Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An important national story of the Methodist Episcopal Church split into northern and southern factions over the meaning of slavery.

I look forward to reading The Accidental Slaveowner in its entirety. In researching the life of my 4x gr-grandfather, Rev. William Hardesty (1776-1846), whose father George and uncle Rev. John Hagerty (1747-1823) preceded him into Methodism, I became aware of the sect’s migration from founder John Wesley’s unconditional opposition to slavery. After Wesley's death in 1791 and prior to the church’s 1840 decree that holding slaves was deemed no barrier to becoming a minister or assuming higher office, it was general custom for men entering leadership roles or inheriting slaves to transfer ownership of their property to family members.

“…many Methodist preachers, taken from comparative poverty, not able to own a negro, and who preached loudly against it, improved, and became popular among slaveholders; and many of them married into those slaveholding families, and became personally interested in slave property (as it is called). [Sic.] Then they began to apologize for the evil; then to justify it, on legal principles; then on Bible principles; till lo and behold! it is not an evil, but a good! it is not a curse, but a blessing! till really you would think, to hear them tell the story, if you had the means and did not buy a good lot of them, you would go to the devil for not enjoying the labor, toil, and sweat of this degraded race …” – from Autobiography of Rev. Peter Cartwright, The Backwoods Preacher, ed. Strickland, Methodist Book Concern, NY, 1856

From a post to the author's (Mark Auslander's) web site.

Bold face indicates subject is likely in author's direct, ancestral line.

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