It has been awhile since I’ve written anything about the chronology of early West Jersey, but I’m glad I waited, for I just recently got my hands on a PhD. Dissertation by Frederick R. Black that has opened my eyes to events in the 1690s and solved some mysteries for me. It is entitled The Last Lords Proprietors of West Jersey; The West Jersey Society, 1692-1702, and is available from Rutgers Library, Special Collections, through inter-library loan. I can’t recommend it enough.

Addendum to ‘A New Governor for West New Jersey’

I have been wondering what Dr. (and Governor) Daniel Coxe was doing after the fall of James II and the collapse of the Dominion of New England.

After publishing my last post on West Jersey, I discovered in John Pomfret’s The Province of East New Jersey that Daniel Coxe was resuming his duties as governor of West Jersey, which had been assumed by Gov. Andros. He did this by seeking out a deputy-governor to serve in his stead in West Jersey. Probably around November 1690, he approached Col. Joseph Dudley, the former president of the council of the Dominion of New England, who was temporarily in London, and asked him to take the job. Dudley seriously considered it, and from Frederick Black I learned that Coxe issued him a commission on December 5, 1690. But Dudley was also offered the job of president of the Council and chief justice of New York, and that was the job he preferred. Not surprising when you compare the dynamic life of New York to the quiet backwater of West Jersey (although I must acknowledge that New York was not nearly as lively then as it is now).

Coxe by this time had given up his plans to settle in West Jersey, so he needed a land agent to act for him there. Dudley accepted this job, but as it turned out, he never visited West Jersey.1 Eventually, Dudley  delegated the position to West Jersey resident Edward Hunloke in October 1691.2 Here is John Pomfret’s version of events, in The Province of East Jersey.

“The proprietary interest in the Jerseys was salvaged at this crucial time by the chief proprietor of West New Jersey, Dr. Daniel Coxe, who in addition owned two whole proprieties of East New Jersey. Coxe endeavored, as the spokesman of the proprietors, to obtain a man of reputation who would serve as governor of both divisions. He made overtures to Colonel Joseph Dudley, formerly president of the council of New England, who was then in London. In November 1690 Dudley wrote his friend William Blathwayt, auditor general of the colonies, seeking his advice. Henry Sloughter, then governor of New York and an interested party, did not oppose the proposal, writing pointedly, “I think this a good arrangement until the provinces are annexed to New York or otherwise disposed of.” The scheme fell through when Dudley became president of the council and chief justice of New York.”

Interesting that Henry Sloughter, temporary governor of New York, expected that New Jersey would be united with New York sometime in the near future. But his observation that the provinces needed to be “disposed of” shows how little he thought of them. Here is how Black described the situation:

In the meantime, Coxe tried to obtain as deputy-governor Joseph Dudley, who was also being approached by the proprietors of East Jersey. Coxe actually executed a commission to Dudley, but Dudley preferred to serve as president of the Council of New York. However, even after he had assumed his duties in this position, the Jersey proprietors urged him to shoulder responsibility for their governments, an appointment considered by Governor Slaughter of New York as “a good arrangement until the provinces are annexed to New York or otherwise disposed of.”3

Stepping back a bit, in June 1688, while West Jersey was governed by Edmund Andros, Daniel Coxe ordered his agent James Budd to sell eleven of his proprietary shares.4  It appears that Budd never followed through with that sale. But it suggests that even at that early date, Coxe was having second thoughts about his position in West Jersey. On the other hand, Coxe did buy out the remaining shares owned by the heirs of Edward Byllynge during that time.5 So, it is hard to say what Coxe was thinking. William III honored Dr. Coxe with a grant of the Province of ‘Carolana’ in December 1689.  This was an exciting new endeavor for Coxe and may have distracted him from the business of owning and governing West Jersey. (For previous discussions on the Carolina colonies, see here and here and here and here.)

That same month, December 1689, the proprietors of West New Jersey received Coxe’s ‘pacquet’. (I assume he sent it at least a month before.) It was sent after the Dominion was shut down and William and Mary were well enough established to show their preferences in regard to the American colonies. And their preference was much the same as their predecessor, James II, to consolidate them all under a royal governor, to make them more defensible in the war with France. This was a considerable change from the early approach to establishing colonies taken by the kings of England. Originally, individual Proprietors were seen as the most advantageous approach to developing colonies at minimal expense to the crown.

“To grant whole provinces to proprietors was to take advantage of individual initiative and to mobilize private capital in achieving public goals. It also invited—indeed, guaranteed—competition between powerful men that was capable of causing political disruption at home and creating conflicts between colonies abroad.”6

According to Anderson & Cayton, James’ Dominion of New England was his attempt at restraining destructive competitiveness. Interesting theory, but I think James was more concerned about asserting his own control and creating a stronger military defense for all the English colonies than controlling destructive competitiveness.

Before it became clear to Coxe that the government would not be sympathetic to “private” colonies, Coxe attempted to obtain “royal confirmation of his right of government” in West Jersey, with no success.7 It may be that the news in Coxe’s ‘pacquet’ was of his plans to confirm with the royal authorities his right to govern, probably expressed with Coxe’s usual confident optimism.

However, ‘Jerseyman’ suspects that Coxe was letting the proprietors know that he planned to give up his holdings in West Jersey. We will never know for sure, but the behavior of the Council of Proprietors seems to suggest that ‘Jerseyman’ might be right. It may have been dawning on Dr. Coxe that governing an English colony from such a great distance during such unsettled times was more trouble than it was worth. Although there was pressure from the crown on the “private colonies” to give up their governing rights, negotiations had not yet gotten serious. Perhaps if they had, Coxe would have comfortably given up those rights and kept his West Jersey lands. But he seems to have thought the right to govern enhanced the value of his lands, and he was shrewd enough to go looking for buyers while that value could still be claimed.

Daniel Coxe begins His Exit

John Pomfret believed that Coxe began looking for a buyer of his shares in West New Jersey as soon as the Jerseys were absorbed into the Dominion of New England in 1688/89.8 Considering the extent of his properties, it made sense for him to seek out a group of buyers rather than a single person, which makes me think that it was Daniel Coxe who instigated the creation of the West Jersey Society of England. Henry Race, in his article on the West Jersey Society’s Great Tract, says nothing about how the corporation came into being.9, but Frederick R. Black is certain that Coxe was deeply involved:

No single person was more responsible for the formation of the West Jersey Society or was of greater influence in determining the general nature of its organization and activities than the London physician and speculator, Dr. Daniel Coxe. Coxe played a vital part in the genesis of the enterprise, and he himself promoted the creation of a joint-stock company to purchase his extensive holdings in North America.10

In a future post, I will try to summarize some of what I have learned from Frederick R. Black (and others) about the creation of the West Jersey Society. In the meantime, there will be more to be said about the year 1691.


  1.  Power of attorney, Daniel Coxe of London to Joseph Dudley of Roxbury, New England, as general agent in East and West Jersey, West Jersey Records, dated Nov. 5, 1690, Lib. B1 p.271; repeated p.272 with more powers. Coxe’s commissions to his agents are found in WJR, Lib. B1, pp. 173, 223, 260, 269, 271-72.
  2. Substitution of Powers of Attorney from Dudley to Edward Hunloke, October 7, 1691, West Jersey Records, Lib. B1, p. 271.
  3. Black 1964, pp.44-45.
  4. Letter of Attorney from Coxe to James Budd, June 28, 1688, WJR, B1: 223.
  5. Black 1964, 37.
  6.  Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton, Dominion of War; Empire & Liberty in North America, 1500-2000, 2005, p.74.
  7. Black 1964, p.43.
  8. Pomfret 1962, p.274.
  9. Henry Race, M.D., West Jersey Society’s Great Tract in Hunterdon County, published in “The Jerseyman,” vol 3, no.1, April 1895.
  10. Black 1964, p.18.