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excellent compositions of our own countrymen-Robertson's History of America ; Sloane, Long, and Beckford, on Jamaica ; and lastly, the third edition lately published of a very accurate, and ample, civil and commercial History of the British West Indies, by Bryan Edwards, Esq. to whom the palm of superiority may be justly assigned.
But ample and accurate as the last mentioned history is, it is considerably defective in one important point, to which if Mr. Edwards had paid any tolerable attention, he would have superseded the present work, and precluded the necessity of all engagements in this undertaking. The progress of Christianity in these Islands, through the instrumentality of British Protestant ministers; the conversion of the people of colour and of the Negroes, together with the happy effects which result from all, now form a considerable branch in the history of the coloniesso considerable, that it cannot with justice be omitted without exposing the author to the censure of partiality, and leaving the history really incompletę. But strange as it may appear, though Mr. Edwards has published three large volumes entirely on the West Indies, and sent them into the world so recently, and at a time when the progress of the missions was well known to those who were conversant with the affairs of that part of the globe, and therefore could not escape his notice, not more than three pages, in all his work, are devoted to the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
From these authorities which we have thus cited, a variety of important information has been collected and incorporated in the present work, of which no further account need be taken. Nor is this mode of proceeding without precedent. The editor of a new edition of Guthrie's Geographical, Historical, and Commercial Grammar, has inserted, verbatim, copious extracts from Mr. Edwards, of which he makes a similar acknowledgment in a short advertisement. Mr. Bryan Edwards also in his turn observes, “ I have endeavoured to collect useful knowledge wheresoever it lay; and when I found books that supplied what I sought, I have sometimes been content to adopt without alteration what was thus furnished to my hands." Edwards' West Indies, Preface, 1st Edition, p. 10,
The present undertaking may therefore be considered as entering into the world to supply that deficiency, and to fill up that chasm which Mr. Edwards has left in his excellent history, which, for its legitimacy and accuracy, can hardly be exceeded. The work now presented to the public is not written to controvert facts which he has stated, nor to correct errors into which he has fallen ; it is not to trace out incidents which he has omitted, or to record transactions which he had no means of knowing; but to rescue from oblivion a department of history, which must be particularly interesting to the religious world; and to acquaint posterity with those glorious effects which have resulted from the preaching of the gospel in different periods in the West Indies, from the time that settlements were first made in those islands by European nations.
But since a detail solely of religious transactions, if all natural and civil history were to be excluded, would render this work defective on the opposite extreme, and subject it to a charge of partiality, which must be deemed reprehensible, and would, without the local circumstances of time and place, render it irksome to many minds, the natural and civil history of each island is introduced.
By this method, while the religious reader is intent upon the work which God has carried on, and is still carrying on, in those parts, he may behold in one view, both the field of action and the success of the gospel of Christ. And by contemplating the varied productions of the world, in different regions, he may see fresh occasions to magnify the varied displays of omnipotent power; and, from every scene of wonder, he may ascribe glory to God. But, on the contrary, those who feel but little or no interest in that intelligence which is purely missionary, will discover an ample fund of information in the departments of civil and natural history, into which this narration largely enters. In fine, they will find nothing omitted that has reached our notice either of ancient or modern history, which could render this undertaking either interesting to them, or worthy of their regard.
The ancient histories of these islands, which have been consulted on this occasion, furnish us with all the information that can now be obtained relative to their original state, when first visited by Europeans. To these records we have already appealed, and shall appeal, as occasions may require. But such delineations as have been taken by modern historians from inquiry and observation, the author of this work will be able to confirm, correct, or elucidate, as circumstances may direct.
Profiting therefore by his predecessors who have trodden the same path both in ancient and modern days, and having made his own observations in his repeated visits to these Islands, he flatters himself that nothing will be wanting to render this work generally interesting, and extensively useful, to the different classes of readers into whose hands it may occasionally fall. Above all preceding histories of the West Indies, this will have one exclusive advantage, that, while in common with theirs it examines nature in her warmest recesses, it describes the progress of vital religion in the torrid zone.
AMONG the different sciences which have tended through every age to embellish human life, the department of History has always held a distinguished rank. In the civilized nations of Europe it constitutes a considerable branch of liberal education; and a familiar acquaintance with past ages has always been esteemed an indispensable accomplishment. It elevates its individual possessor in the scale of society, and raises the contemplative mind from those local confines which bound our present state of existence.
It is a department of science which unfolds the latent windings of the human heart, and affords the fairest opportunities through which we may trace those actions to their genuine sources, which appear in themselves uncertain and problematical, because their origin is involved in shade. It opens a communication with ages which are now lost in the ocean of eternity, and gives to us the real and unvarnished characters of statesmen, divines, philosophers, and heroes ; on each of which the mind may expatiate with freedom, unbiased by prejudices, and uninfluenced either by hopes or fears.
It is a science which enables us, without the uncertainty of experiment, to connect the motive with the end; and to view with steady light a simple measure in its remotest consequences, without being impeded by those obstacles, or encircled by those mists and shadows, that frequently obscure to the more immediate spectator the scene of action; which, through these obstructing mediums, dazzles with a superficial glare, and bewilders and confounds, instead of imparting information.
It is a science which enables us to hold communion with different parts of the peopled globe, to estimate those national characters which we survey, and to observe those tints and shades which distinguish man from man. It teaches us, by our observations on mankind, how to improve by their disasters, and how to profit by their experiments, without either the hazard of miscarriage, or the mortification of disgrace. And by thus opening an intercourse with distant ages and regions, we not only discover the different productions of every climate, and every zone, but we have an opportunity of estimating the extent and diversity of the human intellect, in all its progressive stages of improvement, VOL. I.
froin perfect barbarism to mere civilization, and from mere civilization to the exalted refinements of polished life.
Through an acquaintance with History, we learn the advantages which result from a state of society; in which each man contributes to his brother's wants, and increases his own security by the advantages which he imparts. And from these advantages we are taught also to view the inconveniences which are inseparable froin that state of savage solitude, in which every one must lie exposed to the depredations of his neighbour, without having it in his power to appeal to a coercive authority, which, in the present degenerate condition of man, can alone enforce the claims of eternal justice.
By an acquaintance with History, we discover those latent and unsuspected causes, upon which the rise and fall of empires depend; we learn what objects contribute towards the stability of a people, and what mudes of pursuit and conduct will inevitably terminate in decay. It places the mind of man upon an eminence from whence the eye wanders in immense excursions of reality; lives over those ages which clapsed before the deluge, and from whence we can survey with one glance an epitome of the world. It enables us, from a retrospection of the past, and a comprehension of the present, to form a probable calculation of the future, till time shall be no more. It enables us to connect eternity with eternity; and to behold it an encircling ocean, in which time and man, as to liis present state, and the works of both, shall sink together, overwhelmed in the vast abyss.
An acquaintance with History is calculated to shew us the imbecility of all human efforts, as well as the shortness of human life; that death will ultimately sweep away the human race; and that time will at last destroy the most permanent labours of man. It will convince us, by the most indubitable evidence, that our triumphal arches must decay; that our most stately monuments must totter to their base; and that the most superb mausoleum must mingle with that dust which it was destined to protect. It will enable us to contemplate, with instructive reflections, the instability of all human grandeur and beauty; and assure us that nothing is in a state of safety which lies beneath the sun, unless it have an immediate connexion with God. It will induce the mind to sicken with disgust at the uncertainty of worldly glory, and to investigate with unremitting attention those sacred records which teach us to look to the Author of our being to find stability and repose; and will lead us to place all our contidence in hiin, and in those objects which can neither expire nor change.
In those views the able historian at once instructs and entertains us, and communicates information through the mediums of delight. lle pleases the fancy, while he informs the judgment;