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The Jury’s Charge against Wesley

Tuesday, 16.—Mrs. Williamson swore to and signed an affidavit insinuating much more than it asserted; but asserting that Mr. Wesley had many times proposed marriage to her, all which proposals she rejected. Of this I desire a copy. Mr. Causton replied: “Sir, you may have one from any of the newspapers in America.”

On Thursday and Friday was delivered out a list of twenty-six men, who were to meet as a grand jury on Monday, the twenty-second. But this list was called in the next day, and twenty-four names added to it. Of this grand jury (forty-four of whom only met), one was a Frenchman, who did not understand English; one a Papist, one a professed infidel, three Baptists, sixteen or seventeen other Dissenters, and several others who had personal quarrels against me and had openly vowed revenge.

To this grand jury, on Monday, 22, Mr. Causton gave a long and earnest charge “to beware of spiritual tyranny, and to oppose the new, illegal authority which was usurped over their consciences.” Then Mrs. Williamson’s affidavit was read; after which, Mr. Causton delivered to the grand jury a paper, entitled:

“A List of grievances, presented by the grand jury for Savannah, this  day of August, 1737.”

This the majority of the grand jury altered in some particulars, and on Thursday, September 1, delivered it again to the court, under the form of two presentments, containing ten bills, which were then read to the people.

Herein they asserted, upon oath, “That John Wesley, clerk, had broken the laws of the realm, contrary to the peace of our Sovereign Lord the King, his crown and dignity.

“1. By speaking and writing to Mrs. Williamson against her husband’s consent.

“2. By repelling her from the holy communion.

“3. By not declaring his adherence to the Church of England.

“4. By dividing the morning service on Sundays.

“5. By refusing to baptize Mr. Parker’s child, otherwise than by dipping, except the parents would certify it was weak and not able to bear it.

“6. By repelling William Gough from the holy communion.

“7. By refusing to read the burial service over the body of Nathaniel Polhill.

“8.           By calling himself Ordinary of Savannah.

“9. By refusing to receive William Aglionby as a godfather, only because he was not a communicant.

“10. By refusing Jacob Matthews for the same reason; and baptizing an Indian trader’s child with only two sponsors.” (This, I own, was wrong; for I ought, at all hazards, to have refused baptizing it till he had procured a third.)

Friday, September 2.—Was the third court at which I appeared since my being carried before Mr. P. and the Recorder.

I now moved for an immediate hearing on the first bill, being the only one of a civil nature; but it was refused. I made the same motion in the afternoon, but was put off till the next court-day.

On the next court-day I appeared again, as also at the two courts following, but could not be heard, because (the Judge said) Mr. Williamson was gone out of town.

The sense of the minority of the grand jurors themselves (for they were by no means unanimous) concerning these presentments may appear from the following paper, which they transmitted to the trustees:

To the Honorable the Trustees for Georgia.

“Whereas two presentments have been made: the one of August 23, the other of August 31, by the grand jury for the town and county of Savannah, in Georgia, against John Wesley, Clerk.

“We whose names are underwritten, being members of the said grand jury, do humbly beg leave to signify our dislike of the said presentments; being, by many and divers circumstances, thoroughly persuaded in ourselves that the whole charge against Mr. Wesley is an artifice of Mr. Causton’s, designed rather to blacken the character of Mr. Wesley than to free the colony from religious tyranny, as he was pleased, in his charge to us, to term it. But as these circumstances will be too tedious to trouble your Honors with, we shall only beg leave to give the reasons of our dissent from the particular bills…..”

Friday, October 7.—I consulted my friends as to whether God did not call me to return to England. The reason for which I left it had now no force, there being no possibility as yet of instructing the Indians; neither had I, as yet, found or heard of any Indians on the continent of America who had the least desire of being instructed. And as to Savannah, having never engaged myself, either by word or letter, to stay there a day longer than I should judge convenient, nor ever taken charge of the people any otherwise than as in my passage to the heathens, I looked upon myself to be fully discharged therefrom, by the vacating of that design. Besides, there was a probability of doing more service to that unhappy people in England, than I could do in Georgia, by representing, without fear or favor, to the trustees the real state the colony was in. After deeply considering these things, they were unanimous that I ought to go, but not yet. So I laid the thoughts of it aside for the present; being persuaded that when the time was come, God would “make the way plain before my face.”

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