A WELL-KNOWN Washington pastor, Dr. B. Sunderland, has taken us severely to task for using the term “Blue Laws.” He says:—
You ought never to be guilty of citing as a part of the “Blue Laws” of the colonies the part about a man’s kissing his wife on Sunday, etc., because no such thing ever existed in fact; they were a compilation of a notorious Tory made out of whole cloth, to cast ridicule and contempt on the colonists; and as intelligent men you should know this and not resort to such a species of falsehood and misrepresentation to bolster up your case.
We are well aware that no such code of laws ever actually existed as that sometimes printed as the “Blue Laws of Connecticut.” But we are also well aware that “laws” did exist in the New England colonies, notably in Massachusetts and Connecticut, under which the ministers and magistrates assumed authority to punish nearly all the acts said to have been forbidden by the “Blue Laws.”
For instance, there was no “law” which said in so many words that a man should not kiss his wife on Sunday; but for all that, as related by Alice Morse Earle, on page 247 of “The Sabbath in Puritan New England.” “Captian Kemble of Boston was in 1655 set for two hours in the public stocks for his ‘lewd and unseemly behavior,’ which consisted in his kissing his wife ‘publicquely’ on the sabbath day, upon the doorstep of his house, when he had just returned from a voyage and absence of three years.”
They fact is that the authorities of those days assumed to regulate nearly all the private affairs of life, and the term “Blue laws” has come to be applied by common consent and usage to all such improper and meddlesome legislation; and by using the phrase, one no more indorses all that the “Reverend” Samuel Peters, “a notorious Tory,” wrote about the “laws” of Connecticut, than does one using the phrase “Siren song” indorse the mythological story of the three sea nymphs said to frequent an island near the coast of Italy, and lure mariners to destruction by their sweet songs. The term “Siren” has come to mean “something which is insidious or deceptive,” just as the phrase “Blue Laws” means improper and meddlesome statutes which invade unnecessarily the private life of the citizen. It is in this sense that the AMERICAN SENTINEL has used the term, and in this sense we shall continue to use it.