Peter Cartwright


Peter Cartwright (1785-1872), Methodist itinerant preacher and politician, was born in Amherst County, Virginia. A traditionalist at heart, Cartwright was a proponent of itinerant preaching, the class meeting and plain dress for preachers. Upon his relocation to Illinois, he became involved in promoting higher education particularly through the growth of Methodist colleges. In 1832 he was re-elected to the Illinois legislature, beating Abraham Lincoln in the process. In 1846, however, he was defeated in his bid for Congress by Lincoln. Although strongly opposed to slavery, Cartwright was a centrist who battled tirelessly to prevent division of the denomination in 1844. At the end of his preaching career it is said that he preached over 15,000 sermons and baptized 12,000 converts from the time he arrived in Illinois.

For further reading see Thomas L. Agnew, “Methodism on the Frontier,” in E.S. Buck (ed.), The History of American Methodism, 3 vols. (Abingdon, 1964), 488-545. 

Media Center