FYI March 03, 2019

On This Day

1873 – Censorship in the United States: The U.S. Congress enacts the Comstock Law, making it illegal to send any “obscene, lewd, or lascivious” books through the mail.
The Comstock Laws were a set of federal acts passed by the United States Congress under the Grant administration along with related state laws.[1] The “parent” act (Sect. 211) was passed on March 3, 1873, as the Act for the “Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use”. This Act criminalized usage of the U.S. Postal Service to send any of the following items:[2]

sex toys
personal letters with any sexual content or information
or any information regarding the above items.

A similar federal act (Sect. 245) of 1909 [3] applied to delivery by interstate “express” or any other common carrier (such as railroad, instead of delivery by the U.S. Postal Service).

In Washington, D.C., where the federal government had direct jurisdiction, another Comstock act (Sect. 312) also made it illegal (punishable by up to 5 years at hard labor), to sell, lend, or give away any “obscene” publication, or article used for contraception or abortion.[4] Section 305 of the Tariff Act of 1922 forbade the importation of any contraceptive information or means.[5]

In addition to these federal laws, about half of the states enacted laws related to the federal Comstock laws. These state laws are considered by Dennett [1] to also be “Comstock laws”.

The laws were named after their chief proponent, Anthony Comstock. Comstock received a commission from the Postmaster General to serve as a special agent for the U.S. Postal Service.[4]

Numerous failed attempts were made to repeal or modify these laws and eventually, many of them (or portions of them) were declared unconstitutional. In 1919 in a law journal, a judge, after reviewing the various laws (especially state laws) called the set of them “haphazard and capricious” and lacking “any clear, broad, well-defined principle or purpose”.[6]



Born On This Day

1678 – Madeleine de Verchères, Canadian rebel leader (d. 1747)
Marie-Madeleine Jarret, known as Madeleine de Verchères ((French pronunciation: ​[madəlɛn də vɛʁʃɛʁ]); 3 March 1678 – 8 August 1747) was a woman of New France (modern Quebec) credited with repelling a raid on Fort Verchères when she was 14 years old.

Early life
François Jarret, of Saint-Chef in the department of Isère in France, joined the company of his uncle Antoine Pécaudy de Contrecœur to battle the Iroquois in New France (see Beaver Wars). They arrived there in August 1665, and on 17 September 1669 Jarret married the twelve-year-old Marie Perrot in Île d’Orléans. He was awarded a land grant on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River on 29 October 1672 in a seigneury called Verchères, and thereafter continued to increase his land holdings. The couple was to have twelve children, the fourth of whom was Madeleine de vercheres, born in Verchères on 3 March 1678 and baptised that 17 April.[2]

The seigneury underwent periodic Iroquois raids. In 1690 the matron of Verchères took command of a successful defense against an Iroquois assault on the stockade there. By 1692 the Iroquois had killed the Jarrets’ son François-Michel and two successive husbands of their daughter Marie-Jeanne.[2] Before she performed this courageous act, she usually worked in the family field during her spare time.




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