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The beginning of the 18th century


New Jersey history
New Jersey history

In 1702 the boards of proprietors in both sections of New Jersey turned their governing authority over to Queen Anne, who united the two into a single royal colony. However, the two proprietary organizations continued to act as landlords, holding title to all unclaimed land in New Jersey.

Under royal government, local self-rule was curtailed and the colony was bound more closely to England. Despite political unification, each section insisted on maintaining its own capital. The assembly, which shared colonial rule with the royal governor, was forced to hold its sessions in Perth Amboy and Burlington in alternating years.

Differences between the two sections remained, but they united to present a common front against the royal governor. In trying to restore harmony and obedience to royal authority, the governors were forced until 1738 to divide their attention between New Jersey and New York, and many of the crown’s representatives were incompetent. This enabled the colonists to exercise a greater amount of self-government than the monarchy desired. Especially important was the assembly’s power to collect taxes for the governor’s salary. Governors who remained responsible to the king and opposed the interests of the colonists often went unpaid. The Great Awakening, a religious movement that swept through the colonies in the 1740s, further undermined royal authority, as well as that of the Anglican Church.

TLed by Presbyterian ministers William Tennent and his son, Gilbert Tennent, preachers crossed Bergen, Essex, and Hunterdon counties. Their fiery sermons made Protestants repent their sins and seek salvation. The awakening left churches in turmoil, as the newly saved attacked more conservative ministers, who refused to accept their conversion experiences as genuine. Within a decade, in Sussex and other wilderness counties, orderly denominations became a chaos of jealous, competing sects. Religious fervor also sharpened farmers’ anger when proprietors questioned their land titles during the so-called “land riots” of the late 1740s. Hundreds of farmers squatted on their land, defying efforts by sheriffs and militia units to evict them. When several were arrested, their friends stormed jails in Somerset, Newark, and Perth Amboy to free them.

From 14,000 in 1700, the number of inhabitants doubled to more than 30,000 in 1726. It continued to grow rapidly, reaching about 120,000 by 1775. Immigrants poured into the colony from New York and Philadelphia, giving it a diverse and multilingual character. Dutch continued to trek into Bergen County, dotting the valley of the Hackensack River with Dutch Reformed congregations. The small Swedish group in Salem was swamped by an influx of Irish Quakers and Scots from Ulster, who made up a quarter of Salem’s population by the time of the American Revolution in 1775. Large numbers of peasants from Germany settled in Hunterdon and Sussex counties. As a result, the English province of New Jersey was probably only half English in ethnic origin on the eve of the revolution, and counties like Hunterdon, Middlesex, and Salem were less than 40 percent English. Bergen and Somerset counties were, respectively, half and two-thirds Dutch by the 1760s. The growing number of Scots-Irish, Welsh, Dutch, German, Swedish, Belgian, French, and black settlers in New Jersey made British rule that much less popular.

Of the royal governors, only Robert Hunter and Lewis Morris received cooperation from the assembly. Even Morris, who before becoming governor was a strong defender of the assembly’s prerogatives, went without salary for two years. In 1763 William Franklin, the son of statesman Benjamin Franklin, was appointed governor. He could muster little support for the British in the French and Indian War (1754-1763) that was raging along the American frontier, as Great Britain and France fought for control of North America. The presence of a large number of Quakers and other pacifist sects partly accounted for this lack of concern. The basic reason, however, was that New Jersey was too preoccupied with its own problems and development to come to the aid of the king.

Opposition to royal authority continued to mount as Britain attempted to enforce laws restricting trade and imposing taxes on the colonies. See also Navigation Acts; Sugar and Molasses Act; Stamp Act; Townshend Acts. Following the lead of Massachusetts and Virginia, a provincial congress met in New Brunswick on July 21, 1774, and elected delegates to the First Continental Congress. Four months later a group of New Jersey patriots, again following the lead of rebellious colonists in Boston, burned a cargo of tea in Greenwich. As unrest spread, many royal officials yielded to the provincial congress. In June 1776 William Franklin, who remained loyal to Britain, was arrested, and the reign of royal governors ended in New Jersey. "New Jersey" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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