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Letter dated 7th March 1687 from Rev. Francis Crow at Port Royal Jamaica to Rev. Giles Firmin at Ridgewell, Essex, England.

Reverend and dear Sir:-

I have now by the good hand of God upon me weathered out almost a year in this dry and thirsty land, arriving here the thirtieth of last March. I have not hitherto written to any almost in England, but to my son, and about his concerns: not at all into the Country, until I send you this, to whom with my dear Brethren Mr. Havers and Mr. Scandrett, I thought it my duty to give this first salute. To them I transmit this as to yourself.

[Omitted - the next paragraph concerns only the circumstances in which he left England - as a non-conformist preacher]

But now, Sir, as to myself and place here, I found sin very high and religion very low. Here hath been great want of fit means to lay a good foundation by an ordained Minister, both for the Word and Sacraments. A goodly discreet officer of Christ some years ago might have done that service to souls in this place, that may not now be expected. There might by this means have been a people here in some Church order trained up and edified in the ordinary use of all Christ's ordinances; whereas thee is nothing known here but a form of preaching on the Lord's Day, and many that go on in the common road of public formality may be said to be as dead and senseless here as almost anywhere else; and the people dissatisfied with this have turned Anabaptists and Quakers. So that the things of God and salvation are at a miserable pass with us; how irrecoverable I must not determine. And yet the goodness of God waits so far to be gracious to us to allow one, open, free, peaceable and numerous meeting on the growing hand; and there is an open door of opportunity, so there are not very many adversaries, especially of the governing party, who are the more moderate; and from them it is hoped the Duke [1] will take his measures and impressions when he comes.

The Governor [2] himself in two visits I made him twelve miles from Port Royal at Virgo del St. Jago hath treated me with greater civility and respect than I think fit to express. His secretary likewise I have good interest in, having been some nights at his house. He is a sober person, now upon the Point [3] with us for a change of air, in a bad habit of body. Our liberties are like to be as long lived as in any of the King's plantations; for indeed they can hardly be taken away without apparent danger if not ruin to the island, considering the multitude of Jews upon the Point and the many Quakers there are, both here and in the country plantations.

The better sort of merchants and mechanics adhere to us. And indeed I should be disingenuous if upon this head I should conceal the kindness of our congregation in allowing me a liberal maintenance. This is but needful, in that this is one of the most expensive, dear places in the known world, for all manner of provisions; and yet 'tis the most proud and prodigal place that ever I beheld, especially it is so as to the women among us. For a cooper's [4] wife shall go forth in the best coloured silks and richest silver and gold lace that England can afford, with a couple of Negroes at her tail, there being five Blacks to one White.

The greatest trade of this place lies in bringing of these poor creatures like sheep from Guinea hither, to sell them to the home plantations, and to the Spanish factors that buy them at £20 per head, or thereabouts. They come as naked as the day they were born, and the buyers look in their mouths and survey their joints as if they were horses in a market. We have few other servants here but these slaves, who are bought with our money, except some from Newgate [5]. These Negroes at their first coming understand none of the European languages and seldom learn English perfectly, not even they that are born here in our houses.

Of such subjects I might write you many sheets, but what to my purpose, you will say? How thrives the Gospel in Jamaica? What have you done for God at Port Royal? How many souls have you converted by a year's preaching? Alas, Sir! what an humbling Providence it is that I can give no better answer to this great question!--.but that one soul hath yet been converted is hid from me--..I confess my soul thirsteth for the first ripe fruit of this blind an barren Indian island, where Satan hath made so long and so strong a throne, and where Christ has been so great a stranger. I like it not that in one whole year's plain preaching there is so little visible striving toward Christ and casting Satan out of so great sinners.

[Omitted - the next two paragraphs about faith and religion generally, not particular to Jamaica]

The constant heat is so consuming night and day that there here is a continual summer, without the least footsteps of a winter, either for frost or snow, cold or rain, or any sensible shortness of days. And indeed the place is so little desirable either for company or climate that without some signal marks of God's blessing on a man's ministry there seems small encouragement for staying. I am here deprived of converse both with scholars and Christians, few here even of the better sort caring to see a minister out of the pulpit. Having no time to spare for nor spirit to entertain any mutual edification in more private Christian communion.

As the wicked here are more profane than in England, so the professors (the few that there are) are more lukewarm and worldly. Most of them are Anabaptists and Independents, whose opinions I could willingly waive, to carry on the great work of godliness and edifying in Christ, by all his ordinances. But most of them having been members of congregations in London and elsewhere in England excuse themselves from living under any pastoral charge or inspection here--not caring that full proof should be made among them for reforming loose lives and heathenish families.

[Omitted - the last paragraph which is a farewell salutation similar to the beginning]

Your unworthy much endeared Brother




[1] The Duke of Albermarle, appointed Governor but not yet arrived on the island.

[2] H. Molesworth, Acting Governor

[3] Port Royal

[4] Not as strange as it may seem - with barrels of all sizes the only safe means of storing provisions and produce aboard ship and for transport on land, 'coopering' was a vital trade with good money to be made.

[5] Newgate Prison, London. (This may be a reference to convicted rebels who supported the late Charles II's bastard son, The Duke of Monmouth, in his failed uprising of 1685. Transportation, for some, was an alternative to hanging; 200 were allocated to the then Governor, Sir Philip Howard, who made a tidy sum from selling them on, well above the cost of transportation at £7 per head, as 10 year indentured servants to ready buyers on the island ). A General Pardon freed them in 1689; some somehow found money for the passage home, others remained.

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