Perhaps no topic of importance in the Old South may be handled rightly without dealing with the Peculiar Institution: slavery. The Christian Sabbath, or the Lord’s day – often referred to by Christians in the nineteenth century simply as the Sabbath – was no exception. Embedded in the Ten Commandments, the fourth commandment (according to Protestant enumeration) – to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy – called for a weekly day of worship and rest from secular labor and activities. The first day of the week, the Christian Sabbath, was a cultural pillar of British colonial society. It continued as such well into the nineteenth century in both “the American States” and England itself. On the western shores of the Atlantic and below the Mason-Dixon Line, a number of those who were considered professors of Christianity, and some non-professors, viewed the Sabbath’s observance by whites as inextricably linked with that of blacks. Moreover, some commentators who addressed the topic showed that each group’s practices regarding the day of worship impinged on the other, with resulting implications for the local society.[1]

The desire of Southerners to maintain social harmony could hardly be divorced from their anxieties related to blacks. That was particularly the case after Nat Turner’s short-lived slave revolt in Southampton, Virginia, in 1831.[2] But regardless of Turner, a small number of mainly Old Dominion Sabbath reformers expressed their concerns for the day’s observance by both whites and blacks.

Critique of “LOOKER ON,” 1828

In August 1828, a writer using the pen name “LOOKER ON” sent two letters to the Presbyterian-affiliated Richmond, Virginia, weekly, The Visitor and Telegraph, on the subject. In his first letter, addressing the Sabbath transgressions of white youths, he noted with satisfaction the formation in New York of a national Sabbath reform society, the General Union, for “the suppression of Sabbath breaking.” LOOKER asserted that most of the “vices and immoralities” threatening to engulf communities everywhere “may be clearly traced back to their source in the [wasted] and desolated Sabbath. Thus, children, and many . . . of professedly pious parents—are allowed to spend the day in their ordinary amusements—in hunting, strolling the fields, &c.,” soon losing “all idea of its sacredness” and engaging in activities “the most fitly suited to drive their thoughts from heaven.”[3]

LOOKER then moved to his main topic: promoting Sabbath schools for teaching piety to children. Noting the “flood of moral pollution” which LOOKER attributed to “the want of proper restraint in families,” he proposed the forming of “Family Sabbath Schools” by private Christians. If a pious man or woman “would set apart a few hours on the Sabbath, invite the children for a few miles around, to come in and read, recite lessons—and receive elementary and religious instruction, they would do an incalculable amount of good.”[4]

LOOKER’s first letter indicated his deep concern for the Sabbath day activities of the children in the community—white children—but his second letter emphasized the practices of adults, white and black, on that day. The writer complained of the habit of some people, who, “. . . if they have a little neighborhood business to attend to . . . set apart the Sabbath for accomplishing it.” There also were many, who, “. . . when they have occasion to take a journey for purchasing goods” or selling their crops, “. . . make it their almost invariable rule to start from home on Sabbath morning.” By the 1820s, travelling for secular purposes was one of the main sources of angst for Sabbath advocates nationwide – perhaps especially for those familiar with Judah’s profaning of the Jewish (seventh-day) Sabbath recorded in the Old Testament books of Jeremiah and Nehemiah. The increasing availability of steam boats, canals, and improved roads that tempted farmers North (especially) and South (to lesser degree) with the opportunity to transport their goods to market at a fraction of the cost in earlier years exceeded the will of many to resist. In a sense this was the core of the Sabbath’s decline throughout the period: the moral law of God notwithstanding, the crass reality for many – including a number of church members, as some observers painfully confessed – was that one might make money seven days a week instead of only six.[5]

In contrast to Sabbath keepers like LOOKER, a well-known Sabbath opponent, Anne Royall, described her experience in northern Virginia around 1823. Royall expressed delight at the “great number of [wagons] which (though Sunday) were going and returning from Alexandria; the road, which passed near the door, was full from morning till long after dark.” Royall was an extreme example of the type of person LOOKER had in mind. Regardless, the writer noted that upon remonstrating with such market-goers for their practice, one was likely to be told “that this is no violation of the Sabbath!—that they can spend the day when travelling on the road, as appropriately as at home.” The hypothetical response continued,

And as for the slaves it is far better for them to be going to market with their teams, than to be loitering about home;—that they are committing less sin; and that . . . if not thus employed, they would be in some mischief—getting drunk or pillaging the property of their masters. . . . Therefore to keep them employed with their teams on the road . . . instead of being a sin or a grievance, is really an act of mercy to the souls of the negroes.[6]

Another common practice that LOOKER criticized was the opening of stores and grog shops on the Sabbath. This, he observed, was responsible for “incalculable” evils:

Some merchants attend . . . to selling goods on the Sabbath, particularly whisky to negroes; as if [they] . . . were not wicked . . . enough already. . . . The apology generally made . . . is that negroes have no other opportunity than the sabbath for trading and attending to their own concerns.—Poor apology—nonsense.[7] There are but few men, who would not grant to their servants an hour or two in the week . . . to attend to [business] for themselves.[8]    

LOOKER also viewed participation in Sabbath violations by “professors of religion, or rather who once were professors,” and some magistrates, as responsible for allowing the evils of gambling, drinking, fighting, and “playing ‘fives’” on the sacred day to go unchecked. Undoubtedly, both whites and blacks were guilty. He called for the civil authorities to put down the various Sabbath infractions and to enforce the laws of the commonwealth respecting the day. In this, he stood apart from the Virginia Sabbath Society (formed in 1830) which specifically refused to pursue even the enforcement of existing laws, much less to pursue new measures. Though the writer was distressed by the poor Sabbath practices of children and adults and of whites and blacks individually, the day’s activities of whites with regard to blacks was an integral part of the issue.[9]

Critique of “Z,” 1829

One year later, another insightful observer wrote four letters for The Visitor and Telegraph on the same subject. This writer, “Z,” was concerned with the effect upon blacks of Sabbath profanation by whites, specifically the practice of “making purchases from the colored people on the Lord’s day.” Viewing the practice as “a long-standing evil in our [Southern] country,” Z set about to reform the public conscience: “It is . . . high time that the sentiments of the christian public should be brought to bear on this subject.” In discussing the problem, Z wrote that at nearly every tavern and post office along the mail stage routes in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, “. . . you will find servants with their articles of commerce” ready to trade on the Lord’s day as the mail stage passes town. He perceived that all who purchased articles from blacks on the Sabbath were “guilty of calling them away [from the worship of God] for the sake of gain.”[10]

Not only did Z criticize the practices of whites and blacks, he linked the evils of trading on the holy day with the Sabbath mails controversy which was at its peak between 1828 and 1830. Z queried: “Does the transportation of the mail on the Sabbath, cause, in the same bounds, more to violate it than this dealing with servants? Every man who would sign a memorial [to halt Sabbath mail transportation and delivery] . . . ought to feel deeply interested in the suppression of every general violation of it.” Referring to the well-publicized fact that the moving of mails and opening of post offices on the Sabbath prevented thousands (of whites) from attending worship on that day, Z asserted “it is equally true that many of your trading blacks are kept from the church, and this is peculiarly distressing on account of their condition.”[11]

Concerned for the souls of the black as well as the white population, Z referred to the fact that few blacks possessed a Bible or could read. He estimated those taught to read were “scarcely one to a plantation.” Nat Turner of Southampton was one who was literate and possessed a Bible. Lucy Skipwith, the houseslave of scientific farmer and Sabbath and temperance reformer John Hartwell Cocke of Fluvanna County, Virginia, was literate and maintained a correspondence with her master. But those that could read, Z felt, “. . . seldom read so well as to derive much instruction from books and especially the Bible. And of those who can read, how few have a bible of their own to read at their leisure.” Employed during six days of the week in their owner’s service, “. . . they have no time for the acquisition of knowledge. But the Lord hath given them one day in seven, and requires their undivided services on that day. And shall men eager for all the services of bondmen, claim paramount authority with God and throw temptation in their way to violate the Sabbath” without incurring guilt? The practice of whites keeping blacks from worship or tempting them away with trade for Sabbath gains was a serious charge, indeed, particularly within the bounds of Christendom.[12]

But evil compounded evil. Blacks who absented themselves from the house of God, said Z, were likely to visit “the tavern, the store, or lounge about the courthouse, catching every sound of the profanation of the name of God” in addition to hearing the slanders of the neighborhood. Instead of hearing the Bible, they were apt to listen to “marvellous tales of spirits, witches, ghosts and hobgoblins, to tell your children when they go home.” Thus, Z exhibited concern not only for the consequences for blacks of Sabbath breaking by whites, or of Sabbath profanation by blacks themselves, but also for the ramification for white children under the influence of immoral, Sabbath-breaking blacks.[13]

Moreover, Sabbath breaking and intemperance went hand-in-hand, as observant moral reformers frequently complained in that era. Z opined that with the proceeds earned from Sabbath day trading, blacks were tempted “to treat one another to ‘some dram’ as they have seen white people do. . . . How many have thus become addicted to intemperance? How many have been known to carry it home to their wives and children, giving them also a relish for the burning poison?”[14]

Nearing his conclusion, Z asked, “Now if they are neither taught to read nor instructed in the precepts of the Bible during the week, and are drawn away from the sanctuary on the Sabbath, what must be their condition?” Surely the totality, to Z as well as a number of other evangelicals of the day, was one of “contracting strong habits of sin, and thus treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath. . . .” “Is this their guilt?” asked Z. “Did they bring it upon themselves?”[15]

In Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made, historian Eugene Genovese noted, “Even on the best-managed plantations, which boasted well-fed slaves, the plundering of the hogpen, the smokehouse, the chicken coop, and the corncrib constituted a normal feature of . . . life.” Genovese observed the differing morality of blacks and whites regarding theft within the slavery institution. Slaves “stole from each other but merely took from their masters. Their logic was impeccable. If they belonged to their masters – if they were in fact his chattels – how could they steal from him? Suppose they ate one of his chickens. . . . They had only transformed his property from one form into another.” Regardless of such fine distinctions, Z’s second letter addressed – from the master’s perspective – the problem of Saturday night thefts by blacks “committed in anticipation of the market on Sunday.” Z believed that the blacks’ “midnight depredations” were more common in those locales where Sabbath day trading with them was most extensive. It was a long-lamented evil, yet little had been done about it. He observed that upon being assured that whites would buy from them, some blacks were

kept devising ways . . . to furnish you with the articles—and should every honest way fail, then perhaps you may see them as they pass the plantation of your neighbor examining into the condition of the corn-house—smoak-house—chicken-house—or spring-house, &c. for your money they must have, if, to procure it they should be compelled to steal.[16]

Z reasoned that this habit arose because stolen items could not be hidden for long without the danger of discovery, thus, “. . . the stealing of them is deferred to the last night in the week.” The penman exhorted his readers not to encourage blacks “to bring any thing to you on the Sabbath to sell, for in doing so you encourage them in stealing.”[17]

Although Z’s identity was unknown, his doctrine was Calvinist. Concluding his second letter, Z wrote with fervor:

The question is this,—does not your trading with them on the Sabbath encourage them to steal more than if you did not? . . . That their hearts are wicked by nature we learn from the Bible. All men whether white or black are by nature totally depraved. But whence have you learnt that the depravity of our blacks is greater than your own? Their forefathers might have maintained the same argument with respect to those of your color when they were stolen from Africa by the whites. The truth is there was a door opened to gain money by stealing the African; and now you open a door for the African to gain your money by stealing, and he thinks not of turning his back on it.—“The carnal mind is enmity against God” [1 Corinthians 15:33], whether the skin be white or black; only prepare the way for sin, and it is ready to walk in it.[18]    

In his third letter, Z dealt with the habit of lying as a natural accompaniment to stealing. Again, Z referred to the consequences of the practice of whites trading with blacks on the Sabbath: “. . . I do not say that every article that is stolen and every lie that is told, are consequences of trading with negroes on the Sabbath. But I do say that it is the core—the grand cause of the evils that have been ascribed to it.”[19]

Although most whites perhaps had little excuse for participating in Sunday trading other than their own unbelief in the Bible and its commandments, Z calculated that blacks’ primary excuse for their commerce on that day was, “‘I have no other time,’—thus he would throw the guilt on his master, whom I would ask, How often do your servants have any thing to sell at the Sabbath market?” If not more than once a month, as Z surmised, “. . . would you not prefer giving your servants that little time on the evening of a Saturday or some other day, to exposing them to all the evils and guilt consequent upon this breach of the Sabbath?” Closing his letter, Z challenged all slave owners: “As you regard the law of God and the salvation of your souls let this excuse of the negro be true no longer. . . . You will presently hear the account which your servants will have to render to their judge and your judge—And shall it then be heard from your servants, ‘I had no other time?’”[20]

Z’s fourth communication dealt with the whites who purchased from Sabbath-trading blacks. If whites refused “to deal with the servants on the Sabbath,” they “will be compelled to seek the permission of their owners to deal with you on some other day, and most owners will indulge them.” Apparently, Z was familiar with the excuse from some whites that apart from engaging in the Sabbath markets, they could not obtain the necessary articles.[21]

“Every one must unite in putting down this evil or it will continue,” Z implored. With timeless wisdom, he exhorted, “Do not wait for some one to set you an example in this thing, especially as you will lose nothing by it.” To do so “would be to throw away your independence of character, and tell the world that you love to trade on the Sabbath better than on any other day. . . . There is a virtue in setting a good example that every one does not feel nor understand.”[22]

With good reason, Z viewed Sabbath trading as inextricably tied to the welfare of communities: “Christians, as you regard the prosperity of your country and Christ’s kingdom,” domestic peace and social harmony as well as God’s law and the salvation of souls, “I entreat you to put down the practice of trading with the blacks on the Sabbath by every possible means in your power.” Saturday night thefts had been mentioned, in addition to the accompanying profanity and lying prevalent in such misadventures, but Z added that in the course of that evil “many horses have been ridden almost to death at night,” or injured, compounding the loss of thousands of articles stolen weekly to support the Sabbath markets. Z charged Sabbath-trading whites with heavy burdens: “But all this amount of loss and the consequent suffering you bring upon the community by this unholy traffic. . . . Will you not pause in your course lest the judgments of God come down upon you?”[23]

The identities of LOOKER ON and Z are unknown today, but their letters appeared in the Richmond newspaper of Virginia Presbyterians. Further, the writers expressed a Calvinist understanding of the Bible, in which the reader sought to allow the more clear passages to illuminate the less clear, thereby relying entirely upon the Scripture itself. The logical assumption, then, is that the writers were Presbyterians. (Had they been Baptists, probably they would have published in their own newspaper, the Religious Herald, which began in 1828.) One may surmise how many shared their convictions, but the conditions they described must have been widespread. In any case, their letters reached a relatively large audience. In 1831, the Southern Religious Telegraph – successor to Visitor and Telegraph – claimed some three thousand subscribers and was supported by Presbyterian churches and other Protestants throughout Virginia and North Carolina. (In that era, subscribers often shared their newspapers and periodicals with others, making a publication’s reach difficult to estimate.) In 1830 the weekly paper had eighty agents authorized to receive subscriptions in those two states, and a handful in several others. By 1836, there were one hundred thirty agents in Virginia and North Carolina alone.[24]

An 1830s’ Glimpse of Sabbath Markets

The two Virginians were not alone in their concerns for Sabbath markets. In 1831, “A NORTH CAROLINIAN” wrote to Rev. Amasa Converse, the Southern Religious Telegraph’s editor and proprietor, arguing strenuously in favor of teaching the slaves to read the Bible – as had other evangelicals, including Z. The writer’s experience had been that those slaves “who could read . . . rested their hopes for salvation on the evidences given in the Bible.” Generally, “. . . they have held on their way” in their walk as a Christian. However, NORTH CAROLINIAN also argued,

One advantage of learning [the slave] to read will be to keep him from running at night and on the Sabbath. . . . The practice of slaves running at night and on the Sabbath, is the source of, by far the larger portion of evils connected with this species of our population. A practice, now extremely prevalent, of negroes carrying their plunder to our country towns and other places, on the Sabbath, and trading to those who consider themselves very respectable gentlemen, is, if we were guilty of no other sins, sufficient to bring down upon us the just vengeance of Heaven.[25]

Clearly, not all white Southerners were opposed to Sabbath markets, however, even in the aftermath of Nat Turner’s revolt in August 1831. Barely two months later, the plan for presenting a petition to the Common Hall of Petersburg (Virginia) to abolish Sunday markets met with opposition. The Southern Religious Telegraph reported – perhaps tongue in cheek – that the Petersburg Intelligencer’s editor “is pleading very eloquently for the continuance of Sunday Markets.” The Petersburg editor charged there was no end “to the expedients of misguided zealots to control and govern private conduct and the public police.” Finding an argument in an old maxim of questionable origin, he quoted, “. . . where each one takes care of himself, the Lord will take care of us all.” As Presbyterian minister and literary and Sabbath advocate John Holt Rice had concluded years earlier – and with which the Virginia Sabbath Society later agreed – the majority of citizens did not feel “the force of religious obligation.” Further, Petersburg had suffered economically in the 1820s which, regardless of the logic, may have added fuel to the Petersburg Benevolent Mechanic Association’s support for continuing the Sabbath mails, if not also the maintaining of Sabbath markets.[26]

While perceived economic advantage contributed to the Sabbath views of some, perhaps many, the same was true for others’ understanding of their moral or religious obligations. Virginia Sabbath advocates noted the efforts of likeminded Englishmen in the 1830s, including the forming of a society in England for the uniting of “the friends of the Sabbath.” Richmond newspapers carried reports from the British House of Commons, which, in early 1833, issued a report identifying “Sunday trading” and the opening of shops and markets as among “the crying evils of the metropolis.” No less than seven thousand bakers had petitioned Parliament on the subject, seeking relief from Sabbath day labor. Several months later, the House of Commons held discussions on a bill for the better observance of the Sabbath. Either in this or a similar case, the bill had originated “with a number of humble individuals, tradesmen in . . . [London] and elsewhere.” By 1833 at least two groups, “The Lord’s day Society” and the “Sabbath Protection Society,” were active in London. For American Sabbath reformers generally, the news of their likeminded British cousins’ initiatives on behalf of the day’s better observance was of high interest and likely stirred a number of them to renewed efforts in their mutual cause.[27]


As a myriad of religious newspapers and other publications of the day made clear, including The Visitor and Telegraph in 1828, the Sabbath was “a Divine Institution, the observance of which is acknowledged to be most conducive to the virtue and intelligence of the community, and to individual and national prosperity.” The observations and arguments of commentators like LOOKER, Z, and NORTH CAROLINIAN suggested that the mundane matter of whites trading with blacks on the Sabbath – including the related problem of Saturday night thefts – was rampant throughout much of the South, even if not all churchmen or local leaders shared their degree of concern. Indeed, more than a few church members and magistrates practiced the very things of which the writers complained so vigorously.[28]

Genovese wrote of the gardens kept by most slaves in the Old South: “To a greater or lesser extent most slaveholders permitted their slaves to keep chickens and sometimes hogs and to raise vegetables. . . . The gardens . . . gradually became recognized by common consent as the slaves’ private property, however unsanctioned by law.” Given such widespread allowance, if not encouragement on the part of slaveowners, for their servants to grow a portion of their own food with any surplus assumed to be eligible for the market or trading – to whites – the matters surrounding such Sabbath transgressions were no small concern for many evangelicals and certain others, including magistrates. The Sabbath’s observance, then, which evangelicals tended to view as a more-or-less intangible matter, for whites – because its profanation “works ruin in a more secret and silent manner” (than intemperance, for example) – instead was on full display in the Sunday markets of Southern communities, for blacks and those whites who engaged with them.[29]

But why were markets and trading such a concern, if it be Sunday? Along with other societies and individuals in that era, the Virginia Sabbath Society put the answer in starkest terms: “To those who reflect upon the subject, it is obvious that without the moral, enlightening, and elevating influences of the Sabbath and its ordinances, ignorance, irreligion and licentiousness will increase till nothing but the strong arm of tyranny can restrain them from outraging the laws of God and men.”[30]

Moreover, it was noteworthy that the several evangelical, indeed, Calvinist, commentators – Presbyterians and many Baptists in the South best fit the description – demonstrated a genuine concern for the souls of the blacks as well as the whites of their communities. As Z lamented, “All men whether white or black are by nature totally depraved. But whence have you learnt that the depravity of our blacks is greater than your own?” A “great reformation” in regard to the Sabbath’s observance, declared the Virginia Sabbath Society, “. . . must begin at the House of God.” That was the answer to the soul’s deepest need, whether white or black. The Sabbath market – the shopping mall of its day – was the very antithesis.[31]


[1] Margaret DesChamps Moore, ed., “Letters of John Holt Rice to Thomas Chalmers, 1817-1819,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 67, no. 3 (Jul. 1959): 313, including quote (by Rice).

[2] “Nat Turner’s Revolt (1831),” Encyclopedia Virginia, at (Jun. 18, 2024).

[3] “The Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph [Richmond, Va.], Aug. 2, 1828, including quotes. The full name of the national organization was the General Union for Promoting the Observance of the Christian Sabbath.

[4] “The Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph, Aug. 2, 1828, including quotes [emphasis in original]; see also Forrest L. Marion, “‘All That is Pure in Religion and Valuable in Society’: Presbyterians, the Virginia Society, and the Sabbath, 1830-1836,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 109, no. 2 (2001): 187-218.

[5] “The Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph, Aug. 9, 1828, including quotes. For the similar problem in Judah of carrying “all kinds of loads” (Neh. 13:15) to market on the Jewish Sabbath, see Jeremiah 17 and Nehemiah 13. While many whites were tempted to use every day of the week for commercial gain, many blacks were tempted to use one day a week, the Sabbath. Members of both groups often profaned the first day of the week in the same ways.

[6] Marion, “‘All That is Pure in Religion,’” 198-99, including quote 1; “The Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph, Aug. 9, 1828, including quotes 2-3.

[7] The following commentator to the Visitor and Telegraph, “Z,” also addressed this matter.

[8] “The Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph, Aug. 9, 1828, including quotes.

[9] “The Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph, Aug. 9, 1828, including quotes [emphasis in original]; Marion, “‘All That is Pure in Religion,’” 199. The full name was the Virginia Society for Promoting the Observance of the Christian Sabbath.

[10] “Violation of the Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph, Sept. 5, 1829, including quotes.

[11] “Violation of the Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph, Sept. 5, 1829, including quotes.

[12] “Violation of the Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph, Sept. 5, 1829, including quotes [emphasis in original]; Richard R. John, Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1995), 158-59; “John Hartwell Cocke (1780-1866),” Encyclopedia Virginia, at (Jun. 8, 2024).

[13] “Violation of the Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph, Sept. 5, 1829, including quotes.

[14] “Violation of the Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph, Sept. 5, 1829, including quote.

[15] “Violation of the Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph, Sept. 5, 1829, including quotes [emphasis in original].

[16] Eugene D. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (New York, 1976 [1972]), 599-602, including quotes 1-2; “Violation of the Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph, Sept. 12, 1829, including quotes 3-5.

[17] “Violation of the Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph, Sept. 12, 1829, including quotes.

[18] “Violation of the Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph, Sept. 12, 1829, including quote.

[19] “Violation of the Sabbath—No. III,” Visitor and Telegraph, Sept. 19, 1829, including quote.

[20] “Violation of the Sabbath—No. III,” Visitor and Telegraph, Sept. 19, 1829, including quotes [emphasis in original].

[21] “Violation of the Sabbath—No. IV,” Visitor and Telegraph, Oct. 3, 1829, including quotes.

[22] “Violation of the Sabbath—No. IV,” Visitor and Telegraph, Oct. 3, 1829, including quotes [emphasis in original].

[23] “Violation of the Sabbath—No. IV,” Visitor and Telegraph, Oct. 3, 1829, including quotes.

[24] Southern Religious Telegraph, Jun. 12, 1830, and Jul. 29, 1836.

[25] Southern Religious Telegraph, Feb. 19, 1831, including quotes.

[26] “Sunday Markets,” Southern Religious Telegraph, Oct. 28, 1831, including quotes 1-3; John Holt Rice to John Hartwell Cocke, Jul. 1, 1828, Misc. Box 3, John Holt Rice Faculty Writings (Union Presbyterian Seminary, Richmond, Va.), including quote 4; Petition of inhabitants of the City of Petersburg, Virginia, (Received) Feb. 8, 1830, Petitions Received, RG233 (National Archives); Petersburg Benevolent Mechanic Association records, 1825-1836 (Virginia Historical Society); Suzanne Lebsock, The Free Women of Petersburg: Status and Culture in a Southern Town, 1784-1860 (New York, 1984), 213-15; James G. Scott and Edward A. Wyatt, IV, Petersburg’s Story, A History (Petersburg, Va., 1960), 70; Marion, “‘All That is Pure in Religion,’” 204. Rice died in Sept. 1831.

[27] “Sanctification of the Sabbath,” Southern Religious Telegraph, Aug. 12, 1831, including quote 1; “Sabbath Reform in England,” Southern Religious Telegraph, Mar. 1, 1833, including quotes 2-3; “British House of Commons,” Richmond Enquirer, Jul. 9, 1833, including quote 4; “Third Annual Report of the Virginia Society . . . Christian Sabbath,” Southern Religious Telegraph, Apr. 12, 1833, including quotes 5-6. Unlike most of the moral reform movements of the period, the Sabbath reform began on the American side of the Atlantic before moving to England.

[28] “Meeting in Philadelphia for Sabbath Reform,” Visitor and Telegraph, Dec. 27, 1828, including quote.

[29] Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll, 535-38, including quote 1; “Sanctification of the Sabbath,” Southern Religious Telegraph, Aug. 12, 1831, including quote 2 [emphasis in original]. For the relatively intangible evidences of improved Sabbath sanctification, see “Second Annual Report, Of the Managers of the Virginia Society . . . Christian Sabbath,” Southern Religious Telegraph, Apr. 13, 1832.

[30] “The Society for Promoting the Observance of the Sabbath,” Southern Religious Telegraph, Apr. 8, 1836, including quote.

[31] “Violation of the Sabbath,” Visitor and Telegraph, Sept. 12, 1829, including quote 1; “Second Annual Report, Of the Managers of the Virginia Society . . . Christian Sabbath,” Southern Religious Telegraph, Apr. 13, 1832, including quotes 2-3 [emphasis in original].

Forrest L. Marion

Forrest L. Marion graduated from the Virginia Military Institute with a BS degree in civil engineering. He earned an MA in military history from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in American history from the University of Tennessee. Since 1998, Dr. Marion has served as a staff historian and oral historian at the Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Commissioned in 1980, he retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 2010. Forrest L. Marion graduated from the Virginia Military Institute with a BS degree in civil engineering. He earned an MA in military history from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in American history from the University of Tennessee.


  • Matt C. says:

    I wonder if there were Christian men in the South then who had some understanding of the Bible rightly divided? Can’t recall if Darby made it south any, but he had some light on right division, and later C.I. Scofield. He learned some more light on right division (dispensationalism). Later, O’Hair, Stam, Baker recovered some more of that very important truth. Believer’s today who understand Paul and understand God’s program with Israel and understand the need to keep those programs distinct, stand on those men’s shoulders. A shame there didn’t seem to be more understanding of Bible right division in the early 19th century South. Might have spared much confusion and angst about the Sabbath, which has to do with God’s program with Israel, not the Christian church.

Leave a Reply