I have continued to struggle with the problem of finding the origins of Samuel Green, surveyor of West New Jersey, without much success. For one thing, records are limited. There are many deeds and surveys recorded for properties in West New Jersey, but other than the 1/32nd share mentioned before that Richard Green purchased and then sold to Anna Salter, there is nothing much to go on.

Before I discuss some of the threads I have been following (and become entangled in), I think it’s important to understand something of what life was like in West New Jersey.

In the last post I mentioned the hardship these first-comers must have faced as they got off the boat. I did not mention the problem of governing themselves. This is a subject that fascinates many—how do people set up the systems they need to maintain stability in their group, protect their rights and prevent lawlessness. Fortunately, these Quaker settlers had already developed practices in their own religion that gave them a certain amount of self-sufficiency and discipline, traits that came in handy when confronted with nothing but forests along an unfamiliar river.

The underlying structure that they brought with them also gave them a head start. This was a document with the lyrical title: the “Concessions and Agreements of the Proprietors, Freeholders and Inhabitants of the Province of West-Jersey in America,” written by Edward Byllinge with the help of William Penn. The Concessions were eventually signed by 151 men; regrettably, none was named Richard Green.

You can read the full text of the Concessions here, or by getting a copy of Julian P. Boyd’s Fundamental Laws and Constitutions of New Jersey (Princeton, 1964). This is one of a number of excellent books in The New Jersey Historical Series. Another one, pertinent to this period, is John E. Pomfret’s The New Jersey Proprietors and Their Lands. Boyd wrote that the document was

“so humane in purpose and so noble in dimension that it stands among the greatest of all monuments marking the course of government by consent.”

The Concessions were amazingly liberal because they were designed to lure settlers to the undeveloped colony. If later governors found the Quakers of West New Jersey to be a little uppity, they can blame the Concessions, which allowed for universal male suffrage and a representative assembly elected yearly, and especially liberty of conscience. The trouble is, when you have a government, you need a governing unit, which meant finding a way to divide up this unexplored territory into something manageable.

For this you have to go back a little—I’ll try to make this brief. First of all, the English took over New Netherland from the Dutch in 1664, and at the same time, Charles II gave his brother James, Duke of York, the territory that hadn’t even been conquered yet. James decided to reward two supporters of his brother when Charles was in exile, so he gave a joint interest in New Jersey to George Carteret and John Lord Berkeley. Carteret was interested in settlement and took steps to establish a province in what became East New Jersey. Berkeley was indifferent and waited to see if the value of his gift might go up. Then in 1672-73, another episode in the long-running Anglo-Dutch war took place in which (I love this) the Dutch actually sailed up the Thames and burned a few ships, and also retook New Netherland. But the English and the Dutch quickly settled that matter in 1674 by making a trade, in which the Dutch got Surinam in South America and the English took back New Netherland.

By this time, Berkeley probably figured this was all more trouble than it was worth, and sold his undivided share in New Jersey to a Quaker named Edward Byllinge. But (again, history is so much better than fiction), Byllinge was in bankruptcy proceedings at the time, so he had to get another Quaker to front for him, one John Fenwick, who incidentally was one of Byllinge’s creditors. Trouble is, Fenwick wanted the whole purchase to satisfy Byllinge’s debt to him. Byllinge went to William Penn to arbitrate their dispute and the upshot was the proprietary system. (If you read Pomfret and other authors, you’ll see how much I am abbreviating this).

I should mention here that what Byllinge thought he was getting from Berkeley was not simply a share in the land of New Jersey, but the right to govern it, independently from the King of England. No end of trouble resulted from this assumption.

Meanwhile, what Penn did was to divide the Byllinge share of New Jersey into 100 parts and give ten to Fenwick to satisfy him. The other 90 shares (which you sometimes see in deeds and surveys referred to as 90/100s of the province) were left in the hands of Penn and two other Quakers who had been named to act as Byllinge’s trustees, similar to the assignees of a bankrupt. These trustees decided to make use of Byllinge’s patent to set up a Quaker colony, someplace in New Jersey away from the already-established Carteret settlements. On July 1, 1676, they made a deal with Carteret called the Quintite Deed which gave the Quakers control over the Delaware Bay and land upriver.

The 90 shares or proprietorships went up for sale, and like proverbial hotcakes, disappeared quickly. In a year, 30 shares were sold, at £350 per share, in addition to Fenwick’s ten. The rest were all sold by 1683. Not everyone bought a whole share; some joined with others to buy a share, some bought fractions on their own. A group from Yorkshire bought ten whole shares. Four men bought a single share each; two others together bought 3 shares. A group from Ireland bought 2 shares, and five more shares went to 21 buyers. These original buyers immediately began selling fractions of their shares to others (even as small as 1/64th), and soon there were at least 100 small proprietors ready to take up residence in West New Jersey.

How does this tie in with governing? Although the Concessions & Agreements I mentioned before provided for a General Assembly, they also provided that, until an Assembly was elected, ten commissioners appointed by the Proprietors would handle the day-to-day affairs of governance, and that in 1680, they would be chosen by all the inhabitants at a general meeting. That sounds surprisingly democratic to me. Apparently such a meeting did take place, on March 25, 1680, although no record of it has survived. But in 1677, Commissioners were appointed in England before they left for New Jersey.

One of the first things the Commissioners were instructed to do was to make large land purchases from the local Indians so that settlement could proceed quickly. This was done in Sept. and Oct. 1677. The land went as far north as the Assunpink at Trenton. But even though the Concessions directed that records of all land purchases be kept in both New Jersey and London, in practice, as Pomfret wrote, this was carelessly done. In fact, some of those original shares have never been accounted for after their first purchase. Some buyers just lost interest.

One of the Commissioners’ assignments was to lay out towns. The first town was Burlington (called Bridlington then). A new street called High Street ran east from the river, and the Yorkshire settlers chose to take their lands north of High Street, while the Londoners chose south (consistent with their geographical origins, and once again, I am really abbreviating the story here). The next year, governing entities for these settlers were established in the form of proto-counties containing about 100 square miles. As a sort of short hand, for the number of proprietary shares they had purchased, they were called ‘Tenths,’ the Yorkshire Tenth running along the Delaware from Burlington north to the Assunpink Creek, and the London Tenth running south to the Pennsauken a little north of Camden. As John Snyder shows in his Map No.3 in The Story of New Jersey’s Civil Boundaries, the borders of these ‘Tenths’ extended inland an undetermined distance.

Next Post: More on the early settlers and the geographical divisions of early West New Jersey, and a map to go with them.
Addendum, 4/24/2010: Quote by Julian Boyd inserted.