The Rest of the Story

Title: The Rest of the Story
Category: Preaching
Subject: Illustrations and their Authenticity

John Wesley and General James Oglethorpe: THE REST OF THE STORY

Robert Wright explains, "Anecdotes, it should be remembered, are often deceptive. As a general rule those which manifestly point to a definite purpose are sure to misrepresent the circumstances out of which they originated, and when a writer evidently desires to glorify one man at the expense of another, it may be concluded that, whatever germ of fact may be contained in the story, his version of it is calculated to mislead. A second anecdote related by the Rev. Henry Moore [1751–1844] exhibits palpable evidence of exaggeration:-- 'Mr. Wesley hearing an unusual noise in the cabin of General Oglethorpe, stepped in to inquire the cause; on which the General immediately addressed him:--'Mr. Wesley, you must excuse me. I have met with a provocation too much for a man to bear. You know, the only wine I drink is Cyprus wine, as it agrees with me the best of any. I therefore provided myself with several dozens of it, and this villain, Grimaldi (his foreign servant, who was present and almost dead with fear), has drunk nearly the whole of it. But I will be revenged. He shall be tied hand and foot, and carried to the man-of-war. The rascal should have taken care how he used me so; for I never forgive.’ 'Then I hope, Sir,' said Mr. Wesley, looking calmly at him, 'you never sin.’ The General was quite confounded at the reproof; after a pause putting his hand into his pocket, he took out a bunch of keys which he threw at Grimaldi, saying, 'There, villain! take my keys, and behave better for the future.'“ ['Life of the Rev. John Wesley,' vol. i. p. 258]

The foregoing anecdote is so circumstantially told, that one might fancy the narrator to have been a by-stander. But he was not born at the time; and only professes to have heard it from Wesley some fifty years afterwards. Wesley's memory then failed him; for otherwise he would have remembered that the sloop-of-war was separated from her consorts by a violent gale, on the day after they sailed, and did not join them again during the whole voyage. [Francis Moore's Journal, p. 15] The Cyprus wine must have been very tempting indeed, if Grimaldi had consumed several dozens of it by that time. But, evidently the biographer's object was to magnify Wesley, and by putting the words 'I never forgive' into Oglethorpe's mouth--words which it is by no means probable he ever uttered--to give a handle for the young missionary's sanctimonious rebuke.

The voyagers had prayers twice a day. The missionaries expounding the Scriptures, catechized the children, and on Sundays administered the Sacrament; while the Dissenters, of whom there were many on board, especially amongst the Germans, sung psalms and served God in their own way. Mr. Oglethorpe had laid in a large supply of live-stock and various dainties, though he himself seldom used any but the ordinary provisions. Not only the gentlemen, his private friends, ate at his table, but through the whole passage he invited the missionaries and the captain of the ship, who together made twelve in number, to partake of his hospitality. The poorer emigrants were divided into messes, and with the salt meat they were served with vegetables which contributed to prevent the scurvy. The holds were partitioned into cabins, with a gangway, which they called 'the street' along the middle; and each family had a separate cabin, the single men being by themselves. Constables were appointed by the Governor to preserve order; and during the voyage there was no occasion to punish any one, except a boy who was whipped for stealing turnips.

Whenever the weather permitted, the ships were cleaned between decks and washed with vinegar. Thead, worsted, knitting-needles, etc., were distributed amongst the women, who employed themselves in making stockings and caps for their families, or in mending their clothes; and every favourable day the men were exercised with small-arms. Mr. Oglethorpe also, when occasion offered, called together all those who were designed to be freeholders, recommended to them how to behave themselves, informed them of the nature of the country of their adoption, and how to settle in it advantageously.

In order to reach the Trade Winds they sailed southwards as far as the 19th degree of north latitude, so that at Christmas they found the weather as hot as midsummer in England, and the passengers consequently became sickly. But Mr. Oglethorpe visited them constantly, and gave them fowl for broth, with other refreshments of his own; and as they had also a skilful surgeon, not a soul died from the time they left the Downs till their arrival in Georgia; but on the contrary their numbers were increased by four births at sea. Whenever the weather was calm enough to permit, Oglethorpe went on board the 'London Merchant' to see that like care was taken of the people in that vessel, with which the 'Symond' kept company all the way.

As they approached the Georgian coast they found the weather bitterly cold, and the wind blew so hard that they were obliged to lie to under reefed mainsails. On the 2nd of February, 1736, they spoke a homeward-bound ship which lay by whilst Oglethorpe wrote letters for England; and at length, on the evening of the 4th, they described land, which proved to be the island of Tybee at the entrance to the Savannah. They lay on and off that night, and next day cast anchor in the river, under the shelter of Tybee, 'where,' says John Wesley, 'the groves of pines running along the shore made an agreeable prospect, showing, as it were, the bloom of spring in the depth of winter.'"


Robert Wright, A Memoir of General James Oglethorpe: One of the Earliest Reformers of Prison Discipline in England, and the Founder of Georgia, in America (London: Chapman and Hall, 1867), pp. 101-105