IT is perfectly natural to expect, in presenting any work to the public, and more especially of the nature of a journal, that the reader will desire to know something of the character of its author, in order to determine what degree of confidence the writer is entitled to, - whether the statements made are to be depended upon or not. In compliance with this reasonable demand, we will endeavor to impart such information as we possess, believing that it will be perfectly satisfactory.
CHARLES HERBERT was the son of John Herbert, of Newburyport, Mass. His mother's name was Jane, daughter of Colonel Pierce of that town. Mr. Charles Herbert was born November 17th, in the year of our Lord 1757, but, being deprived of his mother by death, at the early age of two months, be was committed to the care of a maiden aunt - Miss Lydia Pierce, sister of his mother. The influence of early training, as developed in the life of Mr. Herbert, is very creditable to his early tutoress. Moral and religious principle must have taken a deep root in his young heart, to have preserved that heart from the gross and corrupting influence of the society into which he was afterwards thrown. The fruit appears in lovely contrast with the abandoned profligacy of many of his companions, and no doubt afforded him abundant consolation in the hours of suffering and solitude. His character gave to him a sort of pre-eminence among his fellows, and an influence with his captors and keepers, which his companions did not share. He was a true patriot; neither frowns nor flatteries could move him to abandon his country's interest. If good tidings reach him, his heart exults with joy; if dark clouds hang over the prospects of the patriot band, he is sorrowful, and will not be comforted; he can endure hunger, confinement, or reproach - any thing but the extinguishing of his country's hope. Others, for the sake of personal liberty, can join the standard of the enemy: but not so with him; he cannot betray the cause of his country, or go to battle against his brother.
From the Journal the reader will learn that Mr. Herbert entered on board the Dolton, Nov. 15, 1776, being less than nineteen years of age, and returned to Newburyport Aug. 23, 1780, having been absent nearly four years, two of which he spent as a prisoner, in a foreign land. The sufferings of this period were of the most distressing kind - hunger, cold, sickness, and privation. After his release, by an exchange of prisoners, brought about by the efforts of Dr. Franklin, then Minister to France, Mr. Herbert joined the Alliance frigate, commanded by Captain Landais, forming part of the squadron of Commodore J. Paul Jones. He was one of those sent to Bergen, in Norway, then a part of the kingdom of Denmark, with prizes - which prizes were seized by the Danish government and delivered to the English Consul, which forms the basis of the "Denmark Claims," so called; and which amounted then, according to Dr. Franklin, to at least fifty thousand pounds sterling. The crews of these vessels, on their return from Denmark, were kindly entertained by Dr. Franklin, at his house; and on leaving, he paid their expenses and gave each person a crown. Mr. Herbert preserved his, as a sacred treasure, as long as he lived but it has since his death been lost. It is to be hoped that those claims against Denmark will be brought to a speedy settlement, and the few survivors of the eventful scenes of Paul Jones' career be rewarded for their sufferings. Mr. Herbert possessed a remarkably active mind, prompt and ready on all occasions; he met every emergency with the utmost self-possession. This is seen in his conduct when the brig was taken, and after he became a prisoner. He could be carpenter, carver, shoemaker, merchant, could make boxes, sell tobacco, or labor in any way to make a shift, to prevent starvation. Nor did he neglect his mind; he bought several books at extravagant prices, which he read, and loaned to his fellow prisoners. Among other studies perused in prison he became master of navigation. His journal, which is a standing monument of his genius and industry, was concealed, while writing, in his boots, and as each page became full, it was conveyed to a chest with a double bottom, and there secreted until be left prison.
It is probable the existence of the journal was known to very few, if any, in prison, as the most serious consequences must have followed its discovery. How often in the silent hours of midnight, by the light made from the marrow of a bone, did he trace the record of each eventful day? It has never been known that any journal of any length of time was kept by any other person: it is believed none exists; and to the friends of those who were taken by the enemy and died in prison, or escaped but have not been beard from, or who went on board English men-of-war, "to serve, and continue to serve in his Majesty's service," the journal of Mr. Herbert must be of great interest and satisfaction. After Mr. Herbert's return to Newburyport, Aug. 23, 1780, we have no account of his being employed in the service of his country, other than as a private citizen; indeed, his constitution had received so severe a shock by his long imprisonment and great exposure, that his health was much enfeebled. He soon entered into business as a block-maker, and on the 8th of November, 1783, was United in marriage to Miss Molly Butler, by Rev. John Murray, of Newburyport. He continued in the business of block-maker until his death, which occurred on the 4th of September, A. D. 1808. Mr. Herbert bad one brother, who died in the morning of life, by a fall occasioned by moving some freight belonging to him on board a vessel. Mrs. Herbert became the mother of fourteen children, six of whom are still living. She is still, at the advanced age of eighty-four, lingering among us as a relic of a people precious in our memory; and should there be a surplus after paying the expenses of publishing this work, if still living, she will enjoy a liberal share thereof.
It is to be regretted that Mrs. Herbert has not been able to obtain either the pension allowed by the law of our land to widows of Revolutionary soldiers and sailors, or the prize money due to her husband from government. How slow are we to reward those who struggled hard for our liberties.
The above facts might be confirmed by the testimony of some of our most distinguished citizens, if necessary.
Hoping that liberal sales will enable the
publisher to render to the widow of Charles Herbert a liberal
donation, it is submitted to a generous public, by the
Boston, July, 1847.