 1906); Spain (law of March 1904, Regulations of April 1905); and Switzerland (1906).

United States.—In the United States there is no Federal law, the question of a rest day being left entirely to the state legislatures, consequently “there exists considerable diversity of legislation on the subject, ranging from the old Quaker laws of the state of Pennsylvania of the beginning of the 18th century to the modern regulations of the Far Western agricultural and mining states . . . There is no state, however, where it is specifically laid down that an employee who is forced to work on Sunday shall receive another equivalent day of rest.” (Report of H. M. Ambassador to the U. S. vide supra). In Massachusetts, which may be fairly taken as representing the Eastern states, public service corporations, such as railway, street railway, steamboat, telegraph, telephone, electric lighting, water and gas companies, are permitted to serve the public in the usual manner. Public parks and baths are open. Tobacco may be sold by licensed inn holders, common victuallers, druggists and newsdealers. Bake shops may be open during certain hours. All other shops must be closed. Saloons are closed, and liquor can be served only to the guests of licensed inn holders. Horses, carriages, boats and yachts may be let for hire. All games and entertainments, except licensed sacred concerts, are prohibited. In Connecticut Sunday recreation is still prohibited, but electric and steam cars are allowed to run. Sunday is a close time for game and birds (1899). In many of the Western states base-ball, games and various entertainments for pay are permitted, and in some saloons are open. In many but not all the states such persons as by their religion are accustomed to observe Saturday are allowed to pursue their ordinary business on Sunday. In Delaware and Illinois barbers may not shave customers on Sundays; and in Georgia guns and pistols may not be fired (1898). In North Dakota the fines for Sabbath-breaking have been raised.

  1. The Teutonic and Scandinavian nations adopt the former designation (Sunday, Sonntag, Söndag, &c.), the Latin nations the latter (dimanche, domenica, domingo, &c.).
  2. From an expression in the Epistle of Barnabas (c. 15), it would almost seem as if the Ascension also was believed by some to have taken place on a Sunday.
  3. In the Epistle of Barnabas already referred to (c. 15) it is called “the eighth day”: “We keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also in which Jesus rose again from the dead.” Cf. Justin Martyr, Dial. c. Tryph. c. 138.
  4. The longer recension runs: “But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner . . . And after the observance of the Sabbath let every friend of Christ keep the Lord's day as a festival, the resurrection day, the queen and chief of all the days.” The writer finds a reference to the Lord's day in the titles to Ps. vi. and xii, which are “set to the eighth.”
  5. It is curious that by an order in council of Hen. VI. to regulate the sanctuary of St Martin-le-Grand it was provided that all artificers dwelling within the said sanctuary (as well barbers as others) keep holy the Sundays and other great festival days without breach or exercising their craft as do the citizens of London (Gomme, Governance of London, 1907, p. 329).
  6. The act 1 James I. c. 9 (now repealed) appears, however, to have provided for closing ale-houses in most cases, except on usual working days.