Chapter XI. The United Jerseys

The Quaker colonists grouped round Burlington and Salem, on the
Delaware, and the Scotch Covenanters and New England colonists
grouped around Perth Amboy and Newark, near the mouth of the
Hudson, made up the two Jerseys. Neither colony had a numerous
population, and the stretch of country lying between them was
during most of the colonial period a wilderness. It is now
crossed by the railway from Trenton to New York. It has always
been a line of travel from the Delaware to the Hudson. At first
there was only an Indian trail across it, but after 1695 there
was a road, and after 1738 a stage route.

In 1702, while still separated by this wilderness, the two
Jerseys were united politically by the proprietors voluntarily
surrendering all their political rights to the Crown. The
political distinction between East Jersey and West Jersey was
thus abolished; their excellent free constitutions were rendered
of doubtful authority; and from that time to the Revolution they
constituted one colony under the control of a royal governor
appointed by the Crown.

The change was due to the uncertainty and annoyance caused for
their separate governments when their right to govern was in
doubt owing to interference on the part of New York and the
desire of the King to make them a Crown colony. The original
grant of the Duke of York to the proprietors Berkeley and
Carteret had given title to the soil but had been silent as to
the right to govern. The first proprietors and their successors
had always assumed that the right to govern necessarily
accompanied this gift of the land. Such a privilege, however, the
Crown was inclined to doubt. William Penn was careful to avoid
this uncertainty when he received his charter for Pennsylvania.
Profiting by the sad example of the Jerseys, he made sure that he
was given both the title to the soil and the right to govern.

The proprietors, however, now surrendered only their right to
govern the Jerseys and retained their ownership of the land; and
the people always maintained that they, on their part, retained
all the political rights and privileges which had been granted
them by the proprietors. And these rights were important, for the
concessions or constitutions granted by the proprietors under the
advanced Quaker influence of the time were decidedly liberal. The
assemblies, as the legislatures were called, had the right to
meet and adjourn as they pleased, instead of having their
meetings and adjournments dictated by the governor. This was an
important right and one which the Crown and royal governors were
always trying to restrict or destroy, because it made an assembly
very independent. This contest for colonial rights was exactly
similar to the struggle of the English Parliament for liberty
against the supposed right of the Stuart kings to call and
adjourn Parliament as they chose. If the governor could adjourn
the assembly when he pleased, he could force it to pass any laws
he wanted or prevent its passing any laws at all. The two Jersey
assemblies under their Quaker constitutions also had the
privilege of making their own rules of procedure, and they had
jurisdiction over taxes, roads, towns, militia, and all details
of government. These rights of a legislature are familiar enough
now to all. Very few people realize, however, what a struggle and
what sacrifices were required to attain them.

The rest of New Jersey colonial history is made up chiefly of
struggles over these two questions--the rights of the proprietors
and their quitrents as against the people, and the rights of the
new assembly as against the Crown. There were thus three parties,
the governor and his adherents, the proprietors and their
friends, and the assembly and the people. The proprietors had the
best of the change, for they lost only their troublesome
political power and retained their property. They never, however,
received such financial returns from the property as the sons of
William Penn enjoyed from Pennsylvania. But the union of the
Jerseys seriously curtailed the rights enjoyed by the people
under the old government, and all possibility of a Quaker
government in West Jersey was ended. It was this experience in
the Jerseys, no doubt, that caused William Penn to require so
many safeguards in selling his political rights in Pennsylvania
to the Crown that the sale was, fortunately for the colony, never

The assembly under the union met alternately at Perth Amboy and
at Burlington. Lord Cornbury, the first governor, was also
Governor of New York, a humiliating arrangement that led to no
end of trouble. The executive government, the press, and the
judiciary were in the complete control of the Crown and the
Governor, who was instructed to take care that "God Almighty be
duly served according to the rites of the Church of England, and
the traffic in merchantable negroes encouraged." Cornbury
contemptuously ignored the assembly's right to adjourn and kept
adjourning it till one was elected which would pass the laws he
wanted. Afterwards the assemblies were less compliant, and, under
the lead of two able men, Lewis Morris of East Jersey and Samuel
Jennings, a Quaker of West Jersey, they stood up for their rights
and complained to the mother country. But Cornbury went on
fighting them, granted monopolies, established arbitrary fees,
prohibited the proprietors from selling their lands, prevented
three members of the assembly duly elected from being sworn, and
was absent in New York so much of the time that the laws went
unexecuted and convicted murderers wandered about at large. In
short, he went through pretty much the whole list of offenses of
a corrupt and good-for-nothing royal governor of colonial times.
The union of the two colonies consequently seemed to involve no
improvement over former conditions. At last, the protests and
appeals of proprietors and people prevailed, and Cornbury was

Quieter times followed, and in 1738 New Jersey had the
satisfaction of obtaining a governor all her own. The New York
Governor had always neglected Jersey affairs, was difficult of
access, made appointments and administered justice in the
interests of New York, and forced Jersey vessels to pay
registration fees to New York. Amid great rejoicing over the
change, the Crown appointed the popular leader, Lewis Morris, as
governor. But by a strange turn of fate, when once secure in
power, he became a most obstinate upholder of royal prerogative,
worried the assembly with adjournments, and, after Cornbury, was
the most obnoxious of all the royal governors.

The governors now usually made Burlington their capital and it
became, on that account, a place of much show and interest. The
last colonial governor was William Franklin, an illegitimate son
of Benjamin Franklin, and he would probably have made a success
of the office if the Revolution had not stopped him. He had
plenty of ability, affable manners, and was full of humor and
anecdote like his father, whom he is said to have somewhat
resembled. He had combined in youth a fondness for books with a
fondness for adventure, was comptroller of the colonial post
office and clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly, served a couple of
campaigns in the French and Indian Wars, went to England with his
father in 1757, was admitted to the English Bar, attained some
intimacy with the Earl of Bute and Lord Fairfax, and through the
latter obtained the governorship of New Jersey in 1762.

The people were at first much displeased at his appointment and
never entirely got over his illegitimate birth and his turning
from Whig to Tory as soon as his appointment was secured. But he
advanced the interests of the colony with the home government and
favored beneficial legislation. He had an attractive wife, and
they entertained, it is said, with viceregal elegance, and
started a fine model farm or country place on the north shore of
the Rancocas not far from the capital at Burlington. Franklin was
drawing the province together and building it up as a community,
but his extreme loyalist principles in the Revolution destroyed
his chance for popularity and have obscured his reputation.

Though the population of New Jersey was a mixed one, judged by
the very distinct religious differences of colonial times, yet
racially it was thoroughly Anglo-Saxon and a good stock to build
upon. At the time of the Revolution in 1776 the people numbered
only about 120,000, indicating a slow growth; but when the first
census of the United States was taken, in 1790, they numbered

The natural division of the State into North and South Jersey is
marked by a line from Trenton to Jersey City. The people of these
two divisions were quite as distinct in early times as striking
differences in environment and religion could make them. Even in
the inevitable merging of modern life the two regions are still
distinct socially, economically, and intellectually. Along the
dividing line the two types of the population, of course, merged
and here was produced and is still to be found the Jerseyman of
the composite type.

Trenton, the capital of the State, is very properly in the
dividing belt. It was named after William Trent, a Philadelphia
merchant who had been speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly and
who became chief justice of New Jersey. Long ages before white
men came Trenton seems to have been a meeting place and residence
of the Indians or preceding races of stone age men. Antiquarians
have estimated that fifty thousand stone implements have been
found in it. As it was at the head of tidewater, at the so-called
Falls of the Delaware, it was apparently a center of travel and
traffic from other regions. From the top of the bluff below the
modern city of Trenton there was easy access to forests of
chestnut, oak, and pine, with their supplies of game, while the
river and its tributary creeks were full of fish. It was a
pleasant and convenient place where the people of prehistoric
times apparently met and lingered during many centuries without
necessarily having a large resident population at any one time.
Trenton was so obviously convenient and central in colonial times
that it was seriously proposed as a site for the national

Princeton University, though originating, as we have seen, among
the Presbyterians of North Jersey, seems as a higher educational
institution for the whole State to belong naturally in the
dividing belt, the meeting place of the two divisions of the
colony. The college began its existence at Elizabeth, was then
moved to Newark, both in the strongly Presbyterian region, and
finally, in 1757, was established at Princeton, a more suitable
place, it was thought, because far removed from the dissipation
and temptation of towns, and because it was in the center of the
colony on the post road between Philadelphia and New York.
Though chartered as the College of New Jersey, it was often
called Nassau Hall at Princeton or simply "Princeton." In 1896
it became known officially as Princeton University. It was a hard
struggle to found the college with lotteries and petty
subscriptions here and there. But Presbyterians in New York and
other provinces gave aid. Substantial assistance was also
obtained from the Presbyterians of England and Scotland. In the
old pamphlets of the time which have been preserved the founders
of the college argued that higher education was needed not only
for ministers of religion, but for the bench, the bar, and the
legislature. The two New England colleges, Harvard and Yale, on
the north, and the Virginia College of William and Mary on the
south, were too far away. There must be a college close at hand.

At first most of the graduates entered the Presbyterian ministry.
But soon in the short time before the Revolution there were
produced statesmen such as Richard Stockton of New Jersey, who
signed the Declaration of Independence; physicians such as Dr.
Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia; soldiers such as "Light Horse"
Harry Lee of Virginia; as well as founders of other colleges,
governors of States, lawyers, attorney-generals, judges,
congressmen, and indeed a very powerful assemblage of
intellectual lights. Nor should the names of James Madison, Aaron
Burr, and Jonathan Edwards be omitted.

East Jersey with her New England influence attempted something
like free public schools. In West Jersey the Quakers had schools.
In both Jerseys, after 1700 some private neighborhood schools
were started, independent of religious denominations. The West
Jersey Quakers, self-cultured and with a very effective system of
mental discipline and education in their families as well as in
their schools, were not particularly interested in higher
education. But in East Jersey as another evidence of intellectual
awakening in colonial times, Queen's College, afterward known as
Rutgers College, was established by the Dutch Reformed Church in
1766, and was naturally placed, near the old source of Dutch
influence, at New Brunswick in the northerly end of the dividing

New Jersey was fortunate in having no Indian wars in colonial
times, no frontier, no point of hostile contact with the French
of Canada or with the powerful western tribes of red men. Like
Rhode Island in this respect, she was completely shut in by the
other colonies. Once or twice only did bands of savages cross the
Delaware and commit depredations on Jersey soil. This colony,
however, did her part in sending troops and assistance to the
others in the long French and Indian wars; but she had none of
the pressing danger and experience of other colonies. Her people
were never drawn together by a common danger until the

In Jersey colonial homes there was not a single modern
convenience of light, heat, or cooking, and none of the modern
amusements. But there was plenty of good living and simple
diversion--husking bees and shooting in the autumn, skating and
sleighing in the winter. Meetings and discussions in coffeehouses
and inns supplied in those days the place of our modern books,
newspapers, and magazines. Jersey inns were famous meeting
places. Everybody passed through their doors--judges, lawyers,
legislators, politicians, post riders, stage drivers, each
bringing his contribution of information and humor, and the
slaves and rabble stood round to pick up news and see the fun.
The court days in each county were holidays celebrated with games
of quoits, running, jumping, feasting, and discussions political
and social. At the capital there was even style and extravagance.
Governor Belcher, for example, who lived at Burlington, professed
to believe that the Quaker influences of that town were not
strict enough in keeping the Sabbath, so he drove every Sunday in
his coach and four to Philadelphia to worship in the Presbyterian
Church there and saw no inconsistency in his own behavior.

Almanacs furnished much of the reading for the masses. The few
newspapers offered little except the barest chronicle of events.
The books of the upper classes were good though few, and
consisted chiefly of the classics of English literature and books
of information and travel. The diaries and letters of colonial
native Jerseymen, the pamphlets of the time, and John Woolman's
"Journal," all show a good average of education and an excellent
use of the English language. Samuel Smith's "History of the
Colony of Nova-Casaria, or New Jersey," written and printed at
Burlington and published there in the year 1765, is written in a
good and even attractive style, with as intelligent a grasp of
political events as any modern mind could show; the type, paper,
and presswork, too, are excellent. Smith was born and educated in
this same New Jersey town. He became a member of council and
assembly, at one time was treasurer of the province, and his
manuscript historical collections were largely used by Robert
Proud in his "History of Pennsylvania."

The early houses of New Jersey were of heavy timbers covered with
unpainted clapboards, usually one story and a half high, with
immense fireplaces, which, with candles, supplied the light. The
floors were scrubbed hard and sprinkled with the plentiful white
sand. Carpets, except the famous old rag carpets, were very rare.
The old wooden houses have now almost entirely disappeared; but
many of the brick houses which succeeded them are still
preserved. They are of simple well-proportioned architecture, of
a distinctive type, less luxuriant, massive, and exuberant than
those across the river in Pennsylvania, although both evidently
derived from the Christopher Wren school. The old Jersey homes
seem to reflect with great exactness the simple feeling of the
people and to be one expression of the spirit of Jersey

There were no important seats of commerce in this province.
Exports of wheat, provisions, and lumber went to Philadelphia or
New York, which were near and convenient. The Jersey shores near
the mouth of the Hudson and along the Delaware, as at Camden,
presented opportunities for ports, but the proximity to the two
dominating ports prevented the development of additional harbors
in this part of the coast. It was not until after the Revolution
that Camden, opposite Philadelphia, and Jersey City, opposite New
York, grew into anything like their present importance.

There were, however, a number of small ports and shipbuilding
villages in the Jerseys. It is a noticeable fact that in colonial
times and even later there were very few Jersey towns beyond the
head of tidewater. The people, even the farmers, were essentially
maritime. The province showed its natural maritime
characteristics, produced many sailors, and built innumerable
small vessels for the coasting and West India trade--sloops,
schooners, yachts, and sailboats, down to the tiniest gunning
boat and sneak box. Perth Amboy was the principal port and
shipbuilding center for East Jersey as Salem was for West Jersey.
But Burlington, Bordentown, Cape May, and Trenton, and
innumerable little villages up creeks and channels or mere
ditches could not be kept from the prevailing industry. They
built craft up to the limit of size that could be floated away in
the water before their very doors. Plentifully supplied with
excellent oak and pine and with the admirable white cedar of
their own forests, very skillful shipwrights grew up in every
little hamlet.

A large part of the capital used in Jersey shipbuilding is said
to have come from Philadelphia and New York. At first this
capital sought its profit in whaling along the coast and
afterwards in the trade with the West Indies, which for a time
absorbed so much of the shipping of all the colonies in America.
The inlets and beaches along the Jersey coast now given over to
summer resorts were first used for whaling camps or bases. Cape
May and Tuckerton were started and maintained by whaling; and as
late as 1830, it is said, there were still signs of the industry
on Long Beach.

Except for the whaling, the beaches were uninhabited--wild
stretches of sand, swarming with birds and wild fowl, without a
lighthouse or lifesaving station. In the Revolution, when the
British fleet blockaded the Delaware and New York, Little Egg,
the safest of the inlets, was used for evading the blockade.
Vessels entered there and sailed up the Mullica River to the head
of navigation, whence the goods were distributed by wagons. To
conceal their vessels when anchored just inside an inlet, the
privateersmen would stand slim pine trees beside the masts and
thus very effectively concealed the rigging from British cruisers
prowling along the shore.

Along with the whaling industry the risks and seclusion of the
inlets and channels developed a romantic class of gentlemen, as
handy with musket and cutlass as with helm and sheet, fond of
easy, exciting profits, and reaping where they had not sown. They
would start legally enough, for they began as privateersmen under
legal letters of marque in the wars. But the step was a short one
to a traffic still more profitable; and for a hundred years
Jersey customs officers are said to have issued documents which
were ostensibly letters of marque but which really abetted a
piratical cruise. Piracy was, however, in those days a
semi-legitimate offense, winked at by the authorities all through
the colonial period; and respectable people and governors and
officials of New York and North Carolina, it is said, secretly
furnished funds for such expeditions and were interested in the