Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Christopher Grasso

Committee Member

Karin Wulf

Committee Member

Brett Rushforth

Committee Member

Nick Popper

Committee Member

Dee andrews


From its quit arrival in the British colonies of North America in the 1760s, Methodism unexpectedly grew to become America's largest Protestant denomination by the early nineteenth century. But its rapid growth was not limited to the early United States. Methodist missionaries attracted large numbers of converts in Britain's remaining North American and Caribbean colonies. This dissertation analyzes the connections that linked and ultimately divided Methodists across political, social, and racial lines throughout the Atlantic world, arguing that the movement’s rapid expansion amidst revolutionary change led to the fracturing of the transatlantic ties that united its adherents. This project thus expands the geographical borders of early American Methodism to include regions beyond the United States, including Britain’s Maritime, Canadian, and Caribbean colonies, and even venturing across the Atlantic Ocean to the West African community of Sierra Leone, where a large number of former slaves from the American South resettled following the American Revolution. Methodists spoke of themselves as a connection, a term that signified both their adherence to the teachings and theology of John Wesley and their attachment to other Wesleyan Methodists across the globe. The events of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, including political revolutions in North America and the Caribbean, slave rebellions, and growth of the abolitionist movement exposed strains within the Methodist connection, as adherents divided over national allegiance and race. “Methodism, Slavery, and Freedom” is organized into six broadly thematic chapters covering the period from 1770-1820. The first chapter sets the stage for those that follow, tracing the migrations of several groups of Methodists in the wake of the American Revolution. Methodists found themselves on all sides of the conflict, and participated in both the Loyalist diaspora and the republican march westward. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 propose a reexamination of Methodist attitudes toward slavery and antislavery, examining the impact of Methodist connections between the United States and the Caribbean on institutional policies and individual activities. Chapter 5 shifts attention the impact of revolutionary events and racial tensions on the ecclesiastical politics of Methodism, comparing and contrasting the first independent black Methodist churches in the United States and West Africa. The sixth and final chapter returns to some of the themes explored in chapter 1, analyzing the experience of Methodists in the United States-Canadian borderlands from the American Revolution through the War of 1812.




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