The Booths' American Mentors
The Salvation Army marched around the world in the great days of the British Empire, adopting ranks like those of the soldiers of Queen Victoria. Its founders, William and Catherine Booth, came from the heart of middle England. Was this new movement, then, simply a religious by-product of British imperialism?
Clearly there was much more to the Army than that. Its roots ran far back in time—to the Methodists of the eighteenth century and the Quakers of a hundred years before. Early Salvationists, in fact, spoke of Quaker leader “George Fox and his Salvation Army two hundred years ago.”
Those roots ran not only deep but also wide—to the American frontier, where the camp-meeting movement was bringing new life to the faith. But could such methods of “revivalism” work as well in industrialized England?
A series of American evangelists came eastward and profoundly influenced The Salvation Army that was to be. Three in particular affected the Booths.
(c. 1810–1891), the American Methodist evangelist who, in the words of Catherine Booth, “prayed for us most fervently … expressing the deepest interest in our future … [I was] almost adoring his very name.”
“I Never Heard His Equal”
In the early nineteenth century, a debate raged within Wesleyan Methodism about revivalism. Did the techniques of the American camp meeting—imported in 1807 by Lorenzo Dow—bring heavenly rapture or mass hysteria?
Catherine Mumford and William Booth debated the question in their love letters. “Watch against mere animal excitement in your revival services,” wrote Catherine. “I never did like noise and confusion.”
Her William was a little abrupt in reply: “If you cannot bear the hearty responses and Alleluias of God’s people, then our fellowship will ...