Letter

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 DDWes/6/1
  • Former Reference
      GB 135 DDWes/6/1
      GB 135 Wesley Letters Black Folio, page 1.
  • Dates of Creation
      27 Jun 1705

Scope and Content

From Samuel Wesley in Lincoln Castle to Revd. John Hutton at Wappenham, Northamptonshire, detailing the underlying reasons for his imprisonment as a debtor.

Wesley was forewarned of the animosity of the dissenting interest toward him during his stay in London between February and April. In a series of meetings with an unnamed 'person of no mean quality', he was urged to retract his printed criticism of the dissenters, or risk the issue being raised during the next session of the House of Commons the dissenters had already had to be dissuaded from petitioning the House of Lords. Wesley's reaction was the opposite to what his enemies had hoped for, as he resolved 'to trim no longer', but rather to entrust his fortunes to God's hands.

During his stay in London, Wesley was rewarded for his poem praising Marlborough's victory at Blenheim, with a chaplaincy in Colonel Lepell's newly raised regiment. The appointment was signed by Marlborough at Harwich in Essex just prior to his embarkation for the Low Countries. The Archbishop of York [John Sharp] was instrumental in acquiring him the chaplaincy. Reference is also made to Wesley's hopes of being appointed a prebend.

Wesley's stay in the capital was prolonged to the extent that his money ran out, and he was reduced to eating bread and meat on alternate days, but he would rather have starved than give in to the demands of his enemies. The Archbishop of York regularly invited him to dine at his table.

Before returning to Lincolnshire, Wesley decided to publicly declare his support for the two local members of Parliament, who had defended the Church of England during the last session. As he had previously been attached to their rival Mr Whichcott, he wrote explaining his reasons for now speaking against him. In his reply Whichcott described Wesley as 'perfidious and ungrateful' charges which Wesley utterly rejects. As a result of Whichcott's influence Wesley was stripped of his chaplaincy, as noted by [Daniel] Defoe in The Review. As a justification for his action Wesley's former Colonel stated that his chaplain's published opinions had angered the Royal court.

Of Wesley's fellow clergymen, Mr Morris remains firm while Herring and Ashburn stay away.

During the run in to the election, Wesley and his family had their rest disturbed by rival supporters 'tho my wife was in childbed', and one gentleman 'publicly proclaimed me rogue & rascal'. While assisting Mr Ashburn at a funeral at Belton Church, a mob in the churchyard shouted that Wesley was 'papist, Jacobite, traitor…'.

Even after the election he was threatened with physical violence, incarceration and ejection from his regiment.

One of Whichcott's relatives demanded payment of a debt, although he was aware of Wesley's inability to pay, because of the cost of the London trip, the deliberate burning of the flax, the blowing away of his barn, and the partial destruction of the Rectory by fire. He was subsequently arrested in his own church yard by a former servant.

Despite his confinement he remains comfortable in his own mind, 'since I would not have suffered it if I would have deserted the cause of the Universitys and the Church of England'.

In a postscript he mentions that the sum in question is almost £30 even if he could pay this he still owes almost £300, so he would in fact be no better off.

[Daniel Defoe was a contemporary of Samuel Wesley at the Newington Green Non conformist academy in London. Source: Dictionary of National Biography.]