The era of the founding in America, roughly from the beginning of the Revolutionary War in 1775 through the presidency of Andrew Jackson (the last president who was a veteran of that conflict), was also the era of most dynamic growth for the United Society of Believers. How large did the Shakers loom in the consciousness of the founding fathers, the very people who crafted a government that protected the religious liberty that allowed the Shakers to flourish? Searching the magnificent resource at Founders Online provided at least a partial answer to that question.That site, combined with John Quincy Adams’s remarkable diaries, digitized by the Massachusetts Historical Society, and a few select print publications, have yielded a number of fascinating references to the Shakers in the writings of the founders—and also one of the few known letters written by a Shaker directly to a president. This article does not pretend to be the final word on this subject, but it is hoped that the information below—some of which I believe is new to scholars—will spur further research into perceptions of the Shakers in the early Republic.
American Communal Societies Quarterly