History of New Netherland





Let us look at the period when the foundations of a colony were actually laid, and glance at an important event in the political history of New Netherland. Charles the Second, King of England, granted a greater portion of the claimed territory of New Netherland to his brother, the Duke of York, then Lord High Admiral of the realm. The duke sent a fleet and army to take possession of his domain. This armament, stronger than any in New Netherland, found the task an easy one, and early in the autumn of 1664, the province passed into the hands of the English. Soon after that armament sailed, and while it was yet on the bosom of the Atlantic, the duke conveyed to two of his favorites all the territory between the Hudson and Delaware rivers from Cape May north to the latitude of forty degrees and forty minutes. These favorites were Lord Berkeley, brother of the governor of Virginia and the duke's own governor in his youth, and Sir George Carteret, then the treasurer of the Admiralty, who had been governor of the island of Jersey, which he had gallantly defended against the forces of Cromwell. In the charter this province was named "Nova Caesarea or New Jersey," in commemoration of Carteret's loyalty and gallant deeds while he was governor of the island of Jersey. Colonel Richard Nicolls, the commander of the expedition to seize New Netherland, and deputy-governor of the province, changed the name of New York; and, ignorant of the charter given to Berkeley and Carteret, he called the territory west of the Hudson Albania, so honoring his employer, who bore the title of Duke of York and Albany.

Berkeley and Carteret hastened to make use of their patent. They framed a constitution of government for the new domain under the title of "The Concessions and Agreement of the Lords Proprietors of the Province of Nova Caesarea or New Jersey, to and with all and every of the new adventurers and all such as shall Settle and Plant there." It was a fair and liberal constitution. It provided for a governor and council appointed by the proprietors, and deputies or representatives chosen by the people, who should meet annually, and with the governor and his council from a General Assembly for the government of the colony. It provided for the choice of a president by the representatives when in session, in case of the absence of the governor and deputy governor. All legislative power was vested in the Assembly of Deputies, who were to make all laws for the province--these to be consistent with the laws and customs of Great Britain, and not repugnant to the interests of the proprietors. Provision was also made for the encouragement of emigration to New Jersey. To every freeman who should go to that province with the first governor, furnished with a good musket and plenty of ammunition, with provisions for six months, was offered a free gift of one hundred and fifty acres of land; and for every able man-servant that such emigrant should take with him, so armed and provisioned, a like quantity of land. Any person sending such servants should be likewise rewarded; and for every weaker servant or slave, of either sex, over fourteen years of age, which any person might take or send, at that time, should be given seventy-five acres of land each, "Christian servants" being entitled, at the expiration of the term of service, to the land so granted for their own use and benefit. To all who should settle in the province before the beginning of 1665, other than those who should go with the governor, were offered one hundred and twenty acres of land, on like conditions.

These offers were certainly attractive, and the proprietors expected to see their country rapidly peopled with industrious settlers. They appointed Philip Carteret, a cousin of Sir George, governor, and with about thirty emigrants, several of whom were Frenchmen skilled in the art of salt-making, he sailed for New York, where he arrived in July, 1665. The vessel had been driven into Chesapeake Bay in June and anchored at the mouth of the James River, whence the governor sent dispatches to New York. Among them was a copy of the duke's grant of New Jersey. Governor Nicolls was astounded by the folly of the duke in parting with so much of his valuable domain, for he regarded Albania as the "most improveable" part of the territory. He was mortified by this dismemberment of a state over which he had been ruling for many months with pride and satisfaction. But he kept his thoughts between his lips until the arrival of Carteret, whom Colonel Nicolls received at Fort James, late Fort Amsterdam, with all the honors due to his rank and station. That meeting in the governor's quarters in the fort was a notable one. Nicolls was tall, athletic, and about forty-five years of age; a soldier, haughty and sometimes very irritable, and brusque in speech when excited. Carteret was shorter and fat, good-natured and affable, with polished manners which he had learned by being much at court. He entered the governor's room with Bollen, the commissary of the fort, when the former arose, beckoned his secretary to withdraw, and received his distinguished visitor cordially. But when Carteret presented the outspread parchment, bearing the original of the duke's grant with his grace's seal and signature, Nicolls could not restrain his feelings. His temper flamed out in words of fierce anger at first. He stormed, and uttered denunciations in language as respectful as possible. He paced the floor backwards and forwards rapidly, his hands clenched behind his back, and finally calmed down and begged his visitor's pardon for his uncontrollable outburst of passion.

Nicolls yielded gracefully but sorrowfully to circumstances, and contented himself with addressing a manly remonstrance to the duke, in which he urged an arrangement for the grantees to give up their domain in exchange for "a hundred thousand acres all along the sea-coast." It was too late. In pursuance of the duke's orders, Nicolls formally surrendered Albania into the quiet possession of Carteret, and thenceforth that region appeared as New Jersey on the maps. Its governor crossed over to his domain early in August, and landed, at the head of a few followers, with a hoe on his shoulder in token of his intention to become a planter among them. He chose for his seat of government a beautifully shaded spot not far from the strait between Staten Island and the main, called The Kills, where he found four English families living in as many neatly-built log cabins, with gardens around them. In compliment to the wife of Sir George Carteret, the governor gave to the place the name of Elizabethtown, which it yet retains. There he built a house for himself near the bank of the little creek, and there he organized a civil government. So was laid the foundations of the colony and commonwealth of New Jersey.

The land on which Governor Carteret found the four families had been bought of some Indians on Long Island, who claimed it as their own. They gave a deed of it to John Bailey, Daniel Denton, and Luke Watson of Jamaica, Long Island, and Governor Nicolls granted a patent for it to seventy-four associates, whose descendants are numerous in East Jersey. This patent was given before Nicolls had heard of the extraordinary grant of the Duke of York; and when the governor's grantees were informed of that transaction, they resolved to assert their rights, as against the claims of the duke's friends. Some of the company went to Elizabethtown to confer with Carteret on the subject. At the head of the embassy was John Ogden, of Long Island, who had left England on the accession of Charles the Second to the throne, for he was a republican. The governor received them under the shadow of a great tulip tree on the borders of the creek, and there the conference was held. Ogden showed the Indian deed and the Nicolls grant. Carteret showed the duke's grant with his seal and signature attached. Ogden declared that Indian titles were more valid than royal titles, because the grantors were the original owners of the soil. This point was conceded, when the governor pointed to the lion in the British arms impressed upon the seal, as an emblem of competent power, intimating that might makes right. By this intimation the spirit of Ogden was powerfully stirred. Pointing to the sun as the visible presence of the Great Spirit whom all the Indians worshipped, he said: "As far above petty kings and their powers as is the sun in the heaven, now making the earth teem with abundance and beauty, above all below, so far is justice, the prime attribute of God, above might--the mere brute force that gives kingship to the lion and the eagle among beasts and birds. The Dutch acquired possession of this soil by the divine right of a just purchase from the Indians; King Charles had no right to this domain but that of a strong-armed robber. The British lion on that seal is, in this case, only an emblem of oppression and wrong, whose only warrant for injustice is his strength to conquer. In this land monarchs will yet be taught that they have no divine rights not the common property of their subjects, and that there is more strength in justice than in the sword."

John Ogden was a prophet. Under that tree on the soil of New Jersey, that sturdy republican caught luminous visions of the struggles of a people with royalty for the rights of man, which, more than a hundred years after-wards, led to the dismemberment of the British empire and the founding of our free Republic. Carteret admired his spirit, but his words sounded too much like the voices of the followers of Cromwell, and he refused to hold further conference with him. "Very well," said Ogden. "We shall maintain our rights as best we may;" and he and his friends were about to depart, when the courteous governor invited them into his house to partake of refreshments. He then accompanied them to their boat at the Kills, and gave them a cordial invitation to come again as friends, but not as ambassadors.

The Long Islanders liked the good-natured governor personally, and to show their kind feeling toward him and his family, they gave the name of "Elizabethtown Associates" to their company, and to their territory the "Elizabethtown Grant." They adhered to their determination to defend their rights; and during the seven years that Philip Carteret governed New Jersey, there were frequent and severe conflicts between the "Associates" and the grantees of the Duke of York.





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