John Wesley
Persecution at Cork

Key Thought: Wesley and his followers were often attacked by mobs in the early years. Eventually he came to be respected, but for a time it was exceedingly dangerous to be a Methodist. This is remarkable, considering the great fear he often confessed when he first became a Christian.

Persecutions at Cork

Taken from John Wesley’s Journal,

I had now an opportunity of inquiring into the real state of the late transactions at Cork; ail account of which is subjoined, being the extracts of some papers which were about this time put into my hands.

1. Thomas Jones, of Cork, merchant, deposes:—That on May 3, 1749, Nicholas Butler, ballad singer, came before the house of this deponent, and assembled a large mob; that this deponent went to Daniel Crone, Esq., then mayor of Cork, and desired that he would put a stop to these riots; asking, at the same time, whether he gave the said Butler leave to go about in this manner: that Mr. Mayor said, he neither gave him leave, neither did he hinder him: that in the evening, Duller gathered a larger mob than before, and went to the house where the people called Methodists were assembled to hear the word of God, and, as they came out, threw dirt, and hurt several of them.

That on May 4, this deponent, with some others, went to the mayor, and told what had been done, adding, “If your worship pleases to speak only three words to Butler, it will be all over:" that the mayor gave his word and honour there should be no more of it, he would put an entire stop to it: that, notwithstanding, a larger mob than ever came to the house the same evening: that they threw much dirt and many stones at the people, both while they were in the house and when they came out: that the mob then fell upon them, both on men and women, with clubs, hangers, and swords; so that many of them were much wounded, and lost a considerable quantity of blood.

That on May 5, this deponent informed the mayor of all, and also that Butler had openly declared, there should be a greater mob than ever there was that night: that the mayor promised he would prevent it: that in the evening Butler did bring a greater mob than ever: that this deponent, hearing the mayor designed to go out of the way, set two men to watch him; and when the riot was begun went to the alehouse and inquired for him: that, the woman of the house denying he was there, this deponent insisted he was, declared he would not go till he had seen him, and began searching the house: that Mr. Mayor, then appearing, he demanded his assistance, to suppress a riotous mob: that when the mayor came in sight of them, he beckoned Butler, who immediately came down from the place where he stood: that the mayor then went with this deponent, and looked on many of the people covered with dirt and blood: that some of them still remained in the house, fearing their lives, till James Chatterton, and John Reilly, Esquires, sheriffs of Cork, and Hugh Millard, junior, Esquire, alderman, turned them out to the mob, and nailed up the doors.

2. Elizabeth Holleean, of Cork, deposes:—That on May 3, as she was going down Castle-street, she saw Nicholas Butler on a table, with ballads in one hand and a Bible in the other: that she expressed some concern thereat; on which sheriff Reilly ordered his bailiff to carry her to Bridewell: that afterward the bailiff came and said, his master ordered she should be carried to gaol; and that she continued in gaol from May 3, about eight in the evening, till between ten and twelve on May 5.

3. John Stocedale, of Cork, tallow chandler, deposes:—That on May 5, while he and others were assembled to hear the word of God, Nicholas Butler came down to the house where they were, with a very numerous mob: that when this deponent came out, they threw all manner of dirt, and abundance of stones at him: that they then beat, bruised, and cut him in several places: that seeing his wife on the ground, and the mob abusing her still, he called out, and besought them not to kill his wife: that on this one of them struck him with a large stick, as did also many others, so that he was hurt in several parts/ and his face in a gore of blood.

4. Daniel Sullivan, of Cork, baker, deposes:—That every day but one from the 6th to the 16th of May, Nicholas Butler assembled a riotous mob before this deponent's house: that they abused all who came into the shop, to the great damage of this deponent's business: that on or about the 15th, Butler swore he would bring a mob the next day and pull down his house: that accordingly, on the 16th, he did bring a large mob, and beat or abused all that came to the house: that the mayor walked by while the mob was so employed, but did not hinder them: that afterward they broke his windows, threw dirt and stones into his shop, and spoiled a great quantity of his goods.

5. Daniel Sullivan is ready to depose further:—That from the 16th of May to the 28th, the mob gathered every day before his house: that on Sunday the 28th, Butler swore, they would come the next day and pull down the house of that heretic dog; and called aloud to the mob, “Let the heretic dogs indict you; I will bring you off without a farthing cost."

That accordingly, on May 29, Butler came with a greater mob than before: that he went to the mayor and begged him to come, which he for some time refused to do; but after much importunity, rose up, and walked with him down the street: that when they were in the midst of the mob, the mayor said aloud, ''It is your own fault for entertaining these preachers. If you will turn them out of your house, I will engage there shall be no harm done; but if you will not turn them out, you ‘must take what you will get:’" that upon this the mob set up an huzza, and threw stones faster than before: that he said, “This is fine usage under a Protestant government; if I had a priest saying mass in every room of it, my house would not be touched:" that the mayor replied, “The priests are tolerated', but you are not; you talk too much; go in, and shut up your doors:" that seeing no remedy, he did so; and the mob continued breaking the windows, and throwing stones in, till near twelve at night.

That on May 31, the said Sullivan, and two more, went and informed the mayor of what the mob was then doing: that it was not without great importunity they brought him as far as the Exchange: that he would go no further, nor send any help, though some that were much bruised and wounded came by: that some hours after, when the mob had finished their work, he sent a party of soldiers to guard the walls.

6. John Stocedale deposes further:—That on May 31, he with others was quietly hearing the word of God, when Butler and his mob came down to the house: that as they came out, the mob threw showers of dirt and stones: that many were hurt, many beat, bruised, and cut; among whom was this deponent, who was so bruised and cut, that the effusion of blood from his head could not be stopped for a considerable time.

7. John M'nerny, of Cork, deposes:—That on the 31st of May last, as this deponent with others was hearing a sermon, Butler came down with a large mob: that the stones and dirt coming in fast, obliged the congregation to shut the doors, and lock themselves in: that the mob broke open the door; on which this deponent endeavoured to escape through a window: that not being able to do it, he returned into the house, where he saw the mob tear up the pews, benches, and floor; part of which they afterward burnt in the open street, and carried away part for their own use.

8. Daniel Sullivan is ready to depose further:—That Butler, with a large mob, went about from street to street, and from house to house, abusing, threatening, and beating whomsoever he pleased, from June 1st to the 16th, when they assaulted, bruised, and cut, Ann Jenkins; and from the 16th to the 30th, when a woman whom they had beaten, miscarried, and narrowly escaped with life. Some of the particulars were as follows:

9. Thomas Burnet, of Cork, nailor, deposes:—That on or about the 12th of June, as this deponent was at work in his master's shop, Nicholas Butler came with a great mob to the door, and seeing this deponent, told him he was a heretic dog, and his soul was burning in hell: that this deponent asking, “Why do you use me thus?" Butler took up a stone, and struck him so violently on the side, that he was thereby rendered incapable of working for upward of a week: that he hit this deponent's wife with another stone, without any kind of provocation, which so hurt her, that she was obliged to take to her bed, and has not been right well since.

10. Ann Cooshea, of Cork, deposes:—That on or about the 12th of June, as she was standing at her father's door, Nicholas Butler, with a riotous mob, began to abuse this deponent and her family, calling them heretic bitches, saying they were damned, and all their souls were in hell: that then, without any provocation, he took up a great stone, and threw it at this deponent, which struck her on the head with such force, that it deprived her of her senses for some time.

11. Ann Wright, of Cork, deposes:—That on or about the 12th of June, as this deponent was in her own house, Butler and his mob came before her door, calling her and her family heretic bitches, and swearing, he would make her house hotter than hell fire: that he threw dirt and stones at them, hit her in the face, dashed all the goods about which she had in her window, and she really believes, would have dashed out her brains, had she not quitted her shop, and fled for her life.

12. Margaret Griffin, of Cork, deposes:—That on the 24th of June, as this deponent was about her business Butler and his mob came up, took hold on her, tore her clothes, struck her several times, and cut her mouth: that after she broke from him, he and his mob pursued her to her house, and would have broke in, had not some neighbours interposed: that he had beat and abused her several times before, and one of those times to such a degree, that she was all in a gore of blood, and continued spitting blood for several days after.

13. Jacob Connor, clothier, of Cork, deposes:—That on the 24th of June, as he was employed in his lawful business, Butler and his mob came up, and without any manner of provocation fell upon him: that they beat him till they caused such an effusion of blood, as could not be stopped for a considerable time; and that he verily believes, had not a gentleman interposed, they would have killed him on the spot.

14. Ann Hughes, of Cork, deposes:—That on the 29th of June, she asked Nicholas Butler, why he broke open her house on the 21st: that hereon he called her many abusive names, (being attended with his mob,) dragged her up and down, tore her clothes in pieces, and with his sword stabbed and cut her in both her arms.

15. Daniel Filts, blacksmith, of Cork, deposes:—That on the 20th of June, Butler and a riotous mob came before his door, called him many abusive names, drew his hanger, and threatened to stab him: that he and his mob the next day assaulted the house of this deponent with drawn swords; and that he is persuaded, had not one who came by prevented, they would have taken away his life.

16. Mary Fuller, of Cork, deposes:—That on the 30th of June, Butler, at the head of his mob came, between nine and ten at night, to the deponent's shop, with a naked sword in his hand: that he swore, he would cleave the deponent's skull, and immediately made a full stroke at her head: whereupon she was obliged to fly for her life, leaving her shop and goods to the mob, many of which they hacked and hewed with their swords, to her no small loss and damage.

17. Henry Dunele, joiner, of Cork, deposes:—That on the 30th of June, as he was standing at widow Fuller's shop window, he saw Butler, accompanied with a large mob, who stopped before her shop: that after he had grossly abused her, he made a full stroke with his hanger at her head; which must have cleft her in two, had not this deponent received the guard of the hanger on his shoulder: that presently after, the said Butler seized upon this deponent: that he seized him by the collar with one hand, and with the other held the hanger over his head, calling him all manner of names, and tearing his shirt and clothes; and that, had it not been for the timely assistance of some neighbours, he verily believes he should have been torn to pieces.

18. Margaret Tremnell, of Cork, deposes:—That on the 30th of June, John Austin and Nicholas Butler, with a numerous mob, came to her shop: that, after calling her many names, Austin struck her with his club on the right arm, so that it has been black ever since from the shoulder to the elbow: that Butler came next, and with a great stick struck her a violent blow across the back: that many of them drew their swords, which they carried under their coats, and cut and hacked her goods, part of which they threw out into the street, while others of them threw dirt and stones into the shop, to the considerable damage of her goods, and loss of this deponent.

It was not for those who had any regard either to their persons or goods, to oppose Mr. Butler after this. So the poor people patiently suffered, till long after this, whatever he and his mob were pleased to inflict upon them.

John Wesley, The Works of Rev. John Wesley, (New York: J. Emory and B. Waugh, 1831), pp. 456-458.