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William Seward (1703-1742)

William Seward was born in Badsey, Gloucestershire. He was the fifth of seven sons of John Seward, the estate steward of Lord Windsor and a wealthy man in his own right.

Unlike his brothers, William does not appear to have been educated at Westminster School (where Charles Wesley was a contemporary) or at university. Seward moved to London and embarked on a career as a stockbroker, having a particular involvement with the South Seas Company. During his time in the capital, he was an enthusiastic promoter of charity schools.

In 1738 Seward was introduced to Charles Wesley and in November of that year, Charles recorded in his journal the fact of his friend's conversion.

In January 1739 he attended a conference of Oxford Methodists and came increasingly under the influence of George Whitefield. Seward joined Whitefield on his American tour of August 1739 and was a generous financial sponsor of the mission. Among other gifts, he purchased 5000 acres of land for the establishment of an evangelical refuge and a school for Black people

In April 1740 he returned to England to transact some business on Whitefield's behalf. Seward was himself possessed of considerable spiritual and leadership gifts and was well regarded throughout the evangelical movement.

He published his journal of the visit to North America and this increased the tension that was developing between the party that looked to Whitefield for leadership and people who were gathering around the Wesleys.

Seward travelled to Wales with the preacher Howell Harris and in October 1740 received a fatal injury at the hands of an anti-Methodist mob while attempting to preach at Hay in Breconshire.

Source: Article by Peter Braby and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)

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