West New Jersey, 1690, part one

Remember the Resettlement Scheme?

In a previous post related to Dr. Daniel Coxe, I described a lawsuit involving himself and John Hooke. Hooke had hoped to establish a settlement in America for Dissenters persecuted by the popish policies of Charles II and James II. Once the Glorious Revolution had taken place, things took on a different complexion.

David Farr (Farr 1999, 229) wrote that during Charles II’s reign, John Hooke said that many of his friends had bought land in the colonies because they were

“under Apprehensions of the Prevalency of Popery in England and had thoughts of providing a place of Refuge . . . in Case the Popish Interest should prevail.”

But this changed, according to Hooke, when the “Protestant Interest appeared to Exert itself and Especially after the happy Revolution.” Writing of land in Pennsylvania, Hooke stated that most of the investing was being done by “men of Trade and Dealing,” instead of by Dissenters fearful of persecution.

The change in atmosphere in England was represented by the Toleration Act of 1689 which permitted freedom of religion for dissenters (including Quakers) (Adams 1983, 265; Richard P. McCormick 1981, 39).  In other words, the pressure was off once William and Mary came to the throne, and there was far less incentive to brave the elements to reestablish oneself in West New Jersey. By 1690, the estimated population of New Jersey, East and West, was 8,000 (Vexler 1978).  With 8722 square miles, that gives us a population density of slightly over one person per square mile, but of course, most of that population was hugging the coast. Just for comparison, the population density of New Jersey in 2009 was 1,174 people per square mile.

The Schenectady Massacre

This was one of the worst incidents of King William’s War. On February 8 & 9, 1690, the French and their Indian allies attacked Dutch and English settlements at Schenectady, New York, in retaliation for Iroquois raids in Canada that had stopped the French fur trade for two years (Davis 1998, 95-98). The attack was aimed at discouraging English support for the Iroquois, since the Iroquois themselves were impossible to attack. Sixty people were killed, and 80 to 90 were taken prisoner. Other attacks took place at Salmon Falls, New Hampshire and Fort Loyal (Portland, Maine). Events like this explain the anxiety that the Governor of New York felt about providing defense for settlers in the western part of his province.

On May 1, 1690, representatives of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Plymouth and New York met and agreed to invade Canada with two land forces and a naval force up the St. Lawrence. It proved to be a fiasco (Morris 1953, 46). This event had a greater effect on New England and New York than New Jersey. It forced the New York legislature to accept the troublesome Jacob Leisler as governor. Eventually the war would come to New Jersey in the form of a royal request (the kind that can’t be refused) asking the NJ Assemblies to supply money and troops for defense.

The other effect on West New Jersey was to create more doubt in the minds of potential English immigrants about locating to a place that seemed far more dangerous than England was.

The Trade of the Jersey Provinces in 1690

Exports

According to Gabriel Thomas, who wrote a pamphlet in 1698 extolling the virtues of both Pennsylvania and West New Jersey, each county in West Jersey specialized in certain exports. Burlington produced “Peltage, or Beavers Skins, Otter-Skins, Minks Skins, Musk-rats Skins, Rackcoon, Wild Cats, Martin, and Deer Skins, &c.” Thomas did not mention Coxe’s pottery in Burlington, but judging from his list, there must have been a significant number of tanneries in or near the town of Burlington.

Gloucester County produced “Pitch, Tar and Rosin: the latter of which is made by Robert Styles, an excellent Artist in that sort of Work, for he delivers it as clear as any Gum Arabick.” So Gloucester had trees, but Salem had the low swampy ground suitable for rice and cranberries, its chief exports. Cape May had products from its whale fisheries, whale oil and bone, in “prodigious, nay vast quantities.”  (Thomas 1903, 82-83)

Exporting from the colonies was a tricky business in the days when mercantilism was the guiding policy in England. The Navigation Act of 1666 required that ships bearing cargoes from the colonies bound for nations other than England had to dock at England and pay a duty before sailing on to, for example, Rotterdam (Turp 1975, 65). The Act of 1673 put more restrictions on trade, requiring payment of bonds before ships left their colonial ports. Apparently the rules were not strictly enforced until 1696 when admiralty courts were established. So the entrepreneurial types in West Jersey made the most of their access to the sea.

Imports

According to Ralph K. Turp, goods imported from the Carolinas were tar, pitch and turpentine. From the West Indies came muscovado sugar, syrup [presumably for making rum], Spanish gold and silver coin. I was surprised to learn of imports from Honduras including mahogany, lignum vitae, logwood, and brazil wood. These fine woods would probably have been used by English cabinetmakers, not by residents of West Jersey. From England, New Jerseyans got bottled liquors and manufactured goods; from Ireland, linen and indentured servants. (Turp 1975, pg 65)

Here is how Daniel Coxe in 1688 described the exports and imports from East and West Jersey as well as Pennsylvania “wich is onely separated from them by ye river:”  English commodities imported were worth 50,000 pounds [I’m pretty sure he meant £ and not lb.]. Exports consisted of “beefe, porke, wheate, fflower, meale, biskett, pease, horses, ffurs, oyle, &c. (Scull 1883, 328)

As mentioned previously, Coxe had visions of establishing a “circular trade”

“By a Magazine or Storehouse in Delaware River for European Comodities & for such as you receive in Exchange, a Circular trade may bee driven for greate profit which by modest Computation may amount unto above Tenn thousand pounds per annum nor is there need of Ensurance.

No need of insurance? Here is how Coxe reassured his possible investors:

Wee have never lost goeing thither or returning for England or in ye Trade from thence ye plantacons & Returnes one Single ship out of above 300 have beene imployed within twelve yeares there being neither Rock or Shole in any of ye menconed Navigations nor any Danger upon ye coast within the greate Bay or River or within some hundreds of miles of our Coast either towards ye North or South” [Scull pp. 328-29].

This seems strangely unreassuring, but so typical of Daniel Coxe’s bravado. He has conveniently forgotten that the Delaware Bay was notoriously difficult to navigate, being full of ‘rocks and sholes,’ and especially sandbars. It hardly seems credible that any investor would fall for this line.

Sources:

You can find the sources cited in this post in a new entry I am calling “Sources for West New Jersey.”

One thought on “West New Jersey, 1690, part one

  1. Jerseyman

    Marfy:

    Naval stores (tar, pitch, rosin, turpentine, etc.), as well as charcoal, became exportable products virtually from the beginning of West New Jersey’s existence as a colony. The vast pine and cedar forests that once covered even a larger area then what, today, is known as the “Pine Barrens,” provided the necessary ingredients for producing the chemical products and supplying the timber necessary for shipbuilding. The woodsmen cut the pine forests over at such an alarming rate, often entering upon the land illegally, that the Burlington Court appointed “Ranger and Overseer for preserveing Timber from upper end of 3d Tenth to Cape May (Salem excepted) Thomas Mathews” in 1685 to protect the timber rights of the legal landowners. West New Jersey shipyards operated illegal bloomeries with bog iron to produce the small metal bits and fittings needed for shipbuilding. These bloomeries burned charcoal as fuel and used oyster shells as a flux.

    When researching the topic of early imports and particularly exports, I recommend folks look at the following two works:

    Myers, Albert Cook
    1912 Narratives of Early Pennsylvania West New Jersey and Delaware: 1630-1707. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York City, New York.

    and

    Weiss, Harry B. and Grace M. Weiss
    1964 The Early Promotional Literature of New Jersey. New Jersey Agricultural Society, Trenton, New Jersey.

    Both of these works will provide readers with detailed information on early industrial and commercial production in West New Jersey. If anyone is not familiar with the works of Harry Weiss, et al., they are a real treasure trove of well researched, but obscure, historical topics. Samuel Smith’s history also contains information on production.

    Best regards,
    Jerseyman

    Reply

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