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Victorians and the Sabbath

Updated on February 16, 2015

When, Queen Victoria was crowned Queen of England the Victorian society followed a strict observance of the Sabbath. The middle to upper classes observed the practice of abstaining from visiting, feasting, indulgence, buying and selling, working, worldly amusements, and traveling. If the law of the Sabbath was broken in any way, the consequences, especially for the wealthy in society was seen as a violation of the human and animal rights. For the wealthy to break the Sabbath it was considered firstly an example of foolishness to friends and family, an insult to God, injury to themselves and a bad example to servants.

The satirical magazine Punch was the first to draw joking cartoons following the recent legislation passed through Parliament forbidding the sale of beer on Sundays. Punch continued to print a series of cartoons poking fun at the Victorian law of the Sabbath. More of an amusement for the Victorians rather than an attack on people’s moral values in society.

Andrew Asknew a politician despised the working classes to such a degree, he came up with a Sabbath bill of observance by taking away from the poorest of society, any of their usual freedoms they normally indulged in on Sundays. Charles Dickens the famous Author wrote a pamphlet called ‘Sunday under three heads’. In the pamphlet, he strongly opposed the Parliament’s bill, which outlined his own strong stance against it. Dickens felt strongly that Askew was just simply attacking the working classes. In the novel, he wrote Hard Times the fictional character sleazy the owner of a circus, took a strong stance against the working class whom he employed, by restricting their Sunday activities. The bill provoked widespread anger across the nation, Parliament finally rejected in 1836. Asknew had failed in his attempt to enforce his bill, with that he resigned from Parliament.

Over the Atlantic in the eighteen hundred's Americans believed strongly in the obeying the laws of the Sabbath, it was a moral duty for Americans. In fact, it was regarded by many that the vices of Americans such a drinking alcohol was leading to a moral decline across the USA. In the early twentieth-century observance of the Sabbath was seen as less of the observance for many Americans. Protestants who had in the past century, tried to enforce the Sabbath, felt that as the standard of living in a new century of increasing technology had changed their once strong stance.


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