Taking Sabbatarianism Seriously: The Postal System, the Sabbath, and the Transformation of American Political Culture

John, Richard R.

Between 1810 and 1830, thousands of Americans joined in a moral crusade to protest the complicity of the federal government in a practice they deemed offensive to God. The protesters were Sabbatarians, and their goal was to prevent the federal government from desecrating the Sabbath by requiring that the mails be transported and the post offices open to the public seven days a week. This essay seeks to restore Sabbatarianism to its rightful place in the history of American political culture. To understand why so many Americans objected to the Sabbath mails, one must take their protest seriously as a reform movement, paying close attention to its origins, to the protesters' grievance, and to the political, economic, and cultural setting within which it occurred.

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Journal of the Early Republic
University of Pennsylvania Press

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August 1, 2018