New Jersey Colony Summary
New Jersey Colony, also known as the Province of New Jersey or the Province of New Caesarea, was founded in 1664. It was briefly controlled by the Dutch in 1673, before Great Britain reclaimed it in 1674, following the Third Anglo-Dutch War. Although the colony was divided between East Jersey and West Jersey until 1702, it was one of the most diverse colonies in terms of ethnicity, culture, and religion. By the end of the French and Indian War, New Jersey was one of the 13 British Colonies in America, under the control of the Crown, and governed by William Franklin, the son of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin.
New Jersey Colony Facts
- New Jersey Colony was one of the Middle Colonies in British North America.
- The territory was originally part of the Dutch colony of New Netherland.
- In 1664 James, the Duke of York, was given territory by his brother, King Charles II in New Netherland and present-day Maine.
- In 1664, James gave a portion of his territory to John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton, and Sir George Carteret, which became New Jersey.
- New Jersey was divided into East Jersey and West Jersey.
- New Jersey was briefly part of the Dominion of New England.
- New Jersey was a Proprietary Colony until 1702 when it became a Royal Colony and the two colonies were merged
- New Jersey was under the jurisdiction of the Governor of New York until 1738.
- William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, was involved in both East Jersey and West Jersey.
- New Jersey was involved in a border dispute with New York from 1701 to 1765, known as the New York-New Jersey Line War.
Early History of New Jersey
In 1497, John Cabot explored the New Jersey coast, laying the foundation for later English claims. Cabot was followed by Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524, who also explored the coast.
In 1609, Henry Hudson explored the Delaware Bay and the Hudson River, laying the foundation for Dutch territorial claims in the Delaware and Hudson River Valleys. In the 1610s, the Dutch West India Company provided financial backing for the establishment of settlements in New Netherland, and a majority of European settlers preferred to settle in the Hudson Valley, which later became the English colony of New York.
Until the mid-17th century, the Lenni Lenape Indians, an Algonquian-speaking tribe, were the main inhabitants of New Jersey. Initially, there was little conflict between the Lenape and Europeans. Dutch and Swedish colonists prioritized trade over land acquisition, and the Lenape desired European goods.
At the time the first Europeans arrived, it is estimated that approximately 10,000 Lenni Lenapes lived in New Jersey. Like many Woodlands Indians, the Lenni Lenape lived in riverside villages where they planted fields, hunted, fished, and engaged in trade with other tribes. Their villages stretched across New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York, with an estimated 3,000 in New Jersey.
By the 1660s, disease and conflicts with the Iroquois Confederacy of upstate New York had taken a toll on the population of the Lenni Lenape. Because of those issues, many Lenni Lenapes chose to join other native nations and tribes in Pennsylvania and New York.
By 1700, the influx of European settlers increased New Jersey’s population to nearly 14,000, putting more pressure on the Lenni Lenape. The tribe continued to cede land, often under duress and even more relocated, integrating into other tribes.
The number of Native Americans in New Jersey is believed to have been less than 1,000 by 1763.
Dutch and Swedish Encroachment into Lenape Territory
By 1614, the Dutch Parliament, known as the States-General, formally established New Netherland. By 1623, it sent settlers to Fort Orange at present-day Albany, Fort Nassau, near present-day Philadelphia, and the Fort of Good Hope on the Connecticut River. Three years later, the Dutch colonized Manhattan Island with outposts for conducting trade with Indian tribes.
In 1629, the Dutch West India Company established “patroonships” in New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. These landowners, or patroons, held feudal rights along riverbanks.
Kieft’s War (1643–1645)
In 1638, Willem Kieft took charge of New Netherland and created issues between the Dutch and Lenape. Kieft wanted to tax them, inciting Kieft’s War, which lasted from 1643 to 1645. In the conflict, most of the Dutch settlements west of the Hudson River were destroyed.
Swedish Settlement in New Jersey
A small Swedish community established itself on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River in 1640. This was followed by more Dutch settlers who moved south from New Netherland and New Sweden to New Jersey. The settlements on the west side of the Hudson were re-established but increased tensions with the Lenape.
The Navigation Acts Lead to War Between European Colonies
In 1651, England passed the first Navigation Act, which damaged Dutch trading. This led to a series of conflicts known as the Anglo-Dutch Wars, which led to hostilities between New Netherland and the New England Colonies.
Peach Tree War (1655)
In 1655, a sizable Indian force led by the Susquehannocks attacked New Netherland settlements. It led to the abandonment of Dutch settlements on the west side of the Hudson River, including Staten Island.
New Netherland Takes New Sweden
In 1655, the New Netherland took control of New Sweden, forcing the Swedish population to submit to Dutch rule. Despite this, the European population in the region remained small. It is estimated there were approximately 200 Dutch settlers, 100 Swedish, and a small, unknown number of English settlers from New England.
In 1656, Governor Peter Stuyvesant purchased lands from the Indians and directed new immigrants to settle in villages rather than individual farms that were spread out and vulnerable to raids.
Four years later, in 1660, Tielman Van Vleeck founded Bergen, the first permanent European settlement in New Jersey. Bergen was a village, surrounded by walls for protection, with two intersecting streets, surrounded by gardens and livestock pasture outside the walls.
Until the 1660s, the Dutch presence in New Jersey remained limited. It primarily consisted of a series of forts, trading posts, and settlements along the Delaware River. Additionally, a few Dutch settlements were located on the other side of the Hudson River, across from New Amsterdam.
The English Colony of New Jersey
In March 1664, King Charles II granted the region to his brother James Stuart, the Duke of York. The grant was for a colony spanning from the Connecticut River to the Delaware River. A month later, an English fleet threatened New Amsterdam.
The Governor of New Netherland, Peter Stuyvesant, surrendered, giving England control of the Dutch colony, which included the future territories of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
James then gave New Jersey to two of his associates, John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton, and Sir George Carteret, as a way of thanking them for their support of the Stuarts.
The colony’s name came from the Isle of Jersey, where Carteret was born.
However, James retained some control over New Jersey, by placing it under the control of New York, which was governed by Richard Nicolls.
Nicolls granted 400,000 acres to an association of Baptists, Quakers, and Puritans, leading to the establishment of Elizabethtown and Piscataway. Middletown, Woodbridge, Newark, and Shrewsbury were founded in a similar fashion.
In 1664, Carteret and Berkeley crafted the Concessions and Agreements, which ensured the establishment of a General Assembly and protected freedom of trade and freedom of religion for Protestants.
In 1665, Nicolls issued the Duke’s Laws, allowing for town government and promoting religious tolerance for Protestant denominations.
The Dutch town of Bergen retained its institutions and local officials, in return for the inhabitants swearing an oath of allegiance to England.
Between 1667 and 1670, planters from Barbados acquired extensive land in Bergen County and introduced a significant number of African slaves.
A Dutch fleet briefly occupied New York and New Jersey in 1673–1674, but had little impact on the lives of New Jersey colonists. When some town residents petitioned for confirmation of their rights, they were assured of the same privileges as Dutch citizens, including religious freedom and peaceful land ownership. The 1674 treaty that ended the Third Anglo-Dutch War restored New Jersey to English control.
New Jersey Divided
In 1674, Berkeley sold his share in the colony to two Quakers, John Fenwick and George Billing. Two years later, Carteret divided the colony into two parts — East Jersey and West Jersey.
West Jersey was founded by Fenwick and Billing, and East Jersey, was settled later by a group of two dozen proprietors who bought shares from Carteret.
West Jersey had a more religious society focused on equality, while East Jersey was more hierarchical and focused on commerce. Despite these differences, both regions shared elements of Quaker religion and economic ambition.
West Jersey Colony
In 1676, Billing drafted the West Jersey Concessions, which became law in 1677. These Concessions were a significant milestone in the development of colonial politics. They granted voting rights to nearly all adult males and placed considerable power in the elected assembly.
However, in West Jersey’s early years, Fenwick and Billing had arguments over their partnership. To settle the issue, they turned to arbitration. A council was formed, primarily of Quakers, including William Penn.
William Penn Invests in West Jersey
The council ruled that Fenwick owned 10 shares of West Jersey and Billing owned 90. Penn became Billing’s trustee, starting Penn’s involvement in the colonization of America. Penn encouraged Quaker settlement in West Jersey due to the proprietors’ commitment to buying Native American lands, instituting trial by jury, and other aspects of the West Jersey Concessions. When Pennsylvania was founded, a larger number of Quakers migrated to that colony from New Jersey.
Growth of West Jersey
In November 1675, Fenwick established Salem, the first English town in New Jersey.
Billing subdivided and sold most of his shares, expanding the proprietary group from two to approximately 120 investors. Around half of these investors relocated to New Jersey, and by 1682, an estimated 2,000 English Quakers had settled there.
Despite the expansion of the colony, the government was unstable. Fenwick tried to govern, but his authority was challenged by Billing, other West Jersey proprietors, and the Royal Governor of New York.
Over time, conflicts between the proprietors escalated. In 1687, Dr. Daniel Coxe, an English land speculator, acquired the title to the West Jersey government from Billing. Subsequently, in 1693, Coxe sold it to the West Jersey Society, a corporation involved in land speculation and political interests in the Jersey colonies and Pennsylvania.
East Jersey Colony
The first European settlers in East Jersey were Dutch and English families from New England, Long Island, and New Netherland.
In 1664, when England gained control over New York and New Jersey, there were already 33 European families residing in Bergen, across from Manhattan Island. Between 1664 and 1666, English Quakers and Puritans emigrated to East Jersey, establishing new towns.
In the late 1670s, Sir Edmund Andros, the Governor of New York, tried to extend his control to East Jersey, which was governed by Philip Carteret. Andros wanted to enforce the collection of customs duties on the Jersey side of the Hudson River, but Carteret resisted. Andros went so far as to have Carteret arrested, and tried in New York, and warned him not to resume control of the colony. Carteret was acquitted of the charges against him and returned to East Jersey.
In 1676, the East Jersey assembly passed a criminal code that was based on New England laws and the Duke’s Laws of 1665.
William Penn Invests in East Jersey
In 1681, Sir George Carteret’s widow sold the colony’s title to a group of 12 proprietors, which included William Penn. The 12 new proprietors encouraged Scottish emigration to East Jersey and, in 1683, founded the town of Perth Amboy.
When combined with the “The Three Lower Counties on the Delaware River,”: this purchase placed most of the land between Maryland and New York under Quaker administration. Robert Barclay, an accomplished Scottish Quaker, assumed the role of Governor, even though he never set foot in East Jersey. His appointment led to increased immigration, not only among Scottish Quakers but also Presbyterians and other religious dissenters.
During the early 1680s, Penn’s group, which had expanded to 24 proprietors, controlled East Jersey, while West Jersey fell under the jurisdiction of Daniel Coxe, a Cambridge-educated doctor who had acquired more than 1 million acres of land in America.
New Jersey and the Dominion of New England
In 1688, the Dominion of New England, under Governor Sir Edmund Andros, was expanded to include New York and the two Jerseys. However, the influence of Andros ended in 1689 with the Glorious Revolution and the Boston Revolt, which removed him from office. During King William’s War (1688–1697), East and West Jersey maintained the status quo, operating as separate colonies.
East Jersey and West Jersey Merge
In 1701, the proprietors proposed terms for turning East and West Jersey over to the Crown. Key aspects of this proposal included relinquishing all government rights, designating Perth Amboy, Burlington, and Cohansey as free ports, and unifying New Jersey as a single colony with an elective assembly.
In 1702, the West Jersey Society and the government of East Jersey turned political control over to the Crown, merging East Jersey and West Jersey into a single colony known as New Jersey.
While it remained under the authority of the Royal Governor of New York, New Jersey had its own elected legislature, which held meetings in Burlington and Perth Amboy, with sessions alternating between the two cities.
Despite the Crown’s intentions, the unification of New Jersey did little to bring stability to its governance. Ongoing tensions persisted between the original regions, various religious groups, and resident and nonresident proprietors.
New Jersey Under Control of New York
Edward Hyde, the 3rd Earl of Clarendon, known as Lord Cornbury, arrived in New York in 1702 and assumed the position of Governor. Cornbury was quick to appoint his friends and allies to political positions that helped him control the legislature. Known as the “Cornbury Ring,” the group worked to push the Quakers out of colonial politics.
In 1707, Colonel John Lovelace replaced Cornbury. Lovelace tried to ease political tension but died in 1708.
Richard Ingoldsby assumed his position and immediately clashed with the legislature, which refused to allocate the funds he requested, including those related to helping fight Queen Anne’s War.
In 1710, Robert Hunter took office and oversaw an era of political peace and economic prosperity in New Jersey. Hunter was able to manage the more conservative elements of the council while working with the General Assembly, although he clashed with Daniel Coxe, the speaker of the assembly. During this time the Assembly gained power, which was also happening in some of the other colonies.
A significant moment took place in 1723 when the Loan Office Act established a government-controlled bank that allowed colonists to borrow money by using their land as collateral.
Lewis Morris, First Governor of New Jersey Colony
In 1738, the Crown appointed Lewis Morris, a New York politician, as the first dedicated Governor of New Jersey. However, Morris was unpopular and engaged in disputes with the colonial legislature over political authority.
Morris tried to exert his influence over the General Assembly whenever he could, often invoking the authority of the Crown. In response, the Assembly frequently withheld money, even during conflicts like the War of Jenkins’ Ear and King George’s War, and distributed tax revenues according to its own priorities.
Between 1745 and 1746, the Assembly openly clashed with Governor Morris. He threatened to veto all legislation unless the assembly passed a support act and a militia act. Ultimately, the assembly complied with both demands. However, during King George’s War, when New England planned an attack on Louisbourg, the French fortress at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, the Assembly failed to act quickly, further aggravating the governor.
New Jersey was also plagued by disagreements over land ownership, the issuance of paper currency, boundary lines between East and West Jersey, and boundary lines between New Jersey and New York. In contrast, local governance was more stable, relying on a combination of town meetings and county courts.
Governor Jonathan Belcher
In 1747, Governor Jonathan Belcher arrived, promising an end to the conflicts that had plagued New Jersey. However, due to land policies, he faced a new wave of riots. Belcher worked to gain Crown approval for measures that would grant amnesty to the rioters, but the house refused to allocate funds to quell the disturbances.
Belcher dissolved the legislature in 1751 when it refused to pay his salary, and a slightly more conservative legislature took its place. Eventually, with New Jersey’s debt growing and the treasury empty, the legislature started to levy taxes.
Belcher’s influence was reduced, and the Governor’s Council upheld royal authority, while the General Assembly controlled the distribution of funds.
New Jersey Colony and the French and Indian War
From 1756 to 1763, the French and Indian War in America engulfed the British and French colonies in North America. Britain called upon its colonies to provide men and funds to support the war effort. New Jersey’s legislature reluctantly supported the war, tying its support to another Loan Office Act. However, New Jersey became the only American colony that failed to meet its wartime quotas, which resulted in it falling out between New Jersey, the British military, and the Crown.
Population and Culture of New Jersey Colony
It is estimated that by 1702 there were around 1,000 Indians still living in the region, and roughly 14,000 colonists.
The population of New Jersey was diverse, including English, Scottish, Irish, Dutch, Swedish, and German colonists, along with religious groups such as Anglicans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Quakers.
Starting in the 1720s, Germans and Scots-Irish Presbyterians started settling in West Jersey after arriving in the American colonies at the port of Philadelphia. This migration contributed to the diverse culture of New Jersey, as these people brought their own traditions, languages, and customs.
East Jersey had even more diversity in its population. Starting in the 1660s, people from New Netherland, including Flemings, Walloons, French Huguenots, German Protestants, Dutch, as well as African and African American slaves, migrated from New York to East Jersey from New York.
Non-Quaker English settlers, New England Puritans, Scottish immigrants, and Scots-Irish immigrants also made their homes in East Jersey. Additionally, Quakers and Baptists, seeking refuge from the religious persecution they faced in New England, moved into East Jersey.
New Jersey was more diverse in terms of religion and ethnicity than the neighboring colonies of New York and Pennsylvania. Because of that, groups tended to form their own communities, so New Jersey did not have a consistent cultural, religious, or ethnic background.
New Jersey’s African and African American population concentrated in two northeastern counties, which facilitated the development and preservation of a distinct Northern African American culture.
Politics and Government in New Jersey Colony
New Jersey had townships that operated as self-governing entities. The townships were overseen by local politicians, who were elected by property-owning adult white men, known as freeholders. Typically, the freeholders chose respected locals with similar ethnic and religious backgrounds to govern the community and represent their interests in the colonial assembly.
The New Jersey Assembly addressed local petitions and worked to mediate disputes, although these efforts often proved unsuccessful. These disputes typically involved various interests related to landownership, commerce, and politics.
Despite cultural differences, many towns shared common interests, including opposition to the Anglican Church, resistance to the Royal Governor, and opposition to the proprietors, who laid claim to significant portions of the land in New Jersey based on the proprietary charters.
In West Jersey, Quaker merchants based in Burlington held significant economic and political sway.
In East Jersey, proprietors with large holdings used their wealth, influence, and political authority to establish a more hierarchical society. This led to conflicts, pitting small landowners against the proprietors.
Land Riots in New Jersey Colony
Conflicts concerning land titles troubled East Jersey, starting in the 1660s. During that time, Puritan farmers rebelled against proprietors who sought to assert claims over Puritan lands near Elizabethtown and Newark.
In the 1740s, this issue escalated as the proprietors started to question the validity of land titles across northern New Jersey. In some instances, entire townships saw their land deeds contested by proprietors and land companies. By 1745, there were disputes over 500,000 acres of land titles in Jersey.
The settlers who had purchased their land and invested in settlement and improvements faced the prospect of having to prove the legitimacy of their titles in expensive legal battles against the wealthy proprietors.
Small farmers teamed up with local leaders to engage in land riots, which were intended to protect their lands. The land rioters pursued this objective by intimidating proprietors and their representatives, delaying court proceedings, obstructing evictions, and hindering the resettlement of confiscated lands. In general, the land rioters were successful in protecting their land titles from the proprietors, much like Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys would do in the New Hampshire Grants.
Economy of New Jersey Colony
The majority of colonists in New Jersey were engaged in agriculture, producing crops like grain, vegetables, hemp, and flax. They also raise livestock and harvest lumber for export.
Coastal inhabitants were involved in fishing.
Some Scottish colonists established large estates and attempted tenant farming, the prevailing norm was family farms ranging from 100 to 200 acres.
However, New Jersey remained mostly rural. The two largest economic centers, Burlington and Perth Amboy were small, with around 500 inhabitants in the 18th Century.
The demand from New York and Philadelphia merchants for agricultural products produced by New Jersey contributed to a thriving economy, enabling many families to acquire land that helped them achieve independence and economic stability, which was not possible in Europe.
Education in New Jersey Colony
In terms of education, Puritans from New England and Dutch settlers from New York established primary schools in several East Jersey towns, but schools were scarce in West Jersey until the 19th century.
Growth and Expansion of New Jersey Colony
European colonists primarily accessed New Jersey through the ports of its better-known neighboring colonies and cities, including New York and Philadelphia.
By 1760, New Jersey’s population had grown to approximately 93,800 people. However, rural towns were dominated by the cities of New York City and Philadelphia. Elizabethtown, Trenton, and New Brunswick gradually overtook Burlington and Perth Amboy as New Jersey’s main commercial centers.
Trenton was established in 1709 at the head of the Delaware River and played a key role as a port for shipping exports from New Jersey’s inland agricultural areas. It also attracted skilled artisans. The iron mining industry, which started on a small scale in the 17th century, gained greater significance after 1750 when Britain lifted the import duty on iron.
In the late colonial period, some affluent families from New York and Philadelphia started building country estates in New Jersey, marking the beginning of the region as a retreat from the large cities and suburbs.
Religion in New Jersey Colony
Religion played a significant role in colonial New Jersey, particularly for Quaker and Puritan women, who were active in both church and family affairs.
Initially, West Jersey was established as a haven for English Quakers, and Scottish Quakers played a significant role in the settlement of East Jersey.
However, over time, the influence of Quakers was reduced as non-Quakers acquired proprietary shares, and an influx of immigrants from New England, Britain, and Germany outpaced the Quaker population.
The First Great Awakening in New Jersey
The First Great Awakening swept through the American Colonies in the late 1730s and early 1740s and had a profound impact on New Jersey. Similar to New England, the Great Awakening created divisions in many congregations and communities in New Jersey. These divisions gradually went away as the most dedicated “Old Light” leaders passed away, leaving the “New Light” leaders to guide the churches.
Princeton College Founded
The Great Awakening led to the establishment of the College of New Jersey — later Princeton College — in 1746, following the New Light Log College. The college introduced an innovative curriculum with an increased focus on natural and moral philosophy, attracting students from other colonies by the 1760s.
Slavery in New Jersey Colony
By 1750, slaves made up approximately 7 percent of New Jersey’s population. By 1775, the number had grown to around 10,000, with the majority being enslaved Africans and African Americans.
New Amsterdam was an early hub for the slave trade, and Dutch farmers and other immigrants from New York brought enslaved individuals with them when they settled in New Jersey.
There were more slaves in East Jersey than in West Jersey, particularly along the border with New York. Most of the slaves in New Jersey worked on large farms, while in southern New Jersey, some affluent settlers established estates that resembled plantations in the Chesapeake area.
Despite the existence of slavery in New Jersey, Quaker-dominated West Jersey disapproved of the practice. In the 1740s, Quakers in West Jersey and Pennsylvania openly discussed the morality of slavery. In 1754, John Woolman published a pamphlet titled “Some Consideration on the Keeping of Negroes,” island argued that slavery was detrimental to both slave and master.
New Jersey Colony Timeline
- 1497 — John Cabot explores the coast of New Jersey.
- 1524 — Verazanno explores the coast of New Jersey.
- 1609 — Henry Hudson explores the Delaware Bay and the Hudson River for the Dutch West India Company.
- 1609 — Samuel de Champlain fights the Battle of Lake Champlain, starting the Beaver Wars.
- 1614 — New Netherland is established by the Dutch States-General.
- 1620 — Plymouth Colony is established by the Pilgrim Separatists.
- 1624 — New Amsterdam is established.
- 1629 — Patroonships are established by the Dutch West India Company.
- 1643–1645 — Kieft’s War takes place.
- 1651 — The First Navigation Act leads to the First Anglo-Dutch War.
- 1655 — The Peach Tree War takes place.
- 1655 — New Netherland takes control of New Sweden.
- 1660 — The town of Bergen is founded.
- March 1664 — King Charles II grants land to his brother, James Stuart.
- April 1664 — England takes control of New Netherland.
- 1664 — New Jersey Concessions and Agreements published.
- 1665 — Governor Nicolls issues the Duke’s Laws.
- 1673–1674 — The Dutch temporarily retake control of New Jersey.
- 1674 — England takes permanent control of New Jersey. The colony is divided into East Jersey and West Jersey.
- 1675 — The town of Fenwick is founded.
- 1677 — The West Jersey Concessions become law.
- 1681 — William Penn invests in East Jersey.
- 1688 — New Jersey is added to the Dominion of New England.
- 1702 — East Jersey and West Jersey merge into a Royal Colony.
- 1738 — Lewis Morris is appointed as the first Royal Governor of New Jersey.
- 1756–1763 — The French and Indian War takes place in North America.
New Jersey Colony APUSH Review
Use the following links and videos to study New Jersey, the Middle Colonies, and Colonial America for the AP US History Exam. Also, be sure to look at our Guide to the AP US History Exam.
New Jersey Colony APUSH Definition
New Jersey Colony for APUSH is defined as one of the original 13 American colonies established by European settlers during the 17th century. It began as a Proprietary Colony granted to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret in 1664, with the land eventually divided into East Jersey and West Jersey. The colony’s history was marked by diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Dutch, English, and Quakers. In 1702, it became a Royal Colony, with the two Jerseys unified under a single government. New Jersey played a significant role in the American Revolution and later became a key industrial and agricultural state in the United States.
New Jersey Colony APUSH Video
This video from Kean University discusses the history of New Jersey.