As part of the 17th-century appetite for discovery and learning, attention was turned to the blank spaces on the maps of the world, and the opportunities they offered for increased knowledge, as well as increased riches. The New World colonies caught the attention of Daniel Coxe well before he invested in West New Jersey.
Daniel Coxe and the Euxine Sea
Coxe’s interest in faraway places first surfaced in 1677 when he wrote the preface to “A Short Account of the Kingdoms around the Euxine and Caspian Seas” by an anonymous author. (The Euxine Sea was an ancient name for the Black Sea meaning ‘hospitable.’) The article was added to a translation of the Six Voyages of John Baptist Tavernier, Baron of Aubonne, through Turkey into Persia and India by J. Phillips. It was claimed by an editor that the preface to the work was written by Dr. Daniel Coxe, a “physician of eminence, a man of learning, and an author.” [I have not been able to find a copy of this preface online.] I had always thought Dr. Coxe confined his interests in foreign lands to North America, but clearly that is not the case.
I do not know when Coxe made his first purchases of North American land, but I do know that he was reading about explorations into the interior of the continent as early as 1679. Coxe might have learned of investment opportunities there from the Earl of Shaftesbury and John Locke.
Lord Ashley and Carolina
Back when the Earl of Shaftesbury was only Lord Ashley, he began to take an interest in opportunities in the New World. Attention was focused on an unsettled area along the eastern seaboard of North America, and, as reward for support of the monarchy, in 1663 a royal charter was granted for a proprietary colony named the Province of Carolina (Latin for Charles, in honor of Charles I, father of the king who granted the charter). This was a year before Charles sent an invading force to take New Netherland from the Dutch.
As an aside, Samuel Pepys made no mention of this in his diary, but he did describe Ashley as “a very ready, quick and diligent person” on May 27, 1663; and on June 6, notes a friend’s observation that Ashley was the only one to look after business in Charles’ pleasure-loving court.
The colony’s northern border was Virginia (36 degrees latitude) and its southern border was at 31 degrees latitude, the eventual location of Georgia. The northern border was extended half a degree in 1665 to include the Albermarle Sound. And the southern boundary was extended to Florida (29 degrees latitude) to include St. Augustine, a Spanish outpost. And, like most of the original colonies (New Jersey and Rhode Island excepted), the province extended westward indefinitely.
The charter was granted to eight men, who became the Lords Proprietors. They were George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle; William Craven, 1st Earl of Craven; Sir John Colleton, and Anthony Ashley Cooper (Lord Ashley), plus some names that will sound familiar to students of New Jersey history: Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon (grandfather of New Jersey’s Gov. Cornbury); John Berkeley, 1st Baron of Berkeley of Stratton (who later came to own the western half of New Jersey); Sir William Berkeley, his brother (who had an interest in Virginia); and Sir George Carteret (who was given the eastern half of New Jersey).
Monck had been the general who was encouraged by Ashley to march on London in 1660 to remove Richard Cromwell from power, which led to the restoration of the monarchy. Lord Ashley was one of 12 members of Parliament who traveled to the Dutch Republic to invite Charles II to return to England, thus making him one of many that Charles was indebted to.
It appears that when this charter of 1663 was granted, Ashley was not that interested in the colony. But in 1666 Colleton died, and in 1667 Clarendon was disgraced and George Monck became ill. Led by Lord Ashley, a more concerted effort was made in 1669 to establish settlements. As part of this effort, Ashley and his secretary, John Locke, drew up a Constitution that was designed to attract settlers. It is a fascinating document in itself, with its mixture of feudalism from the Middle Ages and modern principles of enlightened self-government and religious tolerance, but also because it had an influence, on the West New Jersey Concessions of 1676.