Academic journal article The Journal of Caribbean History

"The History of Early Methodism in Antigua": A Response to Frey and Wood

Academic journal article The Journal of Caribbean History

"The History of Early Methodism in Antigua": A Response to Frey and Wood

Article excerpt

Professors Sylvia R. Frey and Betty Wood have relied on a couple of standard debating techniques in their rebuttal, one of which is simply to ignore criticisms that are well-founded. The editor of this journal kindly offered them exactly the same amount of space for their rebuttal as he allowed for my critique (thirty-two pages). They chose to use fifteen pages in which they make liberal use of quotations. This would seem to indicate that they have no more criticisms to offer. Readers can thus conclude that their statement on slave population trends in the Leeward Islands and Barbados is indeed incorrect (see Glen, n. 71), that they have given an inaccurate Methodist membership figure for 1804 (Glen, n. 70), that the letter they identified as anonymous was in reality written and signed by John Baxter, one of the major figures in Antigua Methodism (Glen, n. 66), that they have misread the accounts of the 1817 love feast and of Methodist women's motion/unction (Glen, nn. 40, 67), that their discussion of "Methodist" schools is inaccurate and misleading, especially since some of the schools they discuss were non-denominational (Glen, 258-59], that they are uncertain which is the nineteenth-century's second decade (Glen, 266 and n. 38), that three of their citations need to be corrected (Glen, nn. 18, 35, 4O),2 and that their "lineage of conversion" is wrong (Glen, 273-75). They admit to only two "errors of fact", which they state will be corrected in the second printing of Come Shouting to Zion. They claim that all the other "alleged errors are issues of interpretation based in a few cases on a genuine difference in reading a document . . ." (Frey and Wood, 157). Interested readers will be able to verify if they (or their editors at the University of North Carolina Press) will actually allow the errors listed in this paragraph to remain unaltered in the book's second printing.

Another debating technique used by Frey and Wood is repeatedly to claim that criticisms are based on material that has been taken out of context. In my critique, for example, I offer various reasons why the claim that the society was "composed almost entirely of black women" (Zion, 105-6) is probably exaggerated. I then suggest that the results of the exhaustive researches of Clive Field on contemporaneous sex ratios within British Methodism offer more reasonable figures that seem consistent with non-statistical evidence from Antigua. His figures point to female membership mostly falling within the 51 percent to 70 percent range (Glen, 274-75).

Here are Frey and Wood in their rebuttal (Frey and Wood, 165) : "Glen takes special umbrage at our statement that 'Except for a few bondmen, men were conspicuously absent' [Zion, 106) another way of saying that men, and white men in particular, were in a distinct minority". Readers can observe the shift in their position. In their book they claim that the society "was composed almost entirely of black women" and that "men were conspicuously absent", except for a few bondmen. This is a much more extreme position than their rebuttal version that men were merely "a distinct minority". After opening with a strategic retreat, they march sideways by raising questions about the applicability of the British Methodist sex ratios to the British Caribbean. Here are Frey and Wood again: "Why on earth make such an assumption? Even were reliable statistics available, surely it would be more valid to compare gender ratios" from the United States, and here they mention specific states (Frey and Wood, 166). Methodism in Antigua was established by British Wesleyan Methodists, and membership qualifications were under their control during the entire period in question. "Reliable statistics" for Britain are available. The figures compiled by Clive Field have never, to my knowledge, been challenged (the citation to this excellent article is found in Glen, n. 70; for some reason, Frey and Wood direct readers to n. 71, which they then dismiss as irrelevant to the matters at hand [Frey and Wood, 166). …

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