John Wesley’s Rebuke to the Rebels of British America: Revisiting the 'Calm Address'

Glen O'Brien

Abstract


This essay revisits John Wesley's A Calm Address to Our American Colonies in an attempt to contribute to the renewed interest in the global and transatlantic dimensions of the American Revolution, particularly its religious aspects. Mapping Methodist responses to the Revolution on both sides of the Atlantic may provide a helpful microcosm of responses in the broader religious world. It cautions against seeing Wesley's political views as extreme Toryism and draws on recent scholarship to demonstrate that Wesley supported a constitutional monarchy since its finely tuned balance of power between king, parliament and people needed only to be preserved in order for genuine liberty to prevail. The myth that Methodists destroyed copies of the Calm Address when they reached America in order to avoid being seen as Loyalists is disproved. Methodist responses to the Revolution were varied, ranging from strong opposition to active support, but Wesley's political views were not unusual in the hotly contested world of eighteenth-century rhetoric on liberty even if Methodists would distance themselves from them in the more politically reformist atmosphere of the nineteenth century.


Keywords


John Wesley; Methodism; The American Revolution

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Methodist Review, ISSN: 1946-5254 (online), copyright © 2009-2017 by The Methodist Review, Inc.