[British Surveyor-General of North Carolina. d. 1711.]
Exact Description and Natural History
Together with the Present State thereof.
Of a Thousand Miles, Travel'd thro' several
Nations of INDIANS.
Giving a particular Account of their Customs,
By John Lawson, Gent. Surveyor-General of North Carolina.
To His Excellency
WILLIAM Lord CRAVEN, Palatine;
The most Noble, HENRY Duke of BEAUFORT;
The Right Hon-ble JOHN Lord CARTERET;
The Hon-ble MAURICE ASHLEY, Esq;
Sir JOHN COLLETON, Baronet,
JOHN DANSON, Esq;
And the rest of the True and Absolute
Province of Carolina in America.
As Debts of Gratitude ought most punctually to be paid, so, where the Debtor
is uncapable of Payment, Acknowledgments ought, at least, to be made.
I cannot, in the least, pretend to retaliate Your Lordships Favours to me,
but must farther intrude on that Goodness of which I have already had
so good Experience, by laying these Sheets at Your Lordships Feet,
where they beg Protection, as having nothing to recommend them, but Truth;
a Gift which every Author may be Master of, if he will.
I here present Your Lordships with a Description of your own Country,
for the most part, in her Natural Dress, and therefore less vitiated
with Fraud and Luxury. A Country, whose Inhabitants may enjoy
a Life of the greatest Ease and Satisfaction, and pass away their Hours
in solid Contentment.
Those Charms of Liberty and Right, the Darlings of an English Nature,
which Your Lordships grant and maintain, make you appear Noble Patrons
in the Eyes of all Men, and we a happy People in a Foreign Country;
which nothing less than Ingratitude and Baseness can make us disown.
As Heaven has been liberal in its Gifts, so are Your Lordships
favourable Promoters of whatever may make us an easy People;
which, I hope, Your Lordships will continue to us and our Posterity;
and that we and they may always acknowledge such Favours,
by banishing from among us every Principle which renders Men
factious and unjust, which is the hearty Prayer of,
Your Lordships most obliged,
and most devoted Servant,
'Tis a great Misfortune, that most of our Travellers, who go to
this vast Continent in America, are Persons of the meaner Sort,
and generally of a very slender Education; who being hir'd by the Merchants,
to trade amongst the Indians, in which Voyages they often spend
several Years, are yet, at their Return, uncapable of giving
any reasonable Account of what they met withal in those remote Parts;
tho' the Country abounds with Curiosities worthy a nice Observation.
In this Point, I think, the French outstrip us.
First, By their Numerous Clergy, their Missionaries being obedient
to their Superiors in the highest Degree, and that Obedience
being one great Article of their Vow, and strictly observ'd
amongst all their Orders.
Secondly, They always send abroad some of their Gentlemen
in Company of the Missionaries, who, upon their Arrival,
are order'd out into the Wilderness, to make Discoveries,
and to acquaint themselves with the Savages of America; and are oblig'd
to keep a strict Journal of all the Passages they meet withal,
in order to present the same not only to their Governors and Fathers,
but likewise to their Friends and Relations in France;
which is industriously spread about that Kingdom, to their Advantage.
For their Monarch being a very good Judge of Mens Deserts,
does not often let Money or Interest make Men of Parts give Place
to others of less Worth. This breeds an Honourable Emulation amongst them,
to outdo one another, even in Fatigues, and Dangers; whereby they gain
a good Correspondence with the Indians, and acquaint themselves
with their Speech and Customs; and so make considerable Discoveries
in a short time. Witness, their Journals from Canada, to the Missisipi,
and its several Branches, where they have effected great Matters,
in a few Years.
Having spent most of my Time, during my eight Years Abode in Carolina,
in travelling; I not only survey'd the Sea-Coast and those Parts
which are already inhabited by the Christians, but likewise view'd a spatious
Tract of Land, lying betwixt the Inhabitants and the Ledges of Mountains,
from whence our noblest Rivers have their Rise, running towards the Ocean,
where they water as pleasant a Country as any in Europe;
the Discovery of which being never yet made publick, I have,
in the following Sheets, given you a faithful Account thereof,
wherein I have laid down every thing with Impartiality, and Truth,
which is indeed, the Duty of every Author, and preferable to a smooth Stile,
accompany'd with Falsities and Hyperboles.
Great Part of this pleasant and healthful Country is inhabited
by none but Savages, who covet a Christian Neighbourhood,
for the Advantage of Trade, and enjoy all the Comforts of Life
free from Care and Want.
But not to amuse my Readers any longer with the Encomium of Carolina,
I refer 'em to my Journal, and other more particular Description
of that Country and its Inhabitants, which they will find
after the Natural History thereof, in which I have been very exact,
and for Method's sake, rang'd each Species under its distinct and proper Head.
In the Year 1700, when People flock'd from all Parts of the Christian World,
to see the Solemnity of the Grand Jubilee at Rome, my Intention,
at that Time, being to travel, I accidentally met with a Gentleman,
who had been Abroad, and was very well acquainted with the Ways of Living
in both Indies; of whom, having made Enquiry concerning them,
he assur'd me, that Carolina was the best Country I could go to;
and, that there then lay a Ship in the Thames, in which I might have
my Passage. I laid hold on this Opportunity, and was not long on Board,
before we fell down the River, and sail'd to Cowes; where, having taken in
some Passengers, we proceeded on our Voyage 'till we sprung a-leak,
and were forc'd into the Islands of Scilly.