Foundations of Colonial America: A Documentary History - Vol. 2

Foundations of Colonial America: A Documentary History - Vol. 2

Foundations of Colonial America: A Documentary History - Vol. 2

Foundations of Colonial America: A Documentary History - Vol. 2

Excerpt

This is the second volume of a trilogy on colonial American public documents. They are organized so that each volume encompasses all the colonies in one of the three major regions along the Atlantic seaboard. This volume includes New York, East and West New Jersey, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Netherland and New Sweden; the other two include all those colonies to either the north or the south of these. In order to make each volume more comprehensive, certain information is incorporated in each which is common to all of them. Thus, at the risk of dull repetition, portions of the preface are repeated in each as well as the table of regnal years, the glossary, and some items in the bibliography. The reason for this is obvious: it is possible to use each volume separately without having to refer to one of the others for such information. Yet each volume contains essentially the same types of documents and a similar organization in order to retain the comparative quality both intra- and inter-regionally.

For almost two hundred years English colonials proliferated along the eastern seaboard of the North American continent, during which time they established and perpetuated English customs and habits. The success of their efforts can be seen even today in this country's legal and political systems and in many of our current customs and traditions. Much of the evidence of the transmission of English ways to the New World can be found in the public records of each colony in the form of laws, legislative resolutions, petitions, official letters, deeds, wills, and a variety of other official acts of provincial and town governing bodies. Therein can be found, also, illustrations of the alterations and mutations of English habits and traditions in response to the demands of the New World and the presence of colonists from other European nations. Although official records do not contain anything like the amount of data necessary to construct a complete narrative of colonial society, they are recognized as essential to an understanding of it. In fact, public records comprise a large part of the material for social and economic history, for laws and their appurtenant documents are an expression of social needs and, in large measure, a description of a society. Such documents encompass men's daily existences: the things they possessed, the work they did, their treatment and expectations of each other, their fears, frustrations, and deaths, and their abstract thinking about morals and society.

For years public and private institutions have been collecting this material and publishing it in multivolume collections for the use of both the casually curious and the serious scholar. Today many of these collections are out of print and difficult to obtain, or so dilapidated or cannibalized by thoughtless and careless users that access to major documents or examples of specific legal activity is not easy, and, in the case of new institutions, research centers, and libraries, frequently impossible. This is one of the reasons why these volumes are being produced.

This is an effort to bring together all the charters granted to the British colonies in America, exclusive of what is now Canada, as well as other public documents . . .

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