Charles Woodmason, diary and sermon notes (1767-1768).

Hooker, Richard J., ed.  The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution: The Journal and Other Writings of Charles Woodmason, Anglican Itinerant.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1953.  pp. 15, 36, 52-53, 53, 56, 60-61, 98-103.


February 7, 1767

At all these Places I've been at, I read the King's Proclamation against Vice and Immorality, which has had very good Effects.  For thro' want of Ministers to marry and thro' the licentiousness of the People, many hundreds live in Concubinage -- swopping their Wives as Cattel, and living in a State of nature, more irregularly and unchastely than the Indians -- I therefore made Public Notice ev'ry be given, that whoever did not attend to be legally married, I would prosecute them at the Sessions -- and that all who had liv'd in a State of Concubinage on application to me, I would marry Gratis -- Numbers accepted of my Offer, and were married, and then I baptize'd their Children....

[April?] 1767

Wednesday I went to the family on the Wateree Creek a most romantic Situation -- a fine farm, and neat decent People.  Here my Horse was took good Care off, and I got some Milk, and a fowl broil'd -- the 1st fresh Meat had tasted for some time.  I was very weak and reduc'd in flesh, Yet made a long Discourse, on the Subject of Baptism and Regeneration -- The Congregation was the best drest, and wellbehav'd sensible religious People that [I] have met with in these Parts.  I baptized 5 Adults and 10 Infants....
 

August 5-7, 1768

In this Circuit of a fortnight I've eaten Meat but thrice, and drank nought but Water -- Subsisting on my Bisket and Rice Water and Musk Melons, Cucumbers, Green Apples and Peaches and such Trash.  By which am reduc'd very thin.  It is impossible that any Gentleman not season'd to the Clime, could sustain this -- It would kill 99 out of 100 -- Nor is this a Country, or place where I would wish any Gentleman to travel, or settle, altho' Religion and the State requires a Number of Ministers -- Their Ignorance and Impudence is so very high, as to be past bearing -- Very few can read -- fewer write -- Out of 5000 that have attended Sermon this last Month, I have not got 50 to sign a Petition to the Assembly.  They are very Poor -- owing to their extreme Indolence for they possess the finest Country in America, and could raise but ev'ry thing.  They delight in their present low, lazy, sluttish, heathenish, hellish Life, and seem not desirous of changing it.  Both Men and Women will do any thing to come at Liquor, Cloaths, furniture, &c. &c. rather than work for it -- Hence their many Vices -- their gross Licentiousness[,] Wantonness, Lasciviousness, Rudeness, Lewdness, and Profligacy they will commit the grossest Enormities, before my face, and laugh at all Admonition.

Last Sunday I distributed the last Parcel of Mr. Warings Tracts on Prayer, because most of them are of various Opinions the Husband a Churchman, Wife, a Dissenter, Children nothing at all.  My Bibles and Common Prayers have been long gone, and I have given away to amount of L20 of Practical Books, besides those I received of the Society -- Few or no Books are to be found in all this vast Country, beside the Assembly, Catechism, Watts Hymns, Bunyans Pilgrims Progress -- Russells -- Whitefields and Erskines Sermons.  Nor do they delight in Historical Books or in having them read to them, as do our Vulgar in England for these People despise Knowledge, and instead of honouring a Learned Person, or any one of Wit or Knowledge be it in the Arts, Sciences or Languages, they despise and Ill treat them -- And this Spirit prevails even among the Principals of this Province.

Now will come on their Season of Festivity and Drunkenness -- The Stills will be soon at Work for to make Whisky and Peach Brandy -- In this Article, both Presbyterians and Episcopals very charitably agree (Viz.) That of getting Drunk.

August 7, 1768

....About 10 Miles from this Creek, on East and West Side of the Wateree River, live a Number of Seventh Day Baptists.  I read the Laws in force for due Observance of the Lords Day and sent to them to forbear Working, Planting, Riding[,] Carting and other Avocations and not to give Offence to their Christian Brethren by such Illegal Practices or I should carry the Laws into Execution.  In Return for my Admonitions, they sent a Message That if I offer'd to come into their Parts for to preach they would give me Corporal Punishment -- To such heights of Insolence are these Sectaries grown.

August 16, 1768

In Consequence of a Promise made, set off this Morning with a Guide for Flatt Creek -- Here I found a vast Body of People assembled -- Such a Medley!  such a mixed Multitude of all Classes and Complexions I never saw.  I baptized about 20 Children and Married 4 Couple -- Most of these People had never before seen a Minister, or heard the Lords Prayer, Service or Sermon in their Days.  I was a Great Curiosity to them -- And they were as great Oddities to me.  After Service they went to Revelling Drinking Singing Dancing and Whoring -- and most of the Company were drunk before I quitted the Spot -- They were as rude in their Manners as the Common Savages, and hardly a degree removed from them.  Their Dresses almost as loose and Naked as the Indians, and differing in Nothing save Complexion -- I could not conceive from whence this vast Body could swarm -- But this country contains ten times the Number of Persons beyond my Apprehension.

September 3-4, 1768

Rode down the Country on the West Side [of] the Wateree River into the Fork between that and the Congaree River -- This is out of my Bounds -- But their having no Minister, and their falling (therefrom) continually from the Church to Anabaptism, inclin'd me to it -- The People received me gladly and very kindly.  Hand on Sunday 4 -- a Company of about 150 -- Most of them of the Low Class -- the principal Planters living on the Margin of these Rivers.

Baptiz'd 1 Negroe Man -- 2 Negroe Children -- and 9 White Infants and married 1 Couple -- The People thanked me in the most kind Manner for my Services -- I had very pleasant Riding but my Horse suffered Greatly.  The Mornings and Evenings now begin to be somewhat Cool, but the Mid day heat is almost intolerable -- Many of these People walk 10 or 12 Miles with their Children in the burning Sun -- Ought such to be without the Word of God, when so earnest, so desirous of hearing it and becoming Good Christians, and good Subjects!  How lamentable to think, that the Legislature of this Province will make no Provision -- so rich, so luxurious a People!  Yet they are deaf to all Solicitations, and look on the poor White People in a Meaner Light than their Black Slaves, and care less for them.  Withal there is such a Republican Spirit still left, so much of the Old Leaven of Lord Shaftsbury and other the 1st principal Settlers still remains, that they seem not at all disposed to promote the Interest of the Church of England -- Hence it is that above 30,000L Sterling have lately been expended to bring over 5 or 6000 Ignorant, mean, worthless, beggarly Irish Presbyterians, the Scum of the Earth, and Refuse of Mankind, and this, solely to ballance the Emigrations of People from Virginia, who are all of the Established church.

It will require much Time and Pains to New Model and form the Carriage and Manners, as well as the Morals of these wild Peoples -- Among this Congregation not one had a Bible or Common Prayer -- or could join a Person or hardly repeat the Creed or Lords Prayer -- Yet all of 'em had been educated in the Principles of our Church.  So that I am obliged to read the Whole Service, omitting such Parts, as are Repetitious, and retaining those that will make the different Services somewhat Uniform -- Hence it is, that I can but seldom use the Litany, because they know not the responses.

It would be (as I once observ'd before) a Great Novelty to a Londoner to see one of these Congregations -- The Men with only a thin Shirt and pair of Breeches or Trousers on -- barelegged and barefooted -- The Women bareheaded, barelegged, and barefoot with only a thin Shift and under Petticoat -- Yet I cannot break [them] of this -- for the heat of the Weather admits not of any [but] thin Cloathing -- I can hardly bear the Weight of my Whig and Gown, during Service.  The Young Women have a most uncommon Practise, which I cannot break them off.  They draw their Shift as tight as possible to the Body, and pin it close, to shew the roundness of their Breasts, and slender Waists (for they are generally finely shaped) and draw their Petticoat close to their Hips to shew the fineness of their Limbs -- so that they might as well be in Puri Naturalibus -- Indeed Nakedness is not censurable or indecent here, and they expose themselves often quite Naked, without Ceremony -- Rubbing themselves and their Hair with Bears Oil and tying it up behind in a Bunch like the Indians -- being hardly one degree removed from them -- In few Years, I hope to bring about a Reformation, as I already have done in several Parts of the Country.

Notes for a sermon, 1768

But let us go on, and examine if in the General Corruption of Manners these New Lights have made any Reform in the Vice of Drunkenness?  Truly, I wot not.  There is not one Hogshead of Liquor less consum'd since their visiting us, or any Tavern shut up -- So far from it, that there has been Great Increase of Both.  Go to any Common Muster or Vendue, Will you not see the same Fighting, Brawling, Gouging, Quarreling as ever?  And this too among the Holy ones of our New Israel?  Are Riots, Frolics, Races, Games, Cards, Dice, Dances, less frequent now than formerly?  Are fewer persons to be seen in Taverns?  or reeling or drunk on the Roads?  And have any of the Godly Storekeepers given up their Licences, or refus'd to retail Poison?  If this can be made appear, I will yield the Point.  But if [it] can be made apparent that a much greater Quantity of Rum is now expended in private families than heretofore -- That the greater Part of these religious Assemblies are calculated for private Entertainments, where each brings his Quota and which often terminates in Intemperance and Intoxification of both Sexes, Young and Old:  That one half of those who resort to these Assemblies Go more for sake of Liquor, than Instruction, or Devotion.  That if it be proven that Liquor has been top'd about even in their very Meeting Houses, and the Preachers refreshed with Good Things, and after the Farce ended Stuff'd and Cramm'd almost to bursting, then it must be granted that little or no Reform has been made among the Vulgar in Point of Intemperance save only among some few Persons in some Places wav'd for the Indulgence of double the Consumption in Private.

The horrid Vice of Swearing has long been a reproach to the Back Inhabitants, and very justly -- for few Countries on Earth can equal these Parts as to this greivous Sin.  But has it ceas'd since the Admission of rambling Fanatics among us?  I grant that it has with and among many, whom they have gain'd to their Sect.  Yet still it too much prevails.  But the Enormity of this Vice, when at the Highest, produc'd no Evils, Jarrs, disturbances, Strifes, Contentions, Variance, Dissimulations, Envyings, Slanders, Backbitings and a thousand other Evils that now disturb both the Public Places and repose of Individuals.  So that where they have cast out one Devil, Seven, and twice Seven others have enter'd In and possess the Man.  For never was so much Lying, Calumny, Defamation, and all hellish Evils and vexations of this Sort that can spring from the Devil and his Angels, so brief so prevalent, so abounding as since the Arrival of these villanous Teachers, Who blast, blacken, Ruin, and destroy the Characters, Reputations, Credit and Fame of all Persons not linked with them to the Ruin of Society, the Peace of families, and the Settlement of the Country.

We will further enquire, if Lascivousnss, or Wantoness, Adultery or Fornication [are] less common than formerly, before the Arrival of these Holy Persons?  Are there fewer Bastards born?  Are more Girls with their Virginity about them, Married, than were heretofore?  The Parish Register will prove the Contrary:  There are rather more Bastards, more Mullatoes born than before.  Nor out of 100 Young Women that I marry in a Year have I seen, or is there seen, Six but what are with Child?  And this as Common with the Germans on the other Side [of] the River, as among You on this Side:  So that a Minister is accounted as a Scandalous Person, for even coming here to marry such People, and for baptizing their Bastard Children as the Law obliges Me to register All Parties who are Married, and all Children Born.  This occasions such Numbers (especially of the Saints) to fly into the next Province, and up to the German Ministers and any where to get Married, to prevent their being register'd, as therefrom the Birth of their Children would be trac'd:  And as for Adulteries, the present State of most Persons around 9/10 of whom now labour under a filthy Distemper (as is well known to all) puts that Matter out of all Dispute and shews that the Saints however outwardly Precise and Reserved are not one Whit more Chaste than formerly, and possibly are more privately Vicious.

And nothing more leads to this Than what they call their Love Feasts and Kiss of Charity.  To which Feasts, celebrated at Night, much Liquor is privately carried, and deposited on the Roads, and in Bye Paths and Places.  The Assignations made on Sundays at the Singing Clubs, are here realized.  And it is no wonder that Things are as they are, when many Young Persons have 3, 4, 5, 6 Miles to walk home in the dark Night, with Convoy, thro' the Woods?  Or staying perhaps all Night at some Cabbin (as on Sunday Nights) and sleeping together either doubly or promiscuously?  Or a Girl being mounted behind a Person to be carried home, or any wheres.  All this indeed contributes to multiply Subjects for the King in this frontier Country, and so is wink'd at by the Magistracy and Parochial Officers but at same time, gives great Occasion to the Enemies of Virtue, to triumph, for Religion to be scandalized and brought into Contempt; For all Devotion to be Ridicul'd, and in the Sequel, will prove the Entire banishment and End of all Religion -- Confusion -- Anarchy and ev'ry Evil Work will be the Consequence of such Lewdness and Immorality.

But certainly these Reformers have put some Stop to the many Thefts and Depradations so openly committed of late Years? -- To answer this Question recourse must be had to the Magistrates and Courts of Justice, who are ready to declare, that since the Appearance of these New Lights, more Enormities of all Kinds have been committed -- More Robberies[,] Thefts, Murders, Plunderings, Burglaries and Villanies of ev'ry Kind, than ever before.  And the Reason hereof, Is, That most of these Preaching fellows were most notorious Theives, Jockeys, Gamblers, and what not in the Northern Provinces, and since their Reception and Success here have drawn Crowds of their old Acquaintances after them; So that the Country never was so full as at present of Gamesters[,] Prostitutes, Filchers, Racers, Fidlers and all the refuse of Mankind.  All which follow these Teachers, and under the Mask of Religion carry on many detestable Practises.  In short, they have filled the Country with Idle and Vagrant Persons, who live by their Criminalities.  For it is a Maxim with these Vermin of Religion, That a Person must first be a Sinner e're he can be a Saint....

For only draw a Comparison between them and Us, and let an Impartial Judge determine where Offence may cheifly be taken, At our Solemn, Grave, and Serious Sett Forms, or their Wild Extempore Jargon, nauseaus to any Chaste or refin'd Ear.  There are so many Absurdities committed by them, as wou'd shock one of our Cherokee Savages: And was a Sensible Turk or Indian to view some of their Extravagancies it would quickly determine them against Christianity.  Had any such been in their Assembly as last Sunday when they communicated, the Honest Heathens would have imagin'd themselves rather amidst a Gang of frantic Lunatics broke out of Bedlam, rather than among a Society of religious Christians, met to celebrate the most sacred and Solemn Ordinance of their Religion.  Here, one Fellow mounted on a Bench with the Bread, and bawling, See the Body of Christ, Another with the Cup running around, and bellowing -- Who cleanses his Soul with the Blood of Christ, and a thousand other Extravagancies -- One on his knees in a Posture of Prayer -- Others singing -- some howling -- These Ranting -- Those Crying -- Others dancing, Skipping, Laughing and rejoycing.  Here two or 3 Women falling on their Backs, kicking up their Heels, exposing their Nakedness to all Bystanders and others sitting Pensive, in deep Melancholy lost in Abstraction, like Statues, quite insensible -- and when rous'd by the Spectators from the pretended Reveries[,] Transports, and indecent Postures and Actions declaring they knew nought of the Matter.  That their Souls had taken flight to Heav'n, and they knew nothing of what they said or did.  Spect[at]ors were highly shocked at such vile Abuse of sacred Ordinances!  And indeed such a Scene was sufficient to make the vilest Sinner shudder.  Their Teacher, so far from condemning, or reproving, them, call'd it, the Work of God, and returned Thanks for Actions deserving of the Pillory and Whipping Post.  But that would not have been New to some of them.  And if they can thus transgress all bounds of Decency[,] Modesty, and Morality, in such an Open Public Manner, it is not hard to conceive what may pass at their Nocturnal Meetings, and Private Assemblies.  Is there any thing like this in the Church of England to give Offence?

But another vile Matter that does and must give Offence to all Sober Minds Is, what they call their Experiences; It seems, that before a person be dipp'd, He must give an Account of his Secret Calls, Conviction, Conversion, Repentance &c &c.  Some of these Experience have been so ludicrous and ridiculous that Democritus in Spite of himself must have burst with Laughter.  Others, altogether as blasphemous Such as their Visions, Dreams, Revelations -- and the like; Too many, and too horrid to be mention'd.  Nothing in the Alcoran[,] Nothing that can be found in all the Miracles of the Church of Rome, and all the Reveries of her Saints can be so absurd, or so Enthusiastic, as what has gravely been recited in that Tabernacle Yonder -- To the Scandal of Religion and Insult of Common Sense.  And to heighten the Farce, To see two or three fellows with fix'd Countenances and grave Looks, hearing all this Nonsense for Hours together, and making particular Enquiries, when, How, Where, in what Manner, these Miraculous Events happen'd -- To see, I say, a Sett of Mongrels under Pretext of Religion, Sit, and hear for Hours together a String of Vile, cook'd up, Silly and Senseless Lyes, What they know to be Such, What they are Sensible has not the least foundation in Truth or Reason, and to encourage Persons in such Gross Inventions must grieve, must give great Offence to ev'ry one that has the Honour of Christianity at Heart.

Then again to see them Divide and Sub divide, Split into Parties -- Rail at and excommunicate one another -- Turn out of Meeting, and receive into another -- And a Gang of them getting together and gabbling one after the other (and sometimes disputing against each other) on Abstruse Theological Question -- Speculative Points -- Abstracted Notions, and Scholastic Subtelties, such as the greatest Metaph[ys]icians and Learned Scholars never yet could define, or agree on -- To hear Ignorant Wretches, who can not write -- Who never read ten Pages in any Book, and can hardly read the Alphabett discussing such Knotty Points for the Edification of their Auditors, is a Scene so farcical, so highly humoursome as excels any Exhibition of Folly that has ever yet appear'd in the World, and consequently must give High offence to all Inteligent and rational Minds.

If any Thing offensive beyond all This to greive the Hearts and Minds of serious Christians presents it Self to view among them, it is their Mode of Baptism, to which Lascivous Persons of both Sexes resourt, as to a Public Bath.  I know not whether it would not be less offensive to Modesty for them to strip wholly into Buff at once, than to be dipp'd with those very thin Linen Drawers they are equipp'd in -- Which when wet, so closely adheres to the Limbs, as exposes the Nudities equally as if none at All.  If this be not Offensive and a greivous Insult on all Modesty and Decency among Civiliz'd People I know not what can be term'd so.  Certainly a few chosen Witnesses of the Sex of the Party, and performance of the Ceremony in a Tent, or Cover'd Place, would be equally as Edifying, as Persons being stript and their Privities expos'd before a gaping Multitude who resort to these Big Meetings (as they are term'd) as they would to a Bear or Bullbaiting.

It must give Great Scandal and Offence to all Serious Minds thus to see the Solemn Ordinances of God become the Sport, Pastime and Derision of Men....