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BEFORE the Reader enters on the History, it may be necessary that he should be apprized of what he is to expect. The Work is divided into three grand departments, the NATURAL, CIVIL, and ECCLESIASTICAL.
Of the natural and civil departments, he needs only to be informed, that they will include the geographical situation, extent, and productions of the different Islands; and the various changes in government and law, which the progress of events has obliged each Island to undergo.
In that department which is of an ecclesiastical nature, the efforts which have been made to introduce our holy religion, by the Moravian Brethren, and by the Incorporated Society in London, will be duly noticed ; together with those Missions which have been established by the late Rev. John Wesley, and by the Methodist Conference late in connexion with that great man; Missions which have been owned of God in a peculiar manner, and which continue to flourish to the present day. The various successes which have marked these distinct endeavours to propagate Christianity, will be introduced before the Reader, and noticed with the strictest impartiality, in the survey of the different Islands which will appear before us. And since the preaching of the gospel has been attended with considerable success, a relation of its progress, and of the happy effects which have resulted from it, will form one prominent branch of the present undertaking.
To survey the changes which have been wrought through the efficacy of divine grace, must afford pleasure to the sincere friends of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It must fill their souls VOL. I.
with gratitude, and their fongues with praises, to hear how many brands have been plucked from the burnings, and rescued from heathenish and savage darkness, to besiege the throne of grace with fervent prayer.
But while in the progress of this work, we shall attentively examine the riches of divine grace, in its various manifestations towards the tawny multitudes that inhabit the Islands to which we shall be introduced, the natural and civil history of each Island will neither be overlooked as a matter of no moment, nor will it be cursorily ushered into view. The scene of action will be primarily considered, before we venture on any missionary intelligence; and such ample details given, as will display the wonders of creative power, as well as those of redeeming love. The natural and civil history of these Islands will hold an eminent station from first to last, which will be interspersed with such remarks as occasional circumstances may require; such as have a tendency to impress the mind with seriousness, and to lead the attentive reader from the regions of « nature up to nature's God."
The history therefore which is now about to be presented to the reader, may be considered as consisting of two grand divisions. The former will be of the natural and civil, and the latter of a missionary or religious nature. In the natural and civil departe ments, which in each island will be first introduced, no production of nature to which this burning climate has given birth, if decmed interesting to the European reader, will be omitted; nor will any variety either of nature or of art be passed by unnoticed.
The discovery, situation, extent, and productions; the climate, fertility, soil, and original natives, whether Caribbs or Apalachians, will regularly rise into view before the reader in three general chapters, which will begin this work. In these chapters we shall endeavour to introduce such subjects as are of general application to all the islands, and present the reader in one comprehensive view with an epitome of nature in this Archipelago, which constitutes no contemptible portion of the western world.
In fine, nothing which either historical narration, regular correspondence, or personal observation can supply, shall be wanting to render this history complete, so far as completion can associate with the imperfections of such compositions. But the whole must stand or fall by its merits or defects: it is only the latter that can sink it into disgrace, and only the former that can entitle it to public patronage and support.
As the progress of Christianity in foreign regions has been chiefly indebted, under the free and infinite grace of God, to the benevolent exertions of individuals, who have formed themselves into societies for the express purpose of spreading the gos. pel in distant parts, it may not be improper, after having given some general views of the islands which make the grand subject of our history, to give a concise account of the most considerable missions which have been sent into foreign climates, in these latter ages of the world. As men and as Christians, we ought to feel ourselves interested in this department, since it is through missionary societies, instrumentally, that true religion has been introduced into the West Indies, and been attended with such unexampled suceess, though both primarily and ultimately the glory belongs to God alone.
These historical views of missionary progress will be of universal application. They will occasionally be applied to these Islands, to China, and to the northern continent of America ; and by introducing them in this extensive way, the reader will be able to form a comparative estimate of missionary successes, when we proceed to make an inquiry into the various events which have marked the gospel in each individual island. It may however be necessary, when we come to examine each island particularly; to recapitulate and select the outlines of those general observations, and refer the reader to these chapters for such branches of the missionary narrative as are there sufficiently noticed. With these views before us, it is perhaps unnecessary to remark, that the West India Archipelago will be our central spot, and after we have ended the general chapters, these islands will bound our observations.
The discovery of America by Columbus, and of those Islands in particular which will be the theatre of our researches, being of common application, will be introduced before we proceed to the particular investigation of any island either in a natural or missionary point of view. Such portions of the natural history of each island as will submit to general description, will be introduced in the general account, to which the reader must refer, if necessary, when he proceeds through the islands which will pass before him in review. Those branches therefore of the natural history which are only applicable to particular islands, will be exclusively confined to those local spots: they may be considered as streams branching from the general history, and winding along through vallies, districts, and territories, which are peculiarly their own.
The missionary intelligence, which must necessarily be progressive, will of course be continued onward with the progress of time, and will bear a prominent part in this work, even when its termination shall close the scene. The natural and civil departments of this history must therefore occupy the first pages in every chapter into which they can be introduced, and will frequently end in those places where missionary intelligence will usually begin.
The missionary information which is about to be presented to the world, not being drawn from the musty shelves of antiquity, but from the fountain-head of existing facts, which are now in actual being, will unfold resources which are inexhaustible. Intelligence will be constantly arriving from the different islands; and, in this view, a period seems to be precluded, through the nature of the undertaking. To obviate this literary inconveniency, it will be found in all probability necessary to have recourse to an appendix, which will give the latest intelligence which can be obtained, and with this the work shall finally close.
The appendix, which thus seems absolutely necessary from the circumstances which have been stated, will be almost entirely of
a missionary nature, and will apply to those islands to which its different portions will refer. It may include personal anecdotes, and biographical sketches or detached circumstances, which have no immediate connexion with the general history, though perfectly applicable as appendages,' or as circumstances which serve to elucidate the leading features of the work,
The history itself will proceed onward in the mean while, independently of these subsequent considerations; and its different branches will be pursued according to the plan which is now arranged. The first chapter will contain a general description of the Islands ; the second and third, an account of the original natives; and the fourth, a general survey of the most important missions which are any way connected with them.
We shall afterwards proceed with the natural and civil history of Jamaica, and then with the missionary intelligence belonging to that island. After this we shall take a survey of the other Islands in like manner, considering each in a separate and detached point of view, till, having passed through the whole, we shall notice, by way of appendix, such subsequent information as may arrive too late to be inserted in its proper place.
Ina work like the present it must naturally be expected, that the writer will avail himself of every authority already extant. He should indeed deem himself highly culpable in omitting this; and, in fact, he will find it difficult, on many occasions, to avoid expressing himself, on the same common topics, in nearly the same language as his predecessors. To prevent therefore repeated quotations, and long notes of reference, which occupy a considerable portion of some of our modern histories, he thinks it incumbent on him to declare in this place, that he has consulted the following early Spanish, Italian, and French historians, who have written on the West Indies:-Oviedo, Peter Martyr, Las Casas, Herrara, Rochfort, Du Tertro, and La Bat; and the modern much esteemed philosophical and political history of the settlements and trade of the Europeans in the East and West Indies by the Abbé Raynal. He has also consulted the following