I read recently that whatever is on your mind when you’re falling asleep or washing the dishes or taking a walk is probably what is most important to you, and until you resolve whatever you are pondering, you can’t focus well on anything else. My particular distraction was moving my history office from Washington, DC to Sergeantsville, NJ. I simply could not think of anything else until the move was made. Now that I’ve arrived and unpacked, and have only some filing to do, my thoughts are returning to West New Jersey.
Edmund Andros’ Visit to Burlington, Summer 1688
On March 25, 1689, the Council of Proprietors sent a letter to Gov. Daniel Coxe, describing the visit of Edmund Andros the previous summer. Andros had arrived in Burlington “in great Pomp & State attended with his Councell and Guards of Red Coats,” and “by sound of trumpet” he “proclaimed the King’s Commission Constituting him governor of this place” as part of the Dominion of New England. Considering what life was like in Burlington in 1688, Andros thought he made quite an impression on the Friends and “Contrey People.”1 Despite his condescension, life in West New Jersey by this time was not primitive—quite the contrary. It was surprisingly civilized for such a new habitation. But Quakers frowned on outlandish display, which is just what Edmund Andros had provided. The Quakers knew they were meant to be impressed by the theatrics, but the impression was far from favorable.
Of course, that is not what was reported by John Randolph, Secretary of the Dominion. In a letter to the Lords of Trade, Randolph stated that following Andros’ trip to Elizabeth and Burlington, both East Jersey and West Jersey “shewed their great satisfaction in being under his Ma’ties immediate Gov’t.” Perhaps they were satisfied with royal government in general, but not so much with Edmund Andros.
Incidentally, those redcoats who accompanied Gov. Andros were wearing uniforms that had been legislated in 1645, in the ordinance creating the New Model Army under Cromwell. The color was called “Venetian Red.” Some say it was chosen to conceal bloody wounds, but in fact, red dye was preferred because it was cheap.2
The Glorious Revolution and Its Consequences in West New Jersey
Meanwhile, the English had become fed up with James II. William of Orange was invited to bring his army to England and soon afterwards, in December 1688, James gave up his crown. On February 13, 1689, the Parliament passed the Declaration of Right, confirming that James was no longer king and offering the throne to William and Mary.
The coronation of William and Mary took place on April 11, 1689. On the very same date, the Council of Proprietors sent another letter to Gov. Coxe in England asking that “Authenticks” of Coxe’s “Re-establishment” as governor be sent to them so that they might proclaim him governor “legally,” thereby overriding Andros’ pretensions to the government. Apparently some had criticized the proprietors for recognizing Daniel Coxe with “precipitant madness” back in September 1687 when Coxe announced by letter that he had purchased all of Byllinge’s shares and had thus become governor.
Coxe would have to provide something compelling because it was unlikely, they wrote, that Andros would “resigne or part with any portion of his Government til Commanded by an Authority as great and Awful [that is, inspiring awe] as that which gave it him.” This makes it clear that the Proprietors did not yet know that the Dominion of New England was dissolved. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the Minutes of the West Jersey Proprietors to indicate when they learned of it.
News of the change in monarchs got to Boston sometime in the early spring of 1689. Resistance to Andros quickly crystallized on April 18th when Boston rioted and Andros was thrown in jail, along with a few of his key supporters, like John Randolph.3 Many of Andros’ papers along with the great seal of New England disappeared. Massachusetts withdrew from the Dominion and reinstated its original charter. The other colonies quickly followed suit,4 and by July 1689 the Dominion was no more.
That same month, William & Mary ordered Gov. Andros to return from New England. He left on February 17, 1690,5 but did not return in disgrace. He was made Governor of Virginia in 1692, where he served until 1697. In 1704 he was governor of the Isle of Guernsey, the place of his birth, but he retired to London in 1706 and died there in 1714.6
With the accession of William and Mary, the quo warranto proceedings against the governments of the English colonies in America were abandoned. According to the English proprietors of East New Jersey, “Edmond Andros being upon the first news of the Revolution, imprison’d at Boston, All those American Colonys were in great Confusion for some time.”7 As soon as things settled down, the English Proprietors of New Jersey reclaimed their right of government, asserting that they had never really surrendered it.
When Did the West Jersey Assembly Meet?
Pomfret wrote that the minutes of the Burlington Court of February 1688 allude to meetings of the Assembly (Pomfret 1956, 166), but I see no such allusion in the court book compiled by Reed & Miller.8 During that session, Daniel Coxe was recognized as Governor and John Skene as Deputy Governor. This was a month before the visit from Andros.
In a letter of March 26, 1689, the Proprietors wrote to Daniel Coxe concerning the division line between East and West Jersey and the deal that Coxe had made with Barclay, that “the Assembly and we having don in that Affair what appointed best and most Expedient . . ,” suggesting that the Assembly had met and voted its approval of the dividing line, however reluctantly. Those minutes seem not to have survived. The Proprietors’ minutes for 1689 say nothing about any communication to Coxe from the Assembly. Pomfret thinks the period of time during which the Assembly did not meet lasted “only” from May 1688 to November 1692, but still, that’s four years without a provincial government.
The Proprietors sent several letters to Coxe asking to receive guidance from him, but they got no answer until Dec. 1689. According to Pomfret, Coxe’s letter “concerned both lands and government.” But Pomfret wrote that the letter was not mentioned in the Proprietors’ Minutes, so I’m not sure how Pomfret knew that it had been received, and he says no more about its contents.9
So, West New Jersey had no Assembly, and a governor who was incommunicado. They were certainly left to their own devises this year.
Where Were West Jersey’s Records?
Pomfret wrote that the proprietors had agreed to hand over the records to John Skene “on condition that they remain in the province.” He doesn’t say when that decision was made, but it took place before October 26, 1688, for on that date, Skene wrote to John Randolph reporting that Thomas Revel had handed over bundles of records, and that “he [Skene] hath saved the old minuts of the Assembly which are but in Loos peapers too & the Law Book which yie [I?] sealed up.”
I wonder what governmental records did the proprietors hand over to him. Perhaps when the Assembly decided that the job of managing land surveys should be handled by a separate body it did not carefully oversee the separation of land records from governmental ones. This is understandable because both legislative and proprietary matters were originally recorded in the same books. Separating the records would require copying minutes and surveys into separate books, which would take much time and effort, a dilemma for both the Proprietors and for John Skene.
In March 1689, the Proprietors demanded that the records held by Skene be returned to them, but Skene refused. As mentioned in the previous post, Skene wanted approval from Benjamin Bartlett before returning the records. Pomfret wrote that Skene “refused to act without an order from Benjamin Bartlet, Byllynge’s heir!” What Pomfret meant by the exclamation point (other than astonishment) is hard to say. It was as if Skene was reverting to the time prior to Coxe’s governorship—as if Skene thought that the change in government in England meant that Coxe no longer had any authority, and the governorship had reverted back to Byllinge. Pomfret surmises that Skene eventually complied with the Proprietors’ demands for the records, for the simple reason that “nothing more is heard of the controversy.” But I think records must have been lost in the process.
As for John Skene’s position in 1689, Pomfret wrote that when Andros arrived in Burlington, John Skene was “automatically deprived of his office of deputy governor but remained in the public service as a justice of the Burlington court.” John Randolph wrote that all the Jersey officials were continued in office “to their high content,” but he must have been referring only to local officers. In a footnote, Pomfret wrote that Randolph recognized that the people of West Jersey had a high regard for John Skene, and so Randolph gave him “various commissions to execute.”10 Skene thereby became the Dominion’s man in West Jersey. That must have been uncomfortable for him when the Dominion was dissolved.
Not surprisingly, there is more to say about 1689, which I hope to finish up in the next post.
- John Pomfret 1956, 160. ↩
- Wikipedia. ↩
- Michael Barone, Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America’s Founding Fathers. 2007, p.201. ↩
- John Romeyn Brodhead, The government of Sir Edmund Andros over New England, in 1688 and 1689. 1867, pp.34-37. ↩
- Carlos E. Godfrey, When Boston Was New Jersey’s Capital, 1685-1689, 1933, p.14. ↩
- Paul A. Stellhorn & Michael Birkner, eds. The Governors of New Jersey, 1664-1974, 1982, p.21. ↩
- William A. Whitehead, ed., Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey, 1687-1703, 1881, p.344. ↩
- Henry Clay Reed and George J. Miller, eds., The Burlington Court Book: A Record of Quaker Jurisprudence in West Jersey, 1680-1709, Washington, DC: The American Historical Asso., 1944. ↩
- Note: I haven’t examined the Minutes of the Proprietors for early 1690 yet to see if mention is made of Coxe’s letter. ↩
- From the Randolph Papers (Boston: Prince Society, 1899), IV: 238-39, 248-50. ↩