In the eighteenth century, each of the British North American colonies that later formed the United States of America had statutes that regulated the observance of the Christian Sabbath, or the Lord’s day. The two motivating concerns were, first, religious worship; and, second, commercial or business activity on the weekly rest day. While the high regard of New Englanders for the Sabbath is well known, Southern standards have been not as well understood. This essay seeks to explore the attitudes toward the weekly day of worship and rest held by the leading Protestant denominations in the State of South Carolina from the late 1820s to the late 1830s.
Early eighteenth-century statutes in Southern colonies demonstrated a cultural recognition of the uniqueness of the first day of the week. From 1723, Maryland law stated that “No person whatsoever shall work or do any bodily labor on the Lord’s day, commonly called Sunday; and no person having children, servants, or slaves, shall command, or wittingly or willingly suffer any of them to do any manner of work or labor on the Lord’s day, (works of necessity and charity always excepted.)” Outside of New England Sunday statutes were only sporadically enforced. But even their existence on the books of the more lax colonies manifested a regard for the day that held cultural significance and pointed back toward the colonies’ biblical, Christian heritage. The South Carolina law, passed in 1712, was both the earliest and the lengthiest of its kind among the colonies from Maryland and those farther to the south. The preface to the ordinance noted, “. . . there is nothing more acceptable to God than the true and sincere service and worship of him, according to his holy will, and . . . the holy keeping of the Lord’s day is a principal part of the true service of God, which in many places of this province is so much profaned and neglected by disorderly persons.” Significantly, the preface to the South Carolina law mentioned both “true and sincere service and worship” of the Divine as well as concern for social order, or, rather, the lack thereof, on the part of “disorderly persons.” Those were consistent themes for many in later generations, North and South, seeking to promote Sabbath or Lord’s day observance.
The first of eight enactments that along with the preface comprised a single South Carolina statute declared, “That all and every person whatsoever, shall, on every Lord’s day, apply themselves to the observation of the same, by exercising themselves thereon in the duties of piety and true religion, publicly and privately; and having no reasonable or lawful excuse, on every Lord’s day shall resort to their parish church, or some other parish church, or some meeting, or assembly of religious worship.” Others of the eight forbade “worldly labor, business or work,” excepting “works of necessity and charity”; forbade travel “by land or water” except to and from places of worship or to visit the sick; and prohibited the “working of slaves or servants on Sunday.” While determining the degree to which such enactments were observed would be difficult, the presence of such laws no doubt helped some if not many South Carolinians better discern their path of duty even if they were not always inclined to fulfill it.
By the early nineteenth century, many ancient Sabbath statutes remained on the books in most of the United States, including South Carolina. From 1809 to 1817, in one significant phase of activity aimed at improving the observance of the first day of the week, communities throughout the nation, but mostly in New England and the Middle Atlantic states, petitioned Congress to remove that portion of the postal law that required post offices to remain open on the Lord’s day and to halt the transportation of the mails on that day. Many evangelicals as well as non-church members viewed those practices, certainly during peacetime, as a violation of the Bible’s Fourth Commandment, to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. The War of 1812, and consequent military necessity for rapid communications throughout the land, effectively shelved the issue until 1815. But even with the end of the war, most Sabbath observance initiatives fell into neglect for the next decade.
Innovations in commerce and transportation influenced the issue. Historians have viewed the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 as a seminal event in the nation’s economic history, suddenly dropping the cost of shipping goods from the interior to the markets of New York City and beyond to a fraction of what previously had been the case. In social terms the canal wrought a transformation just as dramatic, facilitating the shift from more-or-less paternal, guild-based communities to a new social paradigm built on impersonal, capitalist relations. An indirect consequence of such developments also seemed to be an increased disregard of the Sabbath, to no small degree an offshoot of the heightened interest in faster and better means of transportation found especially in commercially-oriented communities in both the North and South.
Of the four mainline Protestant groups well-represented in South Carolina in the early Jacksonian period including mainline and Associate Reformed Presbyterians, Baptists, Episcopalians, and Methodists, the earliest organized initiative to address the issue of Christian Sabbath observance came from the mainline Presbyterians. In 1826, alarmed at the increasing desecration of the Sabbath facilitated by the Erie Canal’s opening and the general use of canals, steamboats, and macadamized roads, the Presbyterians took a public stance. At their national gathering (General Assembly), Presbyterian leaders passed five resolutions intended to improve the sanctification of the Sabbath, one of which suggested more than mere moral suasion.
The fourth resolution called on church members to give preference to those establishments that honored the Sabbath by refraining from business on the first day of the week. While its examination is beyond the scope of this paper, the resolution hinted at the practice of boycotts and so held the potential to threaten the harmony of communities. In the South the Peculiar Institution made the harmony of the white community in a given locale arguably more critical than in many places in the North. In his study of the nullification controversy in South Carolina, historian William W. Freehling notes that when it came to politics, “the rich and poor in a slaveholding district had too much in common to risk a quarrel.” In 1827, one year after the General Assembly’s resolutions, and as occurred in other states as well, Presbyterians in the Charleston Union Presbytery took up the Sabbath cause with renewed purpose.
Meeting in Charleston on 12 December 1827, the pastors and ruling elders expressed their cordial approval of the 1826 General Assembly’s resolutions. Agreeing with the third resolution, the presbytery called for their pastors to “frequently and solemnly address their people on the subject of the sanctification of the Lord’s day,” presumably in their sermons. Regarding the fourth resolution, while stopping short of specifically endorsing boycotts of Sabbath-breaking businesses the Presbyterians expressed their concern for “the alarming extent” of violations of “the Holy Sabbath” in the forms outlined by the prior year’s assembly, adding their particular disapproval of the local practice of “embarking on board vessels that sail on that day.” Rather than boycotts, however, the Presbyterians sought to engage the church authorities, pastors and elders, “in judicious efforts to prevent this evil as far as practicable.”
The practice of preaching occasionally on the subject of the Sabbath and its observance appears to have been implemented at least sporadically in the South, and a few such sermons were published and remain extant. While I have not uncovered any Presbyterian sermons from South Carolina on Sabbath observance during the early Jacksonian period, I have found sermons published between 1830 and 1832 by Presbyterians in Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. But in South Carolina, two of the most comprehensive published addresses on the topic were authored just prior to 1830 by the long-serving, highly influential Baptist minister, the Rev. William Bullein Johnson.
In 1821, Baptists in South Carolina were the first in the nation to hold a state convention. In 1825, upon the death of Dr. Richard Furman, Johnson was elected to preside over the convention, a role he fulfilled for the next twenty-seven years. Johnson also was instrumental in the founding of the Furman Academy and Theological Institution, as it was called when it opened in 1830. Moreover, Johnson’s towering influence nationally was manifested by his election as president of the first Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 in which office he continued through 1851. In 1938, a weekly newspaper of South Carolina Baptists stated that “through him, perhaps more than any other one man, Southern Baptists first came to a realization of themselves as a denomination.” A biographer accurately entitled her work on William B. Johnson, “Giant in the Land.”
In the first few days of December 1827, one week before Charleston-area Presbyterians called for preaching on the observance of the Lord’s day in their churches, the South Carolina Baptist convention, meeting in Edgefield, appointed Johnson “to prepare the next circular address, on the subject of the Christian Sabbath, as to the scriptural manner in which it should be spent by the churches of Christ, and the objects which would be most likely to be secured by such a manner of spending it.” The use of the Presbyterians’ favored term, ‘the Christian Sabbath,’ in lieu of the Baptists’ normally preferred phrasing, ‘the Lord’s day,’ may have suggested like-mindedness and brotherly affection between denominations that did, in fact, share a generally Calvinist or Reformed understanding of the Bible in that era, especially in the South. Along the same line of possibility was the fact that the Charleston-area Presbyterians called upon their ministers to preach “on the subject of the sanctification of the Lord’s day,” thereby using the Baptists’ favored term. While such subtle expressions of mutual respect and brotherly affection may escape many today, in the 1820s the preferential phrasing would probably have been appreciated by church leaders in both denominations.
In December 1828, William Johnson’s first of two addresses dealt briefly with the scriptural manner in which the day ought to be observed and at length dealt with the objects to be secured from such observance. Among the six objects Johnson listed, his first was “the increase of the worshippers of God.” His last object related to “coldness in religion” on the one hand and the blessings of revival on the other. Pastor Johnson viewed the consistent and right observance of the Sabbath as one of the strongest defenses against the tendency to “sink down again into a cold formal state.”
In Johnson’s second address a year later, he took an intriguing position in the concluding section. “The original settlers of this country feared Jehovah, obeyed his commands, and remembered the Sabbath day to keep it as a day consecrated to holy uses,” Johnson stated. He continued, “Their successors imitated their example,” but then he added, “our rulers have respected the day of divinely appointed rest.” His intended meaning for the last phrase was unclear in terms of the time period to which he alluded. At the very time of Johnson’s second address, December 1829, the Sabbath mails petitioning effort was at its peak as Sabbath advocates around the country requested Congress to alter the offensive postal law that mandated labor on that day. Johnson almost certainly was aware of the initiative in which many Baptists nationwide, but by no means all of them, participated. In fact, some Baptists opposed the efforts of the Sabbath petitioners, some probably accepting the aggressive, specious arguments of the anti-Sabbath side who claimed that Presbyterians sought a union of church and state. But, for the Reverend Johnson to state at such a critical moment that “our rulers have respected the day” may well have intended to convey his desire to remain outside the debate over the postal law despite his deep regard for the Lord’s day and the benefits of its observance. Thus, although sharing the Presbyterian view of the Sabbath, William Johnson appeared unwilling to join the public debate of which petitions to Congress constituted a major effort and in which many of his like-minded Calvinist brothers were then participating with high hopes.
Examining solely the prescriptions of Sabbath-promoters, however, offers only one side of the story. In 1827 the Charleston Observer, a newspaper under the auspices of Charleston Union Presbytery, began publication. In April 1834, an article written “For the Charleston Observer” and entitled, “Profanation of the Sabbath,” complained that local Christians “are compelled to witness, on each returning Sabbath, the outrageous and untoward conduct . . . practised in our streets and highways, and even before the very doors of our dwellings, in direct violation of the principles and precepts of our holy religion.” Writing from Charleston Neck, the unidentified penman recalled that a number of persons, “some riding and some walking,” typically thronged “the main roads and streets of Charleston Neck . . . especially every Sunday afternoon, in search of what they call pleasure, change of scene, or relaxation . . . libels against good order and decorum.” In the writer’s view not only Christian sensitivity but “female delicacy” was “too often wantonly shocked by the Sabbath-breaking drunkard” and “by the unblushing insolence of profanity and intoxication.” The Charlestonian writer concluded by asking whether Christians were “to be exposed to a continuance of such scenes of depravity and sinfulness?” Quoting the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, he inquired, “Is there no balm in Gilead?”
While South Carolina Presbyterians and Baptists were active in the late 1820s in promoting Sabbath or Lord’s day observance, by the 1830s local Episcopalians and Methodists joined the effort. Indeed, an excellent example of a Southern churchman’s address devoted in no small part to the Sabbath and its observance during this period was by an Episcopalian, the Rev. Jasper Adams. In 1833, Adams served as president of the Episcopalians’ College of Charleston. His written sermon, preached at St. Michael’s Church in Charleston on 13 February 1833, was entitled, The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States. Adams noted that of “the twenty-four Constitutions of the United States” – note the latter term was plural – “we find all of them recognising Christianity as the well known and well established religion of the communities, whose . . . foundations, these Constitutions are.” Adams observed, “Nearly all these Constitutions recognise the customary observance of Sunday, and a suitable observance of this day,” a practice long-considered fundamental to the Christian faith. Notably, Adams sent copies of his sermon to dozens of influential Americans and institutions, some of whom (including U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall), wrote him in return. Marshall had read the sermon “with great attention & advantage,” he wrote Adams, acknowledging that with a people so firmly grounded in Christianity as the American population was, it “would be strange, indeed, if . . . our institutions did not presuppose Christianity, & did not often refer to it, & exhibit relations with it.”
Adams certainly had not been the first South Carolinian Episcopalian to advance the Sabbath cause. In 1824 the church’s Gospel Messenger and Southern Christian Register, a monthly periodical that had just begun publication in Charleston, offered its readers a lengthy piece in its fourth issue entitled, “A Dialogue on the Sabbath-Day.” In it, a God-fearing lady challenges her well-to-do brother regarding his absence from public worship on the Sabbath: “Are you not ashamed to stay away from the Temple of God, in weather which would not detain you from a dinner party or a ball?” At length a little girl enters the conversation who recites the Fourth Commandment learned in her Sunday School class to her conscience-stricken uncle. The piece was an excellent example of the conjoining of Sabbath observance with the cause of Sunday (or Sabbath) schools. Another example came from the pen of Theodore Dehon. The Protestant Episcopal Church’s Bishop of South Carolina, Dehon had died in 1817, but twenty years later his words appeared in the newspaper of the Methodist Episcopal Church published in Charleston. Known as the Southern Christian Advocate, the newspaper took no small interest in Sabbath observance in its first year of publication, 1837, quoting Bishop Dehon as follows:
We cannot fully estimate the effects of the sabbath, unless we were once deprived of it. Imagination cannot fully picture the depravity which would gradually ensue, if time were thrown into one promiscuous field; without these heaven directed beacons to rest and direct the passing pilgrim, men would plod through a wilderness of being and one of the avenues which now admits the light that will illuminate his path, would be perfectly closed.
In fact, the Methodists’ Southern Christian Advocate carried no less than ten articles in its first six months addressing the Sabbath. In a piece reprinted from the Presbyterians’ Charleston Observer, in late December 1837 the Advocate reminded its readers that strict Sabbath observance was “both a moral duty and a blessed privilege.” Describing the influence of the Sabbath in America, the unnamed author continued, “In the laws, and usages, and habits, and feelings of our people, the Sabbath is very generally recognized as a Divine Institution; and yet its desecration is regarded as a matter of but trivial moment.” That analysis was familiar to many contemporaries throughout the United States, as it would be to later generations as well.
Not surprisingly, the Methodists’ South Carolina Conference also advanced the Sabbath cause. In 1831 the conference actually met in Fayetteville, North Carolina. In the pastoral letter to its churches, the Rev. W. M. Kennedy expressed the conference’s deprecation of Sabbath day profanation “whether by ordinary labor, or traffic, or travelling on secular business, or idle amusements, or visiting, as on other days. . . . It is holy time, and can be employed with propriety, in no other than holy uses. Works of piety, and mercy, are those alone, which are appropriate to the Sabbath day.” Whether Kennedy intentionally omitted another biblical and traditional exception, works of necessity, was unclear. Perhaps he referred only to those works that could be positively affirmed, those of piety and mercy, without intending to disparage works of necessity which though negative in nature, were, nonetheless, permitted by Jesus’ own teaching as recorded in the New Testament gospels.
While this brief essay has dealt strictly with the topic of Sabbath observance in South Carolina, perhaps any treatment of that state in the period around 1830 would be deficient without some mention of the nullification controversy created by the positions taken by South Carolinians and the Andrew Jackson administration concerning the Tariff of 1828. While the possibility of armed conflict appeared very real for a time in the winter of 1832-1833, in the end a compromise averted the threatened hostilities and accompanying bloodshed. As William Freehling argues, South Carolinians’ anxieties over the tariff were not far removed from their anxieties over antislavery. Two years after the tariff compromise, agitation in the state over how to handle the threat of Northern abolitionist pamphlets then flooding the Southern mails led to a candid expression on the part of the South Carolina legislature. Freehling considers this the most honest confession ever made in the state regarding citizens’ anxieties over the activities of the antislavery camp. The legislature declared in late 1835, “No people can live in a state of perpetual excitement and apprehension, although real danger can be long deferred. Such a condition of the public mind is destructive of all social happiness, and consequently must prove essentially injurious to the prosperity of a community that has the weakness to suffer under a perpetual panic.”
Whether anyone realized it or not, the South Carolina legislature had unwittingly affirmed the importance of the Sabbath day. Sabbath advocates well understood that “perpetual excitement and apprehension” or “perpetual panic” – or perpetual anything, whether perceived as good or ill – was neither healthful for the soul nor promotive of “social happiness” or the “prosperity of a community.” The legislature’s concern for time expressed in the word perpetual harkens to Bishop Dehon’s warning years earlier that without the Sabbath, “time were thrown into one promiscuous field”; in other words, into one unending field of secular interests consisting of business, travel, and amusement on the one hand, or excitement, apprehension, and panic on the other. And as Pastor Johnson had written in 1829, “Since man,” after the Fall, “now under the influence of depraved passions, is prone to waste his energies on the trifles of time, how needful is it that, at stated periods, he should be summoned away,” on the Sabbath, “to the undivided pursuit of the realities of eternity.”
As it had prior to the late 1820s, the issue of Sabbath observance in the United States would ebb and flow for many years after the brief period examined herein. But in the decade from the late 1820s to the late 1830s, and as a number of those who loved and respected the weekly day of worship and rest were diligent to point out – among them South Carolina Presbyterians, Baptists, Episcopalians, and Methodists – the biblical and godly corrective to Dehon’s “promiscuous field” and Johnson’s “trifles of time” was none other than the faithful observance of the Christian Sabbath, or the Lord’s day.
 An excellent work on the subject is Winton U. Solberg, Redeem The Time: The Puritan Sabbath in Early America (Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard University Press, 1977).
 Harmon Kingsbury, The Sabbath: A Brief History of Laws, Petitions, Remonstrances and Reports, with Facts and Arguments, Relating to the Christian Sabbath (New York: Robert Carter, 1840), 18-19, including quotes [emphasis added].
 Kingsbury, The Sabbath: A Brief History of Laws, 19, including quotes [emphasis added].
 Historian Richard R. John refers to “the conquest of space . . . widely hailed as one of the most praiseworthy of all human endeavors,” and which was embodied in the stagecoaches of the period; he writes that, in one celebrated case, U.S. Senator Richard M. Johnson (later, Martin Van Buren’s vice president) pushed his driver to such speed that “the stagecoach twice overturned, costing Johnson a number of painful bumps on the head.” Apparently, Johnson was unperturbed and quite pleased with his “triumphant arrival” in Washington City; see Richard R. John, Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse (Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard University Press, 1995), 91-92.
 Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church . . . A.D. 1821 to A.D. 1835 inclusive (Philadelphia, n.d.), 30 May 1826, 182-83. Examination of the records of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian (A.R.P.) Church during the period in question uncovered only slight mention of the Sabbath; in 1830 the A.R.P.’s First Presbytery expressed its concern over the “general prevalence of immorality in many forms, such as intemperance, profanity, Sabbath-breaking, &c.”; see A.R.P. First Presbytery minutes, 1829-1875,” 5 Apr. 1830, microfilm of typescript, Erskine Theological Seminary, Due West, S.C.
 William W. Freehling, Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836 (New York, Oxford, 1966 ), 22, including quote. In 1829, the Presbyterians’ Synod of South Carolina and Georgia adopted resolutions aimed at promoting Sabbath observance; see Minutes, Synod of South Carolina and Georgia, 5 Dec. 1829 (Columbia Theological Seminary Special Collections, John Bulow Campbell Library, Decatur, Ga.).
 Minutes, Charleston Union Presbytery, 12 Dec. 1827 (PCUSA ms.), including quotes.
 Charles Coffin, “A Sermon,” Calvinistic Magazine (Rogersville, Tenn.), vol. 4, no. 3 (Mar. 1830); Charles Coffin, “On the Sabbath. Sermon II,” Calvinistic Magazine, vol. 4, no. 7 (Jul. 1830); J. [Joseph] P. Cunningham, Man’s Interest in the Sabbath. A Sermon . . . December 25, 1831 (Tuscaloosa, Ala., 1832); Jeremiah Chamberlain, A Sermon on the Obligation, Perpetuity, and Importance, of the Sabbath . . . November 21st, 1830 (Port Gibson, Miss., 1831). Another Southern minister, the Right Rev. William M. Stone, Bishop of the Diocese of Maryland, in 1835 published a pastoral letter in which he focused on “the sanctity and purposes of the Lord’s day”; William M. Stone, A Pastoral Letter Addressed to the Diocese of the Protestant Episcopal Church of Maryland, May 27th, 1835 (Baltimore, 1835).
 There was no convention held in December 1832, perhaps due to the turmoil surrounding nullification which was near its peak.
 Minutes, South Carolina Baptist Convention, 1830; “William Bullein Johnson,” The Baptist Courier, Greenville, S.C., 17 Feb. 1938, 2, including quote 1; Hortense C. Woodson, Giant in the Land: The Life of William B. Johnson, First President of the Southern Baptist Convention . . . (Springfield, Mo., 2005 ), including quote 2 (from title); “First Baptist Honors Johnson,” Daily Mail, Anderson, S.C., 22 Sep. 1970. The founding of the Furman Institute was approved at the 1826 state convention over which Johnson presided.
 Minutes, South Carolina Baptist Convention, 1827, 3, including quote. The Baptists convened in Edgefield, S.C., on 1 and 4 December 1827; email, Julia A. Cowart, Interim Special Collections Librarian and University Archivist, James B. Duke Library, Furman University, to author, 28 Jul. 2015. In late 1834, the newspaper of Charleston area Presbyterians published a poem entitled, “The Day of Rest.” Such poetry, found in many denominational newspapers of the period, was another example of the heartfelt affection for the Sabbath held by many Christians; see “The Day of Rest,” Charleston Observer, 1 Nov. 1834.
 Minutes, South Carolina Baptist Convention, 1828, 14, 21, 27, including quotes.
 Minutes, South Carolina Baptist Convention, 1829, 23-24, including quotes.
 “Profanation of the Sabbath,” Charleston Observer, 19 Apr. 1834, including quotes. In 1828 alone, the Charleston Observer published at least 11 articles addressing the Sabbath: on 29 Mar., 5 Apr., 17 May, 24 May, 21 Jun., 26 Jul., 6 Sep., 20 Sep., 27 Sep., 15 Nov., and 13 Dec. Unfortunately, one finds lengthy periods of missing issues in subsequent years (Library of Congress microfilm). As the writer suggested, Sabbath-breaking was often linked with intemperance and profanity, the latter two of which were in some ways more tangible in a local community.
 J. [Jasper] Adams, The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States: A Sermon, Preached in St. Michael’s Church, Charleston, February 13th, 1833 (Charleston, 1833, 2d edition), 11, including quotes 1-3; ltr, J. Marshall to Rev. J. Adams, 9 May 1833, available online at “Letters to the Reverend Jasper Adams,” http://candst.tripod.com/jaspltrs.htm (10 Jul 15), including quotes 4-5.
 “A Dialogue on the Sabbath-Day,” Gospel Messenger and Southern Christian Register, vol. I:4 (April 1824), 97-101, including quotes 1-2; “The Sabbath,” Southern Christian Advocate, 12 Aug. 1837, including quote 3.
 “The Sabbath,” Southern Christian Advocate, 29 Dec. 1837, including quotes.
 Minutes of the South Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, For The Year 1831 . . . (Columbia, S.C., 1831), 12-19, including quote.
 Freehling, Prelude to Civil War, 344-45, including quote [emphasis added].
 Freehling, Prelude to Civil War, 344-45, including quotes 1-4 [emphasis added]; “The Sabbath,” Southern Christian Advocate, 12 Aug. 1837, including quote 5; Minutes, South Carolina Baptist Convention, 1829, 17-18, including quotes 6-8 [emphasis added].
 “The Sabbath,” Southern Christian Advocate, 12 Aug. 1837, including quote 1; Minutes, South Carolina Baptist Convention, 1829, 18, including quote 2.