Even this does not exhaust the interest of his life. The very first lines of his writing show the object with which he wrote. In no part of England did the teaching and influence of John Wesley obtain such a hold as in Cornwall. At the time of his first visit he speaks of the natives of this distant country as `those who neither feared God nor regarded man' (Diary, May 17, 1743) ; he accuses them of wrecking and of murdering those who were washed ashore, and describes their pastimes as `hurling, at which limbs were often broken, fighting, drinking, and all other s manner of wickedness.' The Lanisley Letters contain similar charges of wrecking and murder, and Dr. Borlase confirms the statement as to their drunken habits. In 1750 Wesley mentions how greatly all these things were changed. They were, perhaps, not as much changed as he thought, but undoubtedly they were greatly improved, for it is plain fact that the whole of the moral reformation of the Cornish folk is due to him. He gained followers so rapidly in the west that at the first Methodist Conference in 1744, St. Ives is classed with London, Bristol, and Newcastle; from this it is evident,' says Dr. Smith (History of Methodism, i. 213), ° that London, Bristol, St. Ives, and Newcastle were regarded as the great centres of Methodism in England at this period.' At the third Conference (1746) Cornwall forms one district out of seven, while the others included in some cases four and in one case six English counties. In 1750 John Wesley (Diary, August 18) says of St. Just, `There is still the largest society in Cornwall, and so great a proportion of believers I have not found in all the nation beside.' Similar societies or classes sprang up in the most remote places, such as Rugan, or Rudgeon [Rosudgeon]as it is more usually spelt now, where the society met at which Charles Carter was converted; at Trevean and Caerlean, where Harry Carter preached.
That especial characteristic of Wesley's organisation, `the local preacher,' took root firmly in Cornwall from the very first. To those who are not acquainted with the county it may be necessary to explain that these laymen, earnest men of all classes, who preach, are so common in every village that they constitute a distinguishing feature in the local life. The services in the small wayside chapels which are so numerous are usually conducted by a local preacher in the intervals between the visits of the regular ministers. Those who do know Cornwall also know the importance of the local preacher in the history of the Methodist movement.
John Wesley's preaching was received by the poor and uneducated, the miner, the fisherman, and the labourer, and the persecution of the clergy and the magistrates only strengthened the enthusiasm of the people for their great teacher. From such men sprang the first local preachers, preaching and exhorting not with the dull formality of men who had to do it, but with the earnestness of men who really felt that they had a message to deliver, and labouring under uncontrollable excitement they greatly impressed their hearers; while the familiarity of their persons led their audience to look upon this new teaching as a thing of their own to which they could all attain. It is impossible to doubt that the hold which the movement gained was greatly due to these men, and Harry Carter was one of them.
John Wesley had set himself from the first against the smuggling which he found so prevalent; he had preached against it at several places, and had even published a pamphlet against it. We may therefore fairly suppose that Harry Carter, the great smuggler, was regarded as a most important accession to the ranks of his followers.
The autobiography ends abruptly in the year 1795, but the writer lived until April 19, 1829. The last thirty years of his life he spent at Rinsey. He lived quietly, keeping himself occupied with a small farm, and occasionally preaching in the neighbourhood. From the memoir of him in the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine, to which I have already referred, I cull the two further facts that he retained the intensity of his religious feelings up to his death, and that he never failed in grateful recollections of James Macculloch - the Mr. M. of his French prison experiences. Of his family I can learn but little. It is said that originally they came from Shropshire, and certainly the name does not show a Cornish origin. His father, who was called Francis, was born in 1712, and died on February 28, 1774 ; his mother, Agnes, was born in 1714, and died in 1784. Of the eight sons and two daughters of whom he speaks, I can only trace four of the sons besides himself. Thomas, whom he does not mention, was born in 1737, and died in 1818 ; and John, whom he refers to as the eldest, Francis, born in 1745, and Charles, born in 1757, and died in 1803, are all mentioned in the autobiography. His daughter, Elizabeth, as far as I can learn, died while young.