The New Jersey venture

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The New Jersey venture

This article was first published in the 1964 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

The link between Jersey and the State of New Jersey, emphasised by the State's tercentenary celebrations this year, is almost entirely provided by two members of the remarkable Jersey family of de Carteret. They are Sir George, and his distant young cousin Philip, both of whom mildly anglicised their name by dropping the 'de'. This connection with New Jersey lasted for 18 years. Especially for Philip, they were arduous, harassing, pioneering years during which new political and administrative arrangements for the territory had to be made, unexpected conflicts and difficulties faced, the rival authority of compatriots resisted, and a short foreign occupation suffered.

Exciting events

The main interest of this brief period in the history of New Jersey lies in the exciting events connected with the government of the territory, some of which were attributable to the complex and confused relationships that then obtained among the royal entourage in England. By a grant from the Duke of York, in 1664 Sir George Carteret and his fellow courtier and royal favourite Lord John Berkeley, became joint Lords Proprietors of about 8,200 square miles of territory lying between the Hudson and Delaware rivers, the boundaries of which are still those of New Jersey today.

This was only one of Sir George's many ventures and neither of the Proprietors ever visited New Jersey. They exercised their authority and rights through Captain Philip Carteret, whom they appointed Governor at the age of 26. He governed the whole of New Jersey until 1674, when Berkeley sold his half interest and the territory was divided into West Jersey and East Jersey. Thereafter Philip governed East Jersey only. He died there in 1682 soon after East Jersey was sold under Sir George's will.

Except for the name James Bollen (which may have been Balleine) who arrived in New Jersey with Philip Carteret and remained his secretary throughout, there is no other recognisable Jersey family name among the early settlers. Most of the immigrants during the Carteret regime came from New England territories, notably from New Haven, but there was also an influx from Scotland. Many Huguenots emigrated to all the settlements in North America. New Jersey was attractive for settlers. The land was productive, and could easily be improved, the climate was good, there was good fishing, and occupancy by the Dutch had greatly reduced the dangers from the Indians. Proximity to the trading and shipping centre of New York was an advantage.

Sir George Carteret

Sir George Carteret

The remarkable career of Sir George Carteret (1609-80) has been outlined by the Rev George Balleine in the Bulletin for 1957. In every sense a man of enterprise and great affairs, his reputation was already high with Charles I before the civil wars, and the royal cause found no more ardent or resourceful champion. He ordered the proclamation in Jersey of King Charles II as King of England and he was host in Jersey to the young King, the Duke of York, Berkeley, and many others of the royal entourage during his defence of Elizabeth Castle.

His successful privateering not only harassed the Parliamentarians but afforded him the means for giving sorely needed financial help to the King's cause. Already in 1649 Charles II had made a gift to Sir George in perpetuity of Smith's Island and its surrounding islets, which lay off the coast of Virginia. It was to be called New Jersey. Shortly afterwards one of Sir George's ships which had been captured from the Danes sailed from Jersey with emigrants and supplies to occupy this very small territory; but it was seized by Cromwell's forces in the English Channel and the project was abandoned.

Not long after the Restoration in 1660, Sir George and other royal favourites became partners with the King's brother, the Duke of York, in The Company for Royal Adventurers into Africa. It received from the King exclusive rights to trade along the whole of the west coast of Africa where, however, Dutch and other traders were already established.

Ivory, gold, slaves, and the seizure of encroaching vessels were the prizes to be won, and eventually this venture proved very successful. Meanwhile, in March 1663, Sir George, Berkeley and six other courtiers received a grant from the King of the territory to be called Carolina, immediately to the south of Virginia, which was then virtually the southern limit of English settlement in North America. The Carolina venture was to prove onerous for many years for proprietors and settlers alike.

Novo Caesarea

That experience had not, however, been gained when, in June 1664, Sir George Carteret and Lord John Berkeley were again favoured by the grant of territory to be called Novo Caesarea or New Jersey. Yet another stake in the New World was acquired by Sir George in 1670 when he shared with five others in a grant of the Bahamas - a short-lived venture owing to the ravages of the Spaniards. Grants of land and the chartered company were the two chief means employed at that period for establishing overseas settlements and trading posts. The grant of such privileges was of great usefulness both to grantor and grantee, for it strengthened the power of patronage while providing an outlet for patriotic effort linked with the prospect of financial gain.

It may be recalled that England lay claim to the whole of the then known North America by right of discovery by Cabot in 1497. Down the years English expeditions had ventured along the coast and in 1584 one of Ralegh's took possession in Queen Elizabeth's name of the area which they called Virginia where, in 1607, the first permanent settlers from England arrived. In 1609 Henry Hudson, an Englishman working for the Dutch East India Company, explored up the Hudson river, while in 1620 the" Mayflower" and its pilgrims arrived on the Massachusetts coast and there followed other English settlements in the region.

Benefitting from Hudson's exploration, the Dutch established trading posts on Manhattan Island, also across the Hudson in what was to become New Jersey, and elsewhere in the region. They created the province of New Netherlands with its capital at New Amsterdam. There were Swedish settlers along the Delaware river who first arrived in 1626 and thirty years later came under the Dutch administration.

Early New Jersey Seal

Driving out the Dutch

Desirous of doing something to assert English rights over the territory held by the Dutch, Charles I in 1634 had granted to Sir Edmund Plowden a large area south of Long Island to be known as New Albion and embracing what later became New Jersey. The manouevre was not effective in checking the spread of Dutch settlement, but until the Restoration the English were in no position to take any further action. Indeed, in 1654 Cromwell recognised Holland's right to the land it held in the New World.

With the restoration there was a revival of feeling against the Dutch. Some English settlers asked for assistance against the extension of Dutch authority but others, by trading with the Dutch, were able to avoid the restrictions of the Navigation Act of 1660. Charles II sought the advice of Sir George, Berkeley, and William Coventry. They recommended that the territory held by the Dutch should be seized, so removing the wedge that separated the English territories in North America.

In March 1664 King Charles II made a grant to his brother, the Duke of York, of the territory between the west side of the Connecticut River and the east side of Delaware Bay. The Duke, in turn, (a lease and re-lease on 23 and 24 June respectively) made a grant to Sir George and Berkeley of that part between the Hudson and Delaware rivers. Then, in August 1664, a fleet from England appeared before New Amsterdam. The Dutch protestingly but peacefully surrendered, New Amsterdam was renamed New York, and the few hundred settlers already there, mainly Dutch and Swedish, accepted the inevitable.

The leader of the invading force, Colonel Richard Nicolls, had been a member of the Duke's Household, and the Duke appointed him Governor of the whole territory thus acquired. Nicolls does not seem to have been aware of the grant to Sir George and Berkeley until some time after it was made, nor informed about the implied right of government which it must have been known the two Lords Proprietors believed they had. This delay and confusion gave rise to a great deal of trouble in the years ahead.

Sir George and Berkeley proceeded to issue a Constitution for their territory under the title of The Concessions and agreements of the Lords Proprietors of New Jersey, to and with all and every of the adventurers, and all such as shall settle and plant there. It was liberal in character and guaranted religious liberty. The Governor was to be assisted by a Council of six to twelve persons of his own choice, and an Assembly of twelve representatives elected annually by the freemen. (The number of twelve no doubt reflected a Jersey influence).

The Assembly's laws were subject to the approval by the Governor and by the Lords Proprietors to whom the elected representatives could appeal direct. New settlers were offered free grants of land (150 acres for arrivals in the first year of the Carteret regime reducing to 75 acres for arrivals in the fourth year) with additional areas in respect of the servants, slaves, and females over 14 years of age they brought with them. The Lords Proprietors required a quit-rent of not less than one half-penny per acre payable from 1670. They retained for themselves one-seventh of the areas designated for towns and boroughs.

The State's official seal today

The Governor's conflicts

Governor Philip Carteret sailed from England on the 100-ton Philip owned by Sir George, accompanied by about 30 people mostly servants. He landed in New Jersey in August 1665 on the west bank of the Hudson at a point which, it is said, he named Elizabeth after the wife of Sir George, herself a de Carteret from St Ouen, Jersey. He made it the capital of the territory.

By then, Governor Nicolls in New York had already granted titles to settlers from New England to land in the territory of the Lords Proprietors. Earlier settlers had acquired titles by purchase from the Indians and from the Dutch. Holders were not disposed to acquire their land afresh from the Lords Proprietors, nor to pay the quit-rents they demanded.

The situation was complicated by the fact that the right of government which Sir George and Berkeley considered they had as well as ownership of the land, was not expressly mentioned in their grant. However, following the precedents in Carolina and earlier in Maryland in the grant to Lord Baltimore, they regarded themselves as possessed of this right. The successive Governors of New York - Nicolls, Lovelace, and Andros - disputed the Proprietors' right to govern and quoted their own commission in support of their contention. This crucial matter was settled only after Sir George's death and Philip Carteret had to bear the brunt of the dispute for most of the rest of his days.

Thus it was that very soon after his arrival Philip Carteret found himself involved in controversy with the Governor of New York and with local settlers. Those who insisted on retaining their old titles and refused fresh titles from the Lords Proprietors were disqualified from political office. And the assertion of Philip's authority became no easier when the quit-rents began to fall due in 1670.

Usurper cousin

In May 1672 the disgruntled found an unexpected rallying-point in the appearance on the scene of James Carteret, the second and not too-well-thought-of son of Sir George, and a few years the junior of Philip. James was on his way to Carolina where, in the previous year he had been appointed by the Lords Proprietors of that territory (these included, it will be recalled, Sir George and Berkeley) one of the Landgraves or Grand Seigneurs under the scheme of patriarchal land ownership devised by the philosopher John Locke.

Contending, like the governor of New York, that the grant to the Lords Proprietors of New Jersey did not include the right to govern, the disaffected settlers in New Jersey called their own assembly and elected James Carteret as President of the territory. Making extravagant claims and taking advantage of his parentage, James seems to have readily lent himself to undermining the authority of Philip.

Baffled by this strange turn of events Philip, supported by his Council, appointed a deputy and in July 1672 went to England to consult the Lords Proprietors. He got their full support as well as that of the Duke of York and of King Charles himself, who commanded obedience to the government of the Lords Proprietors. Sir George and Berkeley sent fresh directives for the government of New Jersey, giving wider powers to the Governor and his Council and restricting those of the Assembly. James Carteret then left New Jersey for Carolina; but by this and other unseemly conduct he earned his father's displeasure and was virtually disinherited. A few years later he returned to Jersey where he died in 1682 aged about 40.

Philip Carteret had not yet returned from England when, in July 1673, the Dutch captured New York as suddenly and as peacefully as they had lost it nine years earlier. They took over New Jersey, re-named it New Orange, promulgated a code of laws, and recognised all acquired property rights. Again, the settlers accepted the inevitable. It was, however, a short-lived revival of Dutch rule for by the Treaty of Westminster in the following February peace was restored between England and Holland, and in July 1674 New York and New Jersey reverted peacefully to the English.

To meet legal requirements the Duke of York obtained a fresh Patent from the King similar to that of 1664, and he now appointed Major Edmund Andros to the Governorship of New York. Again, the terms of the New York Governor's commission embraced the territory that was New Jersey. It is worth mentioning that Andros had close links with Guernsey. His father was appointed Bailiff of Guernsey by Charles I but, a staunch royalist, he did not exercise his office till the Restoration. Upon his death in January 1674 his son Edmund succeeded him as Bailiff, and three months later was appointed Governor of New York. He remained absentee Bailiff of Guernsey till the turn of the century.

West and East Jersey

At about the time the Dutch reoccupied the territory in the summer of 1673, Lord Berkeley sold his undivided half-interest in New Jersey for £1,000 to John Fenwick in England. Fenwick was acting on behalf of Edward Byllinge, a wealthy fellow-member of the Society of Friends, who intended to create an ideal community there. The sale marked the beginning of the Quaker colonisation in America, and made it necessary to divide New Jersey.

The part retained by Sir George Carteret was named East Jersey and that acquired by Fenwick was named West Jersey. Byllinge's financial difficulties led to William Penn and other Quakers also becoming Lords Proprietors of West Jersey. (In March 1681 William Penn received a grant of neighbouring territory which became Pennsylvania) .

Following upon the fresh grant from the King, the Duke of York in July 1674 made a fresh grant to Sir George Carteret of what was now East Jersey; but again, the right to govern was not specifically mentioned. Philip Carteret returned as Governor of East Jersey, and set about securing oaths of allegiance to the King and the Lord Proprietor and generally ruling with a firm hand.

He declared that land titles granted by Nicolls would now be recognised but only if exchanged for New Jersey titles and the arrears of quit-rents paid; distraints would be carried out if outstanding quit-rents were not cleared within a specified time, trouble-makers would be prosecuted. Inevitably many of the old difficulties re-appeared, and there were fresh disputes with the Governor of New York over the clearance of ships in New Jersey instead of New York, and the levying of customs dues.

As Nicolls had done earlier, now Andros too claimed to have authority over the whole of New Jersey. He was no doubt sustained by the hints he received from Sir John Werden, one of the Duke's secretaries in London. In a letter to Andros in February 1675 Werden wrote: "we have as yet done nothing towards the adjusting (of) Sir George Carterett's pretentions in New Jersey where I presume you will take care to keep all things in the same posture (as to, the Duke's prerogatives and proffitts) as they were in your predecessor's time untill you shall hear of some alteracions agreed to here".

In a private letter in August 1676 Werden suggested Andros should overlook small difficulties that might arise with Sir George, even though the Duke did not show any inclination to part with any of the prerogatives that Andros and his predecessors had asserted.

He went on: "at present in regard to Sir George we soften things all we may not to disturbe his choller (for in truth the passion of his inferior officers soe far infects him as puts him on demands which he hath no colour of right to) I verily believe should his foote chance to slip those who succeed him must be content with lesse civility than we shew him".

Andros pursued his course zealously. For resisting his authority in West Jersey Fenwick was brought to trial in New York in January 1677, fined and required to deposit £500 as security for his good behaviour. Fenwick's case was weak in that the fresh grant for his territory from the Duke of York had not yet been issued. It was eventually issued in August 1680, after Sir William Jones, an eminent lawyer in England, had given his opinion that Andros was not entitled to levy taxes on the people of New Jersey, nor did he have jurisdiction over the lands granted to Sir George Carteret and Lord John Berkeley.

Andros v Carteret

Meanwhile, the clash between Andros and Philip Carteret had reached new heights of acrimony. Andros (knighted in 1678) proclaimed in March 1679 that Philip was acting without any legal authority. Philip made dignified reply and vowed to defend his position at all costs at the same time entreating Andros to withhold any further action until the King could decide their dispute.

With the news of the death of Sir George in January 1680 Andros felt his position strengthened and in May he issued a warrant for the arrest of Philip. He held him prisoner in New York for four weeks and put him on trial before a special jury over which Andros himself presided. To Andros's great annoyance the jury refused to convict and Philip was released upon giving an undertaking not to exercise any of the functions of governor pending reference of the dispute to the authorities in England.

The situation took another dramatic turn with the news that in October 1680 the Duke of York had made a grant of East Jersey to Sir George's grandson and heir. Like the new grant in respect of West Jersey, it explicitly gave the right to govern, and Sir John Werden felt it necessary to assure Andros that these fresh grants had not been surreptitiously obtained. Lady Elizabeth Carteret, Sir George's widow and executrix of his will and guardian of his grandson, informed Philip Carteret that the Duke of York had wholly disowned the acts of Andros, and the Duke wrote to Andros saying he had relinquished all rights and claims upon East Jersey.

A few months later, Andros was recalled to London to submit to an enquiry. The Duke could not have been too displeased with him for in 1686, soon after coming to the throne as James II, he appointed Andros to the new post of Governor of New England, embracing all the English North American settlements except Pennsylvania. He was to be James's instrument for bringing (with no lasting success and with great unpopularity) all North America under royal rule and so weaken the power of the Puritan oligarchies.

At last Philip Carteret found himself the victor. Emboldened, he put forth in July 1681 Lady Elizabeth's claim to Staten Island, which was ruled from New York, contending with some justification that it came within the Duke of York's grant to Sir George's grandson. The Governor of New York rejected the claim and the matter was referred to London. It was never pursued because in February 1682, East Jersey was sold under the terms of Sir George's will. William Penn and eleven other Quakers, some already with an interest in West Jersey, bought East Jersey for £3,400. Very soon they re-sold half their rights to new associates so that there were now 24 new Proprietors of East Jersey, of varied interests and religious denominations. At this time East Jersey had a population of about 5,000, of which two-thirds lived in the few towns.

After the sale to Penn and others, Philip Carteret resigned. Some months later, in December 1682, he died at Elizabeth where he had landed 18 years earlier, and only eight months after his marriage to Elizabeth Smith, a widow from Long Island. He was aged 43 and childless. He had faithfully observed the words on his seal: Loyal Devoir.

Through sale and inheritance the number of Lords Proprietors of East Jersey increased in number and they became widely dispersed. They disagreed among themselves and were faced with discontent among the people. In 1699 they proposed to the English Government that while retaining their property rights, they should surrender to the crown their right of government.

In 1701 a similar joint request was made by the Lords Proprietors of both East and West Jersey which was met in 1702 soon after the accession of Queen Anne. The two Jerseys, with a total population of about 15,000, were thus reunited to become once more New Jersey - the colony of New Jersey.

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