The year 1687 was intense for West New Jersey and for England in matters concerning politics and management of land, but not very much for the families of Gloucester who might have been connected with Samuel Green. If your interests are limited to genealogy, then you must wait for part two of 1687. If the politics of days long gone are your fancy, then this year and the next will be of particular interest.
During the previous year, little was heard from Edward Byllinge. It appears he was ill, for he died of phthisis on January 16, 1687. Phthisis is Greek for consumption; Byllinge died of tuberculosis, but phthisis (pronounced tie-sis) sounds much more interesting. At the time of his death, Byllinge held more shares in the Province of West New Jersey than anyone else. His daughters Loveday and Gracia and Gracia’s husband Benjamin Bartlet were his heirs. Bartlet himself owned five proprietary shares, in addition to those inherited from Byllinge. Perhaps if the heirs had not gotten the right of government along with the right to land, they might have held onto their shares. But governing a far away and little-known province did not interest them, so they offered their shares for sale.
It is partly thanks to Daniel Coxe that the entry for 1687 is a long one. According to a letter Coxe wrote to the West Jersey Proprietors on September 5, 1687, Byllinge’s heirs were “ignorant of his concerns relating to West-Jersey,” and they were negotiating with a buyer who would have made the residents of West New Jersey “very uneasy.” He didn’t say who that person was. If there was such a person, he must have been someone close to the king, with an outlook similar to the king’s, which was not sympathetic to self-governing entities under British rule.
Coxe wrote that he and another large owner in West New Jersey met with some lawyers to find out if the old Concessions and Agreements were binding on new purchasers. They were advised that the Concessions became non-binding after the 1680 grant from James to Byllinge. Then Coxe and this other unnamed person consulted some of the London proprietors to find a solution for the province. They determined that one of them should make the purchase, and since Coxe already owned a large number of shares and had some ready cash, he should be the one. Coxe said he had consulted with William Penn and Philip Ford regarding this purchase and was encouraged by them.
Who was Daniel Coxe? He was born about 1640 in Stoke Newington, and became a scientist and a physician whose interest in far-flung places was sparked by his scientific studies. In 1677 he published “A Short Account of the Kingdoms around the Euxine and Caspian Seas.” He studied the effects of nicotine on animals and the crystallization of salts. He was admitted to the Royal Society in 1664, and in 1669 received a medical degree from Cambridge. He became court physician to Charles II and the queen. By the 1680s he was investing in the Province of West New Jersey. His interest in real estate ventures probably dates from that time, and eventually extended to the length of the eastern coast as well as the Mississippi valley.
Coxe’s letter to the proprietors is a remarkable document. Self-serving, humble, presumptuous, flattering—once you read it, you will know that Coxe was the Donald Trump of his day—not only in his remarkable history of land speculation, but his larger-than-life personality (admittedly, Donald Trump is not known for his scientific interests). Fortunately, you can easily read this letter thanks to Google Books, which has published Samuel Smith’s History of Nova Caesaria or New Jersey. It can also be found in New Jersey Archives, 1st ser., Vol. II, pages 4-9.
The East-West New Jersey Dividing Line
Meanwhile, the proprietors of East and West New Jersey were coming to grips with the fact that the dividing line between them had not been properly surveyed, and questions were being raised about exactly where the line was located. The previous year, in England, the two Quaker governors, Robert Barclay for East Jersey and Edward Byllinge for West Jersey, had concluded that arbitration, a time-tested Quaker method for resolving disputes, would be the answer, so they named a committee to make recommendations.
On January 8, 1687, representatives from both provinces met at the house of Henry Greenland in Somerset County to hear the recommendations. They were presented by William Emley, representing West New Jersey interests, and John Reid representing East New Jersey. Representatives from West New Jersey at the meeting were John Skene, Samuel Jennings, Thomas Olive, George Hutchinson, Mahlon Stacy, Thomas Lambert and Jeremiah Pope. What Emley and Reid proposed was a line beginning at Little Egg Harbor and running on a straight course slightly west of north-northwest to end at the Delaware River. As will be seen, this course proved to be very problematic.
To seal the deal, the proprietors of each province gave a bond of £5000, guaranteeing they would abide by the decision. Robert Barclay, governor of East New Jersey and resident of Scotland, had named George Keith surveyor general of East New Jersey, and he was accepted as surveyor of the dividing line. The survey was not begun until April 22nd.
Dominion of New England
January of 1687 was a busy month. Edmund Andros was settled in Boston as the new governor of James II’s Dominion of New England. Under James’ orders, Andros cast a roving eye on the provinces adjacent to Massachusetts. It settled first on Rhode Island, which he annexed that month after dissolving its government. Next on Andros’ list was Maine. In the spring, Gov. Dongan of New York gave up his claims to this territory, which became part of the Dominion. Then Andros turned his attention to the eastern half of Connecticut, which would formally come under the Dominion in October of 1687.
Meanwhile, Gov. Dongan of New York played into the hands of Andros and James when he wrote letters to the Board of Trade complaining that the New Jersey provinces were hurting the trade of New York because they did not charge import duties the way New York did, and thus attracted merchants and Indian traders away from New York. To protect its interests, New York laid claim to Raritan Bay. This may not have had direct effect on West New Jersey, but Dongan’s complaints gave ammunition to those who wished to have New York and the Jerseys subsumed into the Dominion of New England.
In March, Andrew Hamilton, a Scottish merchant and investor, became the new deputy governor of East New Jersey, replacing Gawen Lawrie. In later years, Hamilton would become a noteworthy governor of both East and West New Jersey. In 1687, he had to deal with Dongan’s claims to Raritan Bay, the intimidation of Edmund Andros, and the problem of the Province’s dividing line with West New Jersey.
James II and Religious Politics
In February, James II issued his first “Declaration of Indulgence,” which on first glance seems a noteworthy and beneficial document. It removed the legal impediments to the free practice of religion by dissenting Protestants and Quakers, and also by Catholics. And that is where James’ motive is revealed. According to a fascinating book, which I am happy to say my family gave me for Christmas, James was determined to create in England the kind of Catholic monarchy that Louis XIV had established in France, especially after Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes.
The book I am referring to is called 1688: The First Modern Revolution by Steve Pincus. It is a tome, no doubt about it. But Pincus takes a hard and well-documented look at James’ politics and goals, and does not find a moderate ruler at all, as some have claimed him to be. He was focused and ambitious about creating a new Catholic state in England, and he was a firm believer in the divine right of kings. All James’ protestations of caring about liberty of conscience were so much fluff.
Trouble Over the Dividing Line
In April, with the prodding of Andrew Hamilton, East New Jersey named three men to travel to West New Jersey to give notice that the Surveyor General, George Keith, was ready to begin making the survey.1
The instructions issued to these men (Samuel Winder, John Campbell and Miles Forster) were to demand of Deputy Gov. John Skene and others who signed the bond of £5,000 that the line should be run as agreed to. The instructions seem to suggest that there was some unwillingness among the West Jerseyans to comply. “If they shift and only passively say that they consent for themselves not to take it for and answer for that they are oblidged to shew ther Consent by some act” etc. (It is not a very well-written document.)
So, in April, Keith did in fact begin his surveying work at Little Egg Harbor. For some reason, the West Jersey folks agreed to let him do it on his own. He drew a line as far north as the south branch of the Raritan River, until he was interrupted. I cannot say exactly why he stopped where he did, but apparently Daniel Coxe got wind of it and brought the work to a halt. A meeting was held in England to get Coxe on board with the plan, since he was now governor of West New Jersey. Also present were the governor of East New Jersey, Robert Barclay of Scotland, along with “Mr. Penn, Mr. Ward and others.” We know of this meeting from a letter written by Coxe to the West Jersey Proprietors, but the letter is not dated.2
According to Coxe, everyone else who was present wanted him to consent to the line as drawn, but Coxe observed that “it is obvious at the first glance, that above a third part of that land, which was ever accounted to belong to West-Jersey, is allotted to, and comprehended within the limits of East-Jersey.” Coxe pointed out that the line decided on way back in 1677 was to run on a course that would take it to a tributary of the Delaware River at 41 degrees 40 minutes latitude, which was well north of the spot that Keith was headed for. Keith’s end point would have been the forks of the Delaware near today’s Easton, PA. The committee claimed there was no such tributary at 41 degrees 40 minutes, and yet Coxe was able to point it out on their own map. They could not come to an agreement, so there was a temporary stalemate until 1688.
Coxe found it useful in this case to defer to the proprietors of West New Jersey, who were very unhappy about this unfair division. According to Coxe, the proprietors (including himself) had purchased their shares based on the assumption that there would be an equal division between the provinces. Then Coxe went further and claimed that West New Jersey should be a third larger than East New Jersey, partly because East New Jersey was so close to New York, and also because so much of West New Jersey was “a desart.”
And here is one of the more surprising declarations in Coxe’s letter:
“I flattered myself with hopes, that Mr. Penn, a person of great ability and interest among the proprietors of New Jersey, and who hath often professed a great kindness for the inhabitants of West-Jersey, would have afforded me some assistance, and moderated at the least the violence of the current, upon the pretended agreement; but he hath frustrated my expectation, by complying with them in all things, and signed with the rest; which I confess was extremely surprising to me; and will, I doubt not, appear a little strange to divers amongst you: . . But I perceive, that which most influenced him, is a persuasion that the division ought to be equal in quantity, . . . and being herein influenced by Mr. Keith’s false map, of which I have sent you a copy, that Mr. Reid’s proposal is very fair.”
As mentioned previously, John Reid was the chief representative of the East Jersey Proprietors, while William Emley represented West New Jersey. A discussion of William Penn’s motives in all this would merit a separate post, but I fear I will lose what little audience I have if I pursue it. Suffice it to say, Penn had a colony of his own to care about, and no particular interest in promoting or advantaging one that lay across the river. Coxe felt the loss of Penn’s support very keenly.
Coxe complained that West Jersey was never properly mapped the way East Jersey was, and that East Jersey had the advantage thereby. He urged the West Jersey residents to have a proper map drawn up showing its dimensions and the locations of barren areas. He also mentioned that George Keith and John Reid had “a pretty policy” in which they mapped West New Jersey on its southerly end much larger than it actually was.
Coxe urged the proprietors to hold to the agreement between Byllinge and Carteret, which he said all the English proprietors of West New Jersey agreed to, excepting William Penn, and that protests be made against any East Jersey attempt to take up lands in what should be West Jersey. As an extra protection, he ordered the surveyor of West New Jersey to take up in Coxe’s name all lands on the west side of the Millstone and Raritan Rivers which were not yet in the hands of East New Jersey.
Despite all this difficulty, Coxe concluded by urging that “there be no animosity or indignation, severe censure, or spightful reflections on those who gave their consent unto the award made by Emley.” He thought they were honest people who were “overreached by cunning designing persons.”
The rest of this eventful year will come in a subsequent post. The key source for 1687 is John E. Pomfret, The Province of West New Jersey, 1609-1702 (Princeton, 1956). The first and second volumes of New Jersey Archives, first series, are also invaluable, as is Samuel Smith’s History of New Jersey.