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Peter Cartwright, Legendary Frontier Preacher

Peter Cartwright, Legendary Frontier Preacher

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Peter Cartwright, Legendary Frontier Preacher
    Book Description:

    Believing deeply that the gospel touched every aspect of a person's life, Peter Cartwright was a man who held fast to his principles, resulting in a life of itinerant preaching and thirty years of political quarrels with Abraham Lincoln. Peter Cartwright, Legendary Frontier Preacher is the first full-length biography of this most famous of the early nineteenth-century Methodist circuit-riding preachers. _x000B_Robert Bray tells the full story of the long relationship between Cartwright and Lincoln, including their political campaigns against each other, their social antagonisms, and their radical disagreements on the Christian religion, as well as their shared views on slavery and the central fact of their being "self-made."_x000B_In addition, the biography examines in close detail Cartwright's instrumental role in Methodism's bitter "divorce" of 1844, in which the southern conferences seceded in a remarkable prefigurement of the United States a decade later. Finally, Peter Cartwright attempts to place the man in his appropriate national context: as a potent "man of words" on the frontier, a self-authorizing "legend in his own time," and, surprisingly, an enduring western literary figure. _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09059-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PROLOGUE: Virginians
    (pp. 1-4)

    Born, he said long after, in Amherst County, September 1, 1785.¹ Born, he didn’t say, a year and a half before his parents married.² Born, he said from legendary twilight, in a canebrake where his mother had been hastily hidden during an Indian attack.³ And born again at a frontier Kentucky revival in 1801 (37–38). Vague about Virginia, as he would be vague about Kentucky and Illinois, indeed about most places and persons, particularly himself, he spoke in passing of an early boyhood somewhere “on James River” near the Blue Ridge, ensuring that anyone looking for the spot would...


    • CHAPTER 1 Conviction
      (pp. 7-23)

      Exactly when the Cartwrights left Virginia for Kentucky isn’t known, but it was probably in the late summer or fall of 1790, in the first of several removals, always instigated by the father and always into emptier western territory. They were literally following in the tracks of thousands of Virginians who had gone before. In the years since 1783 and peace with Britain, the Cartwrights had watched the emigrant stream flow by, heading southward along the Blue Ridge—like an endless parade across their dooryard—then west over the mountains. Now, after selling their bit of property and preparing as...

    • CHAPTER 2 Conversion
      (pp. 24-49)

      The next day Cartwright could see again. But the anxiety he felt only increased. It was the first stage of a long conviction, a winter of the soul that would literally last until spring. Over those months his struggles would be both personal and social. He tried to discipline himself by reading from his Testament and retiring “many times to secret prayer through the day,” but still he found no relief from distress (33–34). Word of his condition quickly got around, and his cohorts in the “good life,” hearing they were to be rejected, soon appeared to try to...

    • CHAPTER 3 Commitment
      (pp. 50-74)

      As a newly ordained Methodist deacon Cartwright was now, in the words of Asbury’s “parchment,” “a proper person to administer the ordinance of baptism, marriage, and the burial of the dead … and to feed the flock of Christ” in the absence of elders (98). This authority he carried to Muskingum Circuit—also known as Marietta, for the eastern Ohio town founded by New Englanders, mostly Revolutionary War veterans, in 1788. Cartwright had never seen a Yankee but was wary from what he’d heard of them: “It was said they lived almost entirely on pumpkins, molasses, fat meat, and bohea...

    • CHAPTER 4 Controversy
      (pp. 75-100)

      The Peter Cartwright of 1856, the self-exiled Kentucky elder in Illinois, the still-contentious writer of the Autobiography, unequivocally denounced the institution of slavery as a “moral evil,” by which he meant both a religious and civil sin. And there is no reason to believe he had not held this view at least since entering the church in 1802. Yet, like Abraham Lincoln at the same time in his life, he was not an abolitionist. “I will not attempt to enumerate the moral evils that have been produced by slavery; their name is legion … notwithstanding these are my honest views...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)

    • CHAPTER 5 Politics
      (pp. 103-137)

      The plan was to shake the “parting hand” and make his “best bow” to the brethren at the Kentucky Conference in Shelbyville, turn around and ride back to Hopkinsville, pack up what he termed his “little plunder,” and start for Illinois. He hoped to attend his first Illinois Conference and then proceed to the family’s new home in Sangamon County (247). Thus would Peter Cartwright keep his record of always being timely. It would be a close thing: the Kentucky preachers began their meetings on September 23, 1824,¹ while the Illinois Conference was set for exactly a month later at...

    • CHAPTER 6 Power
      (pp. 138-161)

      The first meeting between Peter Cartwright and Abraham Lincoln with any claim on historical credibility—and it’s a shaky one at that—took place in a field in Island Grove Township, Sangamon County, Illinois, in the summer or autumn of 1831—or 1830, or 1832! Folklore and legend, acting in the interests of an almost biblical mythography, have tried to bring the two heroes together before this, in Indiana, sometime around 1820.¹ But after Vincennes in 1812–13, Cartwright had no circuits in Indiana to ride or supervise, and there is no evidence that he even passed through the Pigeon...

    • CHAPTER 7 Perishing
      (pp. 162-190)

      The general conference of 1836 convened in Cincinnati on Monday, May 2, with Cartwright back in his delegated place after having missed 1832.¹ He found himself sitting figuratively if not literally smack between the New England abolitionists, who were now demanding immediate and unconditional adherence to the Discipline’s rule on slavery, and the southern apologists, who were increasingly adopting the latest political ideology back home, namely, that slavery, heretofore a “necessary” evil, was actually a good thing—for the owned as well as the owners. Cartwright continued to have no use for either “ultra” party and was dismayed at the...

    • CHAPTER 8 Public
      (pp. 191-219)

      Assuming two weeks’ travel west from New York (by stagecoach and steamboat), Cartwright would have arrived back home sometime toward the end of June. He had been away for more than two months. Besides farm and family work to catch up on, there was presiding elder business to see to around his Jacksonville District. And he needed to make his church-political plans for the September meeting of the Illinois Annual Conference. All the delegates returning from New York either carried with them or soon would receive by mail copies of the twelve resolutions comprising the Plan of Separation. Reporting its...

    • CHAPTER 9 Preacher
      (pp. 220-243)

      What began as a minor objection to the passage of a preacher’s character at the 1847 Illinois annual conference ended up as a decade-long, poisonous personal quarrel between Peter Cartwright and Daniel J. Snow, the minister in question. Snow, who had joined the Illinois Conference in the early 1840s, was deeply involved with the American Colonization Society. This of itself was fine with his brother preachers, many of whom supported the resettlement of freed African Americans in Liberia (Cartwright was lukewarm at best about colonization). Where Snow erred was in combining his agency for the Society—a paid position—with...

    • CHAPTER 10 Pasture
      (pp. 244-276)

      During the late spring of 1856, while he was still laboring on the last portions of his manuscript, Cartwright had taken time off from writing to attend the general conference in Indianapolis. This would be his eleventh time as a delegate, and for once he didn’t have to travel far or hard to get to the place. Indianapolis was the westernmost location yet for the quadrennial convention, the site perhaps an indication of how important the midwestern conferences had become to a church that had to grow in the middle and far western states if it were to grow at...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 277-300)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 301-314)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-316)