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Drury's childish notions, and saying they were old women's stories, were delivered in that prince's own words. And if we consider the then circumstances of our author, that he was but fourteen years of age when he set out on this unfortunate voyage, his education at a grammar-school, and in the principles of the established church; and that ever since his arrival in England, and settlement in London, he has been firmly attached thereto, even to bigotry; it would be very weak and absurd to suppose him capable, or inclined to advance an imaginary conference with the deaan upon so serious a topic, with no other motive than to favour free-thinking, or natural religion, in opposition to that which was revealed, especially as they are points about which he scarcely ever concerned himself.
In all those places where religion, or the origin of governments are casually mentioned, there are interspersed some occasional reflections, which are not, properly speaking, the author's, which is all the artifice made use of throughout the whole. It must be owned, that topics so entertaining could not well be passed over, without making some proper and useful applications : : yet no motive, how tempting soever, could
prevail on the editor to alter any real fact, or add any one single fiction of his own. Every transaction here related, as likewise the character and conversation of every person introduced, are properly Mr. Drury's own.
The religion of the natives of Madagascar, some authors will have to be Mahometanism; but without any manner of grounds for such a conclusion, since it has no resemblance of it in any other particulars, than in circumcision, and abstaining from their women at certain times, which were common to some eastern nations long before the Jews had it; or, indeed, where there is no reason to imagine that the name of the Jews was once so much as heard of.
There are good grounds, on the other hand, to conjecture, that the Jews derived several of their religious ceremonies from them. For that their religion is much more ancient, is plain from several reasons. First, from their regard to dreams, and divining by them, which, by the Mosaic law, the Israelites were expressly forbidden. Secondly, from their shaving off their hair in mourning for their dead; whereas among the Jews, the growth of it is strictly cominanded, and as superstitiously observed to this day. Thirdly, from their sacrifices; as Moses commanded none but males to be sacrificed; so, on the contrary, cows are the greatest part of the Madagascar sacrifices, and are thought by these people to be the most acceptable oblations to their Supreme Deity. They have no burnt offerings but near their sepulchres, when occasionally opened, which, with the gums burnt with them, serve for a defence against all ill scents. Fourthly, but the most notable reason of all is, that the owley, which these Madagascar people make use of for their divinations, and procure their unusual or extraordinary dreams with, is manifestly the ephod and teraphim, made use of by the Levite who lodged in Micah's house, as we read Judges xvii., and from which the Israelites could never be wholly brought off, though directly repugnant to the law of Moses, concerning which there seems to be no occasion for enlarging farther in this place.
That the people of Madagascar did not derive their religion from any learned or polite nation, is evident by their retaining no idea or remembrance of letters; nor their having a horse, or so necessary a machine as a wheel of any kind, either for carriage or use, which could never have been forgotten, had they ever had them. That these Madagascar people came first from Africa, seems most probable by their colour; and perhaps from the Abyssines, or even from Egypt. The Virzimbers, indeed, by their woolly heads, must come from the more southern part of Africa. Deaan Tokeoffu told Captain Mackett they had a tradition of their coming on the island many years ago in large canoes. But from wheresoever they came, it is manifest that their religion is the most ancient in the world, and not far from pure natural religion.
We may reflect with pleasure on the devotion of these
people, who address the Supreme Being on every occasion for his aid and assistance when in necessity or distress ; and with true piety and hearts full of gratitude return him their humble and unfeigned thanks for those blessings and benefits he confers upon them; yet have they no temples, no tabernacles, or groves for the public performance of their divine worship; neither have they solemn fasts, or festivals, or set days, or times, or priests to do it for them. But we may here observe, that as Melchizedeck was a king, and stiled the priest of the inost high God, (a phrase strictly correspondent to that of deaan Unghorray, the highest God,) so it is the practice of the Madagascar kings, or lords, to be themselves the performers of all religious offices. Their umosses or prophets, indeed, directed the making their owleys of particular roots, or woods, having as they tell them, magical properties agreeing to the spirits; as also that they must be made at pro
There are two things in this history highly worthy of observation : one is, that there is a law among them against cursing a man's parents. What a reproach is this to countries called christian, where there is no law or punishment against even those who have the impudence and impiety not only of cursing others, but their own parents. The other is, that such is their regard and reverence to the most high God, that they swear not profanely: but such is the profaneness of even our christian nation, that a man can hardly pass the streets (as archbishop Tillotson observes) without having his ears grated and pierced with horrid and blasphemous oaths and curses, as are enough, if we were guilty of no other sin, to sink a nation. These give reputation to the general character of these people, that where the Europeans or Mahometans have not corrupted them, they are very innocent, moral, and courteous; and more so, with shame be it spoken, than most nations, who have all the advantages of a liberal and christian education.
There is yet one observation more, which, we hope, will not be thought improper here ; which is, that our author's niany deliverances are glorious and wonderful displays of the goodness and power of Divine Providence ; and gave him, no doubt, an awakening sense of his obstinate disobedience to the will and entreaties of his tender parents and friends, who so much and often pressed him to lay aside those wilful resolutions of his first voyage to the East Indies ; wherein we may see the marks both of divine displeasure and goodness, the first in his shipwreck and slavery, the other in his delivery or release from thence. All which may serve as a lesson to the youth of future generations to beware, lest by their disobedience and obstinate forcing of themselves from the care of their parents or friends, they bring upon themselves those miseries and missortunes which occasion a too late repentance.
Much more might have been said on this occasion, but as we have not room, we refer our readers to the perusal of the book itself; in which, we presume, they will not only find an entertaining, but profitable amusement.
This is to certify, that Robert Drury, fifteen years a slave in Madagascar, now living in London, was redeemed from thence, and brought into England, his native country, by myself
. I esteem him an honest, industrious man, of good reputation, and do firmly believe that the account he gives of his strange and surprising adventures is genuine and authentic.
WILLIAM MACKETT. May 7, 1728.
ROBERT DR UR Y.
As my design in the ensuing narrative, is to give a plain and honest account of matters of fact, I shall make use of no artful inventions, or borrowed phrases, to lengthen or embellish it; nor shall I introduce any other reflections, than what were the natural result of my many uncommon and surprising adventures. And,
Here, I hope, it will be no ways improper to inform my readers, that I was not fourteen years of age when these heavy misfortunes first befell me; so that my youth, as well as want of knowledge in the Madagascar language, rendered me incapable of making such curious observations, as one of a riper age, better judgment, and freed from slavery, might have done to much greater advantage. For,
I, Robert Drury, was born on the 24th of July, in the year 1687, in Crutched-friars, London, where my father then lived; but soon after he removed to the Old Jury, near Cheapside, where he kept for several years afterwards that noted house, called the King'shead, or otherwise distinguished by the name of the Beef-steak-house; and to which there was, all his time, a great resort of merchants, and other gentlemen of the best rank and character.