Letters from some of the settlers of West-Jersey; and arguments against the

customs imposed at the Hoar-Kill by the governor of New-York.


Some letters from the first settlers of West-Jersey, with accounts of their

situation and sentiments of the country, have already been introduced; more

might be added, but the following may suffice in this place:


Abstract of Mahlon Stacy's letter to his brother Revell, and some others,

dated the 26th of the 4th month 1680.


"But now a word or two of those strange reports you have of us and our

country; I affirm they are not true, and fear they were spoke from a

spirit of envy: It is a country that produceth all things for the support

and sustenance of man, in a plentiful manner; if it were not so, I should

be ashamed of what I have before written; but I can stand, having truth

on my side, against and before the face of all gainsayers and evil spies: I

have travelled through most of the places that are settled, and some that

are not, and in every place I find the country very apt to answer the

expectation of the diligent: I have seen orchards laden with fruit to

admiration, their very limbs torn to pieces with the weight, and most

delicious to the taste, and lovely to behold; I have seen an apple tree

from a pippin kernel, yield a barrel of curious cyder; and peaches in such

plenty, that, some people took their carts a peach-gathering; I could not

but smile at the conceit of it: They are a very delicate fruit, and hang

almost like our onions that are tied on ropes: I have seen and known this

summer, forty bushels of bold wheat of one bushel sown; and many more such

instances I could bring; which would be too tedious here to mention: We

have from the time called May until Michaelmass, great store of very good

wild fruits, as strawberries, cranberries and hurtleberries, which are

like our bilberries in England, but far sweeter; they are very wholesome

fruits. The cranberries much like cherries for colour and bigness, which

may be kept 'till fruit come in again; an excellent sauce is made of them

for venison, turkeys, and other great fowl, and they are better to make

tarts than either goosberries or cherries; we have them brought to our

houses by the Indians in great plenty. My brother Robert had as many

cherries this year as would have loaded several carts: It is my judgment

by what I have observed, that fruit trees in this country destroy

themselves by the very weight of their fruit: As for venison and fowls, we

have great plenty: We have brought home to our houses by the Indians,

seven or eight fat bucks of a day; and some times put by as many; having

no occasion for them; and fish in their season very plenteous: My cousin

Revell and I, with some of my men, went last third month into the river to

catch herrings; for at that time they came in great shoals into the

shallows; we had neither rod nor net; but after the Indian fashion made a

round pinfold, about two yards over, and a foot high, but left a gap for

the fish to go in at, and made a bush to lay in the gap to keep the fish

in; and when that was done, we took two long birches and tied their tops

together, and went about a stone's east above our said pinfold; then

hawling these birche's boughs down the stream, where we drove thousands

before us, but so many got into our trap as it would hold, and then we

began to hawl them on shore as fast as three or four of us could, by two

or three at a time; and after this manner, in half an hour, we could have

filled a three bushel sack of as good and large herrings as ever I saw;

and as to beef and pork, here is great plenty of it, and cheap; and so

good sheep: The common grass of this country feeds beef very fat: I have

killed two this year, and therefore I have reason to know it; besides I

have seen this fall, in Burlington, killed eight or nine fat oxen and cows

on a market day, and all very fat: And though I speak of herrings only,

lest any should think we have little other sorts, we have great plenty of

most sorts of fish that ever I saw in England; besides several other sorts

that are not known there; as rocks, cat-fish, shads, sheeps-heads,

sturgeons; and fowls plenty; as ducks, geese, turkies, pheasants,

partridges, and many other sorts that I cannot remember, and would be too

tedious to mention. Indeed the country, take it as a wilderness, is a

brave country; though no place will please all. But some will be ready to

say, he writes of conveniencies, but not of inconveniencies: In answer to

those, I honestly declare, there is some barren land, as (I suppose) there

is in most places of the world, and more wood than some would have upon

their lands; neither will the country produce, corn without labour, nor

cattle be got without something to buy them, nor bread with idleness; else

it would be a brave country indeed: And I question not, but all then would

give it a good word; for my part I like it so well, I never had the least

thought of returning to England, except on the account of trade.




In a letter to William Cook of Sheffield, and others, Stacy wrote thus:


"This is a most brave place; whatever envy or evil spies may speak of it,

I could wish you all here; Burlington will be a place of trade quickly;

for here is way for trade: I, with eight more, last winter, bought a good

ketch of fifty tons, freighted her out at our own charge, and sent her to

Barbados, and so to sail to Saltertugas, to take in part of her lading in

salt, and the rest in Barbados goods as she came back; which said voyage

she hath accomplished very well, and now rides before Burlington,

discharging her lading, and so to go to the West-Indies again; and we

intend to freight her out with our own corn. We have wanted nothing since

we came hither, but the company of our good friends and acquaintance; all

our people are very well, and in a hopeful way to live much better than

ever they did; and not only so, but to provide well for their posterity:

They improve their lands and have good crops; and if our friends and

countrymen come, they will find better reception than we had by far at

first, before the country was settled as now it is. I know not one among

the people, that desires to be in England again; I mean since settled: I

wonder at our Yorkshire people, that they had rather live in servitude,

and work hard all the year, and not be three pence the better at the years

end, than stir out of the chimney corner and transport themselves to a

place where, with the like pains, in two or three years, they might know

better things.


"I never repented my coming hither, nor yet remembred thy arguments and

out-cry against New-Jersey with regret. I live as well to my content, and

in as great plenty as ever I did, and in a far more likely way to get an

estate. Tho' I hear some have thought I was too large in my former, I

affirm it to be true; having seen more with mine eyes in this time since,

than ever yet I wrote of.1




"From the Falls of Delaware, in West-New-Jersey, the 26th of the 4th

month, 1680."


Abstract of a letter from Daniel Wills to William Biddle, in Bishops-gate-

Street, London.2


"Dear friend,


"Let every man write according to his judgment, and this is mine

concerning this county; I do really believe it to be as good a country as

any man need to dwell in; and it is much better than I expected every

way for land I will assure thee; here is as good by the judgment of men,

as any in England; and for my part I like the country so well, and it is so

pleasant to me, that if I had a good estate in land in England, I should

not come to live upon it; for through industry here will be all things

produced that are necessary for a family as in England, and far more easy,

I am satisfied: When I am walking alone, and the sense of the Lord's good

dealings is brought before me; I cannot but admire him for his mercies,

and often in secret bless his name, that ever he turnd my face hitherward,

and gave me confidence in himself; and boldness by faith, to oppose all

gainsayers; though never so strong: Although them I could not say, it

seemed so clear to leave the land of my nativity, yet now it is to me a

certainty, that my removal was right, and in what I did, I had peace; and

in all my exercises by sea and land, I never felt the least matter in me,

as to desire I had not come forward, but rather rejoiced in the midst of

all. Though my removal was not ordinary, because of the largeness of my

family, yet blessed be God, all is well to our content; if thou heeds

every objection, it will be work enough: My resolutions were, and my

sayings to several opposers, that I would come; if God hindred me not, no

man should. I have writ to John Mulliner and Edward Cooper largely,

concerning the country, and refer to that letter.


Now my near and ancient acquaintance, William and Sarah Biddle, my love

you may feel beyond expression; and if you have clearness to come to New-

Jersey, let nothing hinder; but if you have a stop within yourselves, let

not any thing farther you until the way clears to your full satisfaction.

In this advice I deny myself; if I might I would forward you to the

utmost, but I dare not; if a man cannot live here, I believe he can

hardly live in any place in the world; the place being, as I thought, set

before me, by him who gives length of days; I will wait his good pleasure,

and see what he will afford me in it. The last ship that came to New-York,

brought several passengers, some of which came to see this country, and

liked it well; so dear friends, you may stand against all opposers

concerning the land, for it is good.




"Burlington, 6th of 11th month, 1679-80."


Though the passengers who had already come to West-Jersey, were well

satisfied with the country, things in general answering beyond their

expectation; yet they were under one great inconveniency. We have seen,

that the governor of New-York, had very early imposed ten per cent. on all

goods imported at the Hoar Kill; and on exports, something in kind still

subsisted; five per cent being demanded of the settlers at arrival, or

afterwards, at the officer's pleasure; and that not according to the neat

cost of the goods, but upon the foot of the invoice, as shipped in

England: This was evidently an arbitrary act; neither West-Jersey nor the

passengers to it were properly under their jurisdiction; the settlers from

the first complained of the hardship, but bore it with tolerable patience,

'till about 1680; when they had it repressed by the interposition of their

friends in England, who applying to the duke of York, he referred the

matter to council; there it rested for a considerable time; but at last,

by the diligence of W. Penn, Geo. Hutchinson, and others, was reported in

their favour: Sir John Werden, on the duke's behalf, wrote to have it

discontinued. The arguments used against this duty or impost may be seen

by the following:


"To those of the duke's commissioners, whom he has ordered to hear, and

make report to him, concerning the customs demanded in New West-Jersey, in

America, by his governor of New-York.


"1st. The king has granted to the duke of York, a tract of land in

America, consisting of several Indian countries, with such powers and

authorities as are requisite to make laws, and to govern and preserve the

territory when planted: But with this restriction twice expressed, and

several times referred to, viz. So always as the said statutes, ordinances,

and proceedings, be not contrary, but as near as may be, agreeable to the

laws, statutes, and government of this our realm of England. In another

place thus; And further, it may be lawful for our dearest brother, his

heirs and assigns, by these presents, to make, ordain, and establish all

manner of orders, laws, direetions, instruments, and forms of government,

and magistrates fit and necessary for the territory aforesaid: But still

with this limitation; so always as the same be not contrary to the laws

and statutes of this our realm of England, but as near as may be agreeable



"2. The duke of York, by virtue of this grant from the king to him, for a

competent sum of money, (paid by the lord John Berkely and Sir George

Carteret) granted and sold to them, a tract of land, called now by the

name of New-Cesarea, or New-Jersey; and that in as ample manner as it was

granted by the king to the duke.


"Thus then we come to buy that moiety which belonging to lord Berkeley,

for a valuable consideration; and in the conveyance he made us, powers of

government are expressly granted; for that only could have induced us to

buy it; and the reason is plain, because to all prudent men, the

government of any place is more inviting than the soil; for what is good

land without good laws; the better the worse: And if we would not assure

people of an easy and free, and safe government, both with respect to

their spiritual and worldly property; that is, an uninterrupted liberty of

conscience, and an inviolable possession of their civil rights and

freedoms, by a just and wise government, - a meer wilderness would be no

encouragement; for it were a madness to leave a free, good and improved

country, to plant in a wilderness; and there adventure many thousands of

pounds, to give an absolute title to another person to tax us at will and

pleasure: This single consideration, we hope, will excuse our desire of

the government; not asserted for the sake of power but safety; and that

not only for ourselves, but others; that the plantation might be



"3. The lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret, considering how much

freedom invites, that they might encourage people to transport themselves

into those parts, made and divulged certain concessions, containing a

model of government: Upon these several went, and are there planted; the

country was thus possessed, and the said government uninterruptedly

administered by the said lord Berkely and Sir George Carteret, or their

deputy, for several years; during which time no custom was demanded.


"4. We dealt with the said lord Berkeley, upon the sight of these

concessions, and the presumption that neither he nor Sir George Carteret,

would attempt to act any thing they had not power to do; much less, that

they or either of them, would pretend to sell a power they never had;

since that would not only be a cheat to the people that dealt with them for

it, but an high affront to the duke.


"5. The moiety of New-Cassarea, or New-Jersey, thus bought of the said

lord Berkeley, we dispose of part of our interest to several hundreds of

people, honest and industrious; these transport themselves, and with them

such houshold stuff and tools, as are requisite for planters to have: They

land at Delaware bay, the bounds of the country we bought; the passage God

and nature made to it; at their arrival they are saluted with a demand of

custom, of five per cent. and that not as the goods may be there worth,

but according to the invoice as they cost before shipp'd in England; nor

did they take them as they came, but at pick and chose, with some severe

language to boot. This is our grievance; and for this we made our

application to have speedy redress, not as a burden only, with respect to

the quantum or the way of levying it, or any circumstances made hard by

the irregularity of the officers, but as a wrong; for we complain of a

wrong done us; and ask yet with modesty, quo jure? Tell us the title by

what right or law are we thus used; that may a little mitigate our pain? -

Your answer hitherto hath been this,


"That it was a conquered couutry; and that the king, being the conqueror,

he has power to make laws, raise money, &c. and that this power jure

regale, the king hath vested in the duke, and by that right and

sovereignty, the duke demands that custom we complain of." But suppose the

king were an absolute conqueror in the case depending, doth his power

extend equally over his own English people, as over the conquered? Are not

they some of the letters that make up the word conqueror? Did Alexander

conquer alone, or Caesar beat by himself? No. Shall their armies of

countrymen and natives lie at the same mercy as the vanquished, and be

exposed to the same will and power with their captive enemies? The Norman

duke, more a conqueror of England, by his subjection to our laws, and

pretence to a title by them, than of heraldry by his arms, used not the

companions of his victory so ill:


Natural right and humane prudence, oppose such doctrine all the world

over; for what is it but to say, that people free by law under their prince

at home, are at his mercy in the plantations abroad; and why? because he

is a conqueror there, but still at the hazard of the lives of his own

people, and at the cost and charge of the publick: We could say more, but

choose to let it drop. But our case is better yet; for the kings grant to

the duke of York, is plainly restrictive to the laws and government of

England, and that more than once, as is before expressed. Now the

constitution and government of England, as we humbly conceive, are so far

from countenancing any such authority, as it is made a fundamental in our

constitution and government, that the king of England cannot justly take

his subjects goods without their consent: This needs no more to be proved,

than a principle; 'tis jus indigene, an home-born right, declared to be

law by diverse statutes; as in the great charter, ch. 29, and 34 Ed. 3,

ch. 2; again, 25 Ed. ch. 7. Upon this were many of the parliament's

complaints grounded; but particularly that of the same king's reign, as is

delivered by Mat. Westminster, in these words: - - - - - - 3 To give up

this (the power of making laws) is to change the government, to sell, or

rather resign ourselves to the will of another; and that for nothing: For

under favour we buy nothing of the duke, if not the right of an

undisturbed colonizing, and that as Englishmen with no diminution, but

expectation of some increase of those freedoms and privileges enjoyed in

our own country; for the soil is none of his, 'tis the natives, by the Jus

gentium, by the law of nations; and it would be an ill argument to

convert to christianity, to expel instead of purchasing them out of those

countries: If then the country be theirs, it is not the dukes; he cannot

sell it; then what have we bought? We are not unanswered in this point, and

desire you to do it with all due regard to the great honour and justice of

the duke: If it be not the right of colonizing there, which way have we

our bargain, that pay an arbitrary custom, neither known to the laws of

England, nor the settled constitution of NewYork, and those other

plantations? To conclude this point, we humbly say, that we have not lost

any part of our liberty, by leaving our country; for we leave not our

king, nor our government, by quitting our soil; but we transplant to a

place given by the same king, with express limitation to erect no polity

contrary to the same established government, but as near as may be to it;

and this variation is allowed but for the sake of emergencies; and that

latitude bounded with these words, for the good of the adventurer and

planter; which that exaction of custom can never be: In that it not only

varies to the discouragement and prejudice of the planter, but contradicts

his native laws, rights and liberties, and lays a foundation for another

sort of government than that which was only known to his fathers; unto the

just defence of which he is engaged by nature and municipal laws: So far

the point of law.


"We shall now insist upon the equity of our case; First, This very tax of

five per cent. is a thing not to be found in the duke's conveyances, but

an after-business; a very surprize to the planter! and such an one, as

could they have foreseen, they would, have sooner taken up in any other

plantation in America. In the next place,


"2. New-Jersey never paid custom before last peace, and that peace

reinvests every proprietor by articles. Now we bought it when free, since

which time this imposition is born; must we be subjected to the payment of

one tax, of greater value than the country? This in plain English, is

under another name, paying for the same thing twice over; nay, had the

soil been purchased of the Indians, by those of whom we bought it, and

given us; it had been dearly accepted, upon this condition, and with this

incumbrance; but it was bought by us, and that for a valuable

consideration here; and is now purchased again of the natives there too;

this makes our case extreme hard, and we pray relief.


"3. Custom in all governments in the world, is laid upon trade, but this

upon planting is unprecedented: Had we brought commodities so these parts

to sell, made profit out of them, and returned to the advantage of

traders; there had been some colour or pretence for this exaction; but to

require and force a custom from persons for coming to their property,

their own terra firma, their habitations; in short, for coming home, is

without a parallel; this is paying custom not for trading, but landing; not

for merchandizing, but planting; in very deed for hazarding; for there we

go; carry over our families and estates; adventure both for the

improvement of a wilderness, and are not only told we must pay hereafter

out of our gains and improvements, but must pay out of our poor stock and

principal, (put into goods) five pounds in the hundred; and not as they

are there worth, but as they here cost; and this for coming to plant: So

that the plain English of the tragedy is this; we twice buy this moiety of

New-Jersey, first of lord Berkeley, and next of the natives; and what for?

the better to mortgage ourselves and posterity to the duke's governors,

and give them a title to our persons and estates, that never had any

before: But pray consider, can there be a house without a bottom; or

a plantation before a people? If not, can there be a custom before a

trade? Thus much for the equitable part of our plea; the next and last, is

the prudential: We do offer several things in point of prudence, why the

duke should desist from the exaction: First, there can be no benefit to a

prince in America, there can be no trade, without a people; there will be

no people where there is no encouragement; nor can there be any

encouragement where people have not greater privileges by going than

staying; for if their condition be not meliorated, they will never forego

the comfort of their kindred they must leave behind them, nor forsake

their native country, run the hazard of the seas; nor lastly, expose

themselves to the wants and difficulties of a wilderness; but on the

contrary, if they have less privileges there than at home, 'tis every way

to worst themselves to go; for they did not only pay castom here for going,

but there for arriving; which is not done in any other plantation, even

when our men go to merchandize and not to plant, which is our case:

Besides there is no end of this power; for since we are by this precedent,

assessed without any law, and thereby excluded our English right of

common assent to taxes; what security have we of any thing we possess?


We can call nothing our own, but are tenants at will, not only for the soil

but for all our personal estates; we endure penury and the sweat of our

brows, to improve them at our own hazard only: This is to transplant, not

from good to better, but from good to bad; this sort of conduct has

destroyed government, but never raised one to any true greatness; nor

ever will in the duke's territories, whilst so many countries equally good

in soil and air, surrounded with greater freedom and security: Whereas if

the duke please to make all planters easy and safe in their liberty and

property, such a just and free government will draw in other places,

encourage persons to transplant into his country, and his disbursements

will soon be at an end; his revenues, with satisfaction to the people,

presently visibly augmented: Next this encouragement shipping and seamen,

which not only takes off abundance of idle people, but our native growth

and manufacture, and the export of them; and the import of the produce of

these plantations, in a little time overflow and advance the revenue of

the crown: Virginia and Barbados are proofs undeniable in the case.


"Lastly, the duke's circumstances, and the people's jealousies considered,

we humbly submit it, if there can be in their opinion, a greater evidence

of a design to introduce an unlimited government, than both to exact such

an unterminated tax from English planters, and to continue it after so

many repeated complaints; and on the contrary, if there can be any thing

so happy to the duke's present affairs, as the opportunity he hath to free

that country with his own hand, and to make us all owners of our liberty,

to his favour and justice: So will Englishmen here know what to hope for,

by the justice and kindness he shews to Englishmen there; and all men to

see the just model of his government in New-York, to be the scheme and

draught in little, of his administration in Old England at large, if the

crown should ever devolve upon his head. The conclusion is this, that for

all these reasons in law, equity and prudence, alledged; you would please

to second our request to the duke, that like himself, he would void this

taxation, and put the country in such an English and free condition, that

he may be as well loved and honoured, as feared by all the inhabitants of

his territory; that being great in their affections, he may be great by

their industry; which will yield him that wealth, that parent of power,

that he may be as great a prince by property as by title."


That this custom was now taken off, will, among other things, appear by the

following letter from Samuel Jenings,4 directed to William Penn, Edward

Byllinge, or Gawen Lawrie.


"Dear friends,


"This may give you an account of mine and my families safe arrival in New-

Jersey, with all the rest that came with us. I might say something

concerning our passage at sea, but I wave it for want of time, and in fine

may observe all was well; for which I bless God; and the Lord keep us all

sensible of it, with the rest of his mercies forever.


"Dear friends, about six weeks since, we arrived in Delaware river, where

I expected to have met with a combat, in the denial of customs: In our

passage at sea, I had communicated to all that had any considerable cargo

on board, the opinion of council, concerning the illegal demand thereof,

with what else I thought might be for their information; which thus far

prevailed, that most if not all concerned, seemed resolved to deny the

paying of custom here; having paid all the king's duties in England. In

good time we came to anchor in Delaware, where one Peter Alrick came

aboard, and brought a handsome present to our commander, and sent for me

into the round-house, where they both were, and Peter told me he had

nothing to say to us relating to customs;5 he had no commission for it,

nor did he know of any body that had; so we had all our goods safely

landed after his unexpected easy manner.


"In pursuance of the trust committed to me after my arrival, I acquainted

those nominated in the commission with me of it; but in a short time after

I received your letters, giving an account of a new grant obtained,

wherein the customs are taken off; a free port confirmed, and the

government settled on Edward Byllinge; which I doubt not will be very

acceptable to every honest man; but as yet I have not had time to let the

people in general know it: And now seeing the ports are made legally free,

and the government settled, I would not have any thing to remain as a

discouragement to planters: Here are several good and convenient

settlements already, and here is land enough and good enough for many more.




"New-Jersey, the 17th of October, 1680."


1 The inhabitants of West-Jersey, had hitherto either pounded their corn

or ground it with hand mills; but about this time Olive had built his

water mill on his plantation, nigh Rankokas creek; and in this year Stacy

finished his mill at Trenton: This last having been rebuilt, continues

good: These two were the only mills that ground for the country several of

the first years after their arrival.


2 William and Sarah Biddle, with their family, removed for West-Jersey, in

the summer, 1681.


3 The manuscript copy whence this is taken, is here defaced: It contains a

number of authorities from Bracton, Fortesque, the petition of right, &c.


4 He with his family, removed from Coles hill, the upper side of the

county of Bucks, about the third month, 1680.


5 He used to collect the customs.