Ridpath's History of the United States
Volume II

Chapter IV
New Jersey

The history of New Jersey begins with the founding of Elizabethtown, in 1664. As early as 1618 a feeble trading station had been established at Bergen, west of the Hudson; but forty years passed before permanent dwellings were built in that neighborhood. In 1623 the block-house, called Fort Nassau, was erected on the Delaware, and after a few months' occupancy was abandoned.

All the territory of New Jersey was included in the grant made by King Charles to his brother, the duke of York. Two months before the conquest of New Netherland by the English, that portion of the duke's province lying between the Hudson and the Delaware, extending as far north as forty-one degrees and forty minutes, was assigned by the duke to two of his friends, Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. The next year the work of colonization began. Elizabethtown, named in honor of Sir George Carteret's wife, was settled, and soon Puritans from New England, especially of New Haven, because of dissatisfaction there, found homes in the new colony.

Elizabethtown was made the capital of the colony; other immigrants arrived from Long Island and settled on the banks of the Passaic; Neward was founded; flourishing hamlets appeared on the shores of the bay as far south as Sandy Hook. In honor of Sir George Carteret, who had been governor of the Isle of Jersey, in the English Channel, his American domain was named New Jersey.

Berkeley and Carteret, though royalists themselves, provided for their new State an excellent constitution. Person and property were put under the protection of law. The government was made to consist of a governor, a council, and a popular legislative asembly. There should be no taxation unless levied by the representatives of the people. Difference of opinion should be respected, and freedom of conscience guaranteed to every citizen. The proprietors reserved to themselves only the right of annulling objectionable acts of the assembly and of appointing the governor and colonial judges. The lands of the province were distributed to the settlers for a quit-rent of a half-penny per acre, not to be paid until 1670. The first genreal assembly, which met in 1668, was dominated by the Puritan element, which left its impress in the laws. When the first quit-rents fell due in 1670 many of the settlers refused to pay the rent, claiming they had purchased the land from the Indians or held title from the governor of New York. The people rose in rebellion, took the government into their own hands, deposed the governor, and called James Carteret, an illegitimate son of the proprietor, in his stead.

In 1673 the Dutch succeeded in retaking New York from the English. For a few months the old province of New Netherland, including the country as far south as the Delaware, was restored to Holland. But in the next year the whole territory was re-ceded by the states-general to England. The duke of York now received from his brother, the king, a second patent for the country between the Connecticut and the Delaware, and at the same time confirmed his former grant of New Jersey to Berkeley and Carteret. Then, in utter disregard of the rights of the two proprietors, the duke appointed Sir Edmund Andros as royal governor of the whole province. Carteret determined to defend his claim against the authority of Andros; but Lord Berkeley, disgusted with the duke's vacillation and dishonesty, sold his interest in New Jersey to two English Quakers, John Fenwick and Edward Byllinge.

In 1675, Philip Carteret returned to America and resumed the government of the province from which he had been expelled. Andros opposed him in every act; claimed New Jersey as a part of his own dominions; kept the colony in an uproar; compelled the ships which came a-trading with the new settlements to pay tribute at New York; and finally arrested Carteret and brought him to his own capital for trail. Meanwhile, Byllinge became embarrassed with debt, and was forced to make an assignment of his property to a board of Quaker trustees, of whom William Penn was one.

Penn and his associates at once applied to Sir George Carteret for a division of the province. That nobleman was both willing and anxious to enter into an arrangement by which his own half of the territory could be freed from all encumbrance. After much discussion an agreement was reached in the summer of 1676, and a line of division was drawn through the rpovince directly from Little Egg Harbor to the Delaware Water Gap. The territory lying east of this line remained to Sir George as sole proprietor, and was named East Jersey; while that portion lying between the line and the Delaware was called West Jersey, and passed under the exclusive control of Penn and his associates.

Early in the following March the Quaker proprietors completed and published a body of laws under the singular title of Concessions. But the name was significant, for everything was conceded to the people. This first simple code enacted by the Friends in America rivaled the charter of Connecticut in the liberality and purity of its principles. The authors of the instrument accompanied its publication with a general letter addressed to the Quakers of England, recommending the province and inviting immigration. The invitation was not in vain. Before the end of the year a colony of more than four hundred Friends arrived in the Delaware, and found homes in West Jersey.

In November of 1681, Jennings, the deputy-governor of West Jersey, convened the first general assembly of the province. The men who had so worried the aristocracy of England by wearing their hats in the presence of great men, and by saying Thee and Thou, now met together to make their own laws. The code was brief and simple. The doctrines of the Concessions were reaffirmed. Men of all races and of all religions were declared to be equal before the law. No superiority was conceded to rank or title, to wealth or royal birth. Imprisonment for debt was forbidden. The sale of ardent spirits to the Red men was prohibited. Taxes should be voted by the representatives of the people. The lands of the Indians should be acquired by honorable purchase. Finally, a criminal--unless a murderer, traitor, or a thief--might be pardoned by the person against whom the offense was committed.

In 1682, William Penn and eleven other Friends purchased of the heirs of Carteret the province of East Jersey. Robert Barclay, an eminent Quaker of Aberdeen, in Scotland, was appointed governor for life. The whole of New Jersey was now under the authority of the Friends. The administration of Barclay, which continued until his death, in 1590, was chiefly noted for a large immigration of Scotch Quakers, who left the governor's native country to find freedom in East Jersey. The persecuted Presbyterians of Scotland came to the province in still greater numbers.

On the accession of James II., in 1685, the American colonies from Maine to Delaware were consolidated, and Edmund Andros appointed royal governor. But not until 1688 were New York and the two Jerseys brought under his jurisdiction. The short reign of King James was already at an end before Andros could succeed in setting up a despotism on the ruin of colonial liberty. When the news came of the bdication and flight of the English monarch, the governor of New England could do nothing but surrender to the indignant people whom he had wronged and insulted. His arrest and impresonment was the signal for the restoration of popular government in all the colonies over which he had ruled.

But the condition of New Jersey was deplorable. It was almost impossible to tell to whom the jurisdiction of the territory rightfully belonged. So far as the eastern province was concerned, the representatives of Carteret claimed it; the governor of New York claimed it; Penn and his associates claimed it. As t the western province, the heirs of Byllinge claimed it; Penn and his associates claimed it; the governor of New York claimed it. over all these pretensions stood the paramount claim of the English king. From 1689 to 1692 there was no settled form of government in the territory; and the Jerseys were left almost in a state of anarchy for more than ten years. The problem was at last resolved by the different claimants relinguishing their right of government to the English Crown, they retaining only the ownership fo the soil. Thus, in 1702, New Jersey became a royal province. While it had its own legislature, it shared with New York, for thirty-six years, the latter's governor. Finally, in 1738, the two colonies were separated.

The people of New Jersey were but little disturbed by the successive Indian wars. The native tribes on this part of the American coast were weak and timid. Had it not been for the cruelties of Kieft and the wrongs of other governors of New York, the peace of the middle colonies would haver have been broken. The province of New Jersey is specially interesting as being the point where the civilization of New England met and blended with the civilization of the South. Here the institutions, manners, and laws of the Pilgrims were first modified by contact with the less rigid habits and opinions of the people who came with Gosnold and Smith. The dividing-line between East and West Jersey is also the dividing-line between the austere Puritans of Massachusetts and the chivalrous cavaliers of Virginia. Happily, along this dividing-line the men of peace, the followers of Penn and Barclay, came and dwelt as if to subdue ill-will and make a Union possible.

Return to Ridpath's History of the United States Table of Contents
Return to E-Books Index
Return to California AHGP Home Page
Return to Sacramento County AHGP Home Page

© 2000-2002 by Jacque Rogers