Narratives of Early Pennsylvania, West New Jersey and Delaware, 1630-1707

By Albert Cook Myers | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

IN the gap of five years from our last document the Quaker settlements of West New Jersey made marked progress. Byllynge's trustees soon effected sales of large tracts of land to two Quaker companies in England, one in southern Yorkshire and contiguous territory and the other in London. Much of the land being resold, the number of proprietors rapidly increased. Preparations for sending over another Quaker colony were then energetically forwarded, in connection with which a thoroughly democratic constitution embodying the Quaker ideals was drawn up in England. This was the famous Concessions and Agreements of the Proprietors, Freeholders and Inhabitants of West New Jersey, a document of deep import in American constitutional history. It was signed by Penn, who has been credited with its drafting, and one hundred and fifty other persons representative of the groups mentioned in the title. By this instrument the government was placed in the hands of a board of ten commissioners -- to be chosen at first by the proprietors -- and in a law-making assembly freely elected by the inhabitants.

The second colony of two hundred persons, bearing this constitution, went over in the ship Kent in 1677 and laid the foundations of the town and settlement of Burlington, more than fifty miles up the Delaware from Salem. The Yorkshire and London tracts were located respectively north and south of the new town. Questions having arisen as to the validity of the West New Jersey title, particularly as concerned the power of government, which, it was asserted, had not been included in the original real estate transfer, the commissioners

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