IN presenting the following pages to the reader, the publisher has no ambition to aspire to the character of an author, and what is perhaps more rare, he has no private interest to serve; he does not seek to gratify the fastidious part of the community, who would have more respect for the dress, or appearance, than for the subject matter. He is perfectly aware that the Journal is not without some imperfections; but it must be kept in mind that it was not written for the public, with an eye to publication, or to make a book - but simply as a memorandum of the events of each day. Yet when we take into consideration all the circumstances, it is little less than a miracle; consider the author: a youth of scarcely nineteen summers - then the places where the records were made - the cable tier of a man-of-war, the gloomy recesses of a prison, or on board the battle ship, where three or four hundred men were crowded together for the purposes of strife and blood ; then take into consideration the prohibition of all materials for writing in prison, the vigilance of the guards, and the frequent search made among the prisoners, and it becomes a matter of surprise, not that it has some imperfections, but that it exists at all, and especially that it was never interrupted. For the long imprisonment of more than two years, it seems to have been providentially preserved, for the purposes of bringing to light the hidden things of darkness, that those who should come after may be admonished and instructed.
The reader will find the Journal free from all appearance of design or effort; it is perfectly natural; what is seen or heard is recorded with hardly a note or comment, from first to last; through their medium we are conducted through the hold of the prison-ship, and witness the privations and sufferings of the hapless victims; the prison hospital is thrown open to our inspection, not as transient visitors, but as witnesses of the daily occurrences; here we see justice and mercy meeting together; the walls, the bars, the guards, tell that here stern justice holds its victims, while the attendant physician, and gentle patience of the nurse, speak of Mercy's visits, and pity. Then the prison doors grate on their hinges, and we enter; the vacant stare of the sons of Sorrow meet us, while their meager forms, sallow countenances and ragged habiliments, speak of their privations and misery; we seem to listen to their tale of woe, and hear them tell of happy homes and kind friends in their native land; we can almost taste their scanty and uninviting portions, and our sympathies become deeply interested, until we share in all their anxieties to obtain deliverance; we are sometimes almost suffocated while following the diggers in their excavations, to force a subterranean passage to the light of day and air of freedom; anon we are bounding over the fields as the minions of tyranny pursue us, until, weary and exhausted, we feel their ruthless hands upon us to drag us back to our gloomy habitations; then we feel the cold chill run over us, as we look forward to forty days and nights in darkness and solitude in the "Black hole," on half the usual allowance of ordinary prisoners; we become acquainted with the "Two Fathers," the messengers of Love and Pity - and while the donations continue we seem to enjoy a respite; hope and fear alternately rise and sink until the donation closes, and transient joy gives way to deeper gloom, until some of the less determined seek relief on board the enemy's ships of war, where they will be compelled to meet their friends and countrymen in the bloody strife - a destiny more horrible to the mind capable of reflection, than the protracted miseries of the prison cell.
At length the star of hope rises, and the news of a cartel is received; now it arrives, and we are straining our eyes through the dim light of the grated window to look on the ship, as she lays in the creek. Post after post is anxiously looked for until the agent musters his wretched charge and reads as follows: "His Majesty has been graciously pleased to pardon one hundred of you, in order to an exchange." The names of the hundred are read, while tears of joy point out the happy ones. Once more the prison doors give way - and with what rapture they hail the breath of freedom!
From the time that Mr. Herbert entered the service of the United States under the command of Commodore Jones, the entries in his journal are less frequent and less full; still, if it had not been for the unfortunate loss of several pages of the Journal, it would have been sufficiently full, to have conducted the reader through their several cruizes, to their arrival home; as it is, we have endeavored to fill up the vacuum by extracts from the official reports of Commodore Paul Jones.
It is believed that the reader will receive profit and pleasure from the numerous and various incidents here related, and from the information imparted on a variety of subjects, especially as it shows the views and feelings of the people of EngIand on the subject of the war then raging between this and the mother country; and that the strong sympathy manifested towards the prisoners, in the collection of upwards of thirty thousand dollars for their relief, together with all the private donations, not included in the above, will be an everlasting monument to the benevolence of British Christians, and may tend to soften our prejudices and lead to stronger sympathies for each other, and greater efforts to promote each other's welfare, and mutual feelings of peace and good will.
A list of the prisoners, with the places to which they belonged, and vessels in which they were taken, also a notice of such as had made their escape, had died, or entered the service of Great Britain, will no doubt be acceptable to such as had friends in the service of their country, and of whom, perhaps, they have never since heard. The list was taken, as will be seen, a short time before Mr. Herbert left prison.
The indulgence of the critic is hoped for, under the assurance that the task of preparing the Journal for the press has been arduous, as much of it was originally written in figures to secure secrecy, and had to be spelled out by reference to the key; that the task was performed amidst a press of more important duties, and with a fixed purpose of devoting all the avails of the sales of the work to the widow of the author, after paying the expense of publication.