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SAINTE BEUVE once said that history is in large part a set of fables which men agree to believe in; but in these days men have given up believing in fables. Historical statements undergo a process of sifting; and the winnowing, the sifting of the false from the true, is not weakening but strengthening history

Fiske says that we ought to be thankful that our forefathers did not burn their letters and documents, but only hid them in garrets and cellars. I could tell a tale, if I would, of the rescue not many years ago of a great accumulation of Franklin letters and papers which was saved by an observant woman — it was on its way to the paper mill —and which is now carefully preserved in the treasure house of an historical society in Pennsylvania. Before considering the subject which has been assigned to me, let me bring to you as a colonial greeting a treasure from the past, which will, I trust, put you at once in closer touch with one of the men who “helped” in the early days — Governor Philip Carteret. Old letters are often eloquent with association and pathos, and they grow into an importance of which the writers never dreamed.

It is with sincere pleasure that I offer to you this letter written by Governor Carteret soon after his arrival from England in 1665, in which he appears in the guise of an ardent lover. The student of graphology could not fail to be intensely interested in this quaint epistle, and would decide at once that it came from a man straightforward, determined, firm to the point of obstinacy, with great simplicity of manner. The signature, with its flourish at the end and the large capitals, characteristic of the chirography of the day, indicate that the governor was not a little egotistical; but I am not attempting to indulge in a study of handwriting as an index of character. This is the letter:

ELIZABETH TOWN, August, 1665


Fair Mistress Penelope — Believe me you are not forgot because I have lett some time pass before I have writ you, but it was scarce possible even tho'I had more than ordinary mind to do so. Since I left you far away in Devon, not a day hath past in which your face doth not appear before me, and I have wisht myself back many times and oft from this barbarous country. I dare not declare my mind on this subject lest I give offence to the good people here about who affect to find it a Paradise.

The Savages, or Indians as they are called, seem well inclined towards us, and one Oraton, a Sachem of great importance, we have had many dealings with, and we hope to live in unity and amity with him.

But 'tis not of this, my Penelope, that I fain would write you. My absence may, I fear, make you forget me, but consider how I love you, and nothing but knowing that when the good ship Philip sets sail again for these parts you will be on your way to me, can make the residue of my stay here tolerable. Give me a word of comfort, and believe me sincere when I assure you I am, dear Lady

Your everlasting Adorer,


PH. CARTERET.


The English Penelope did not brave the terrors of an ocean voyage of months to become the lady of the manor at old Elizabethtown, for we shall see later that the Governor remained unmarried until 1681, when the widow of William Laurence of Long Island became his wife — a woman of more than ordinary attainments, who survived the Governor many years.

As to the man Philip Carteret, who was he? Whence came he P Did he help or hinder the progress of New Jersey in colonial days, the troublous, formation days of the commonwealth?

In 1664 — March 12, O. S.—a charter was granted to James, Duke of York and Albany, for all lands lying between the western bank of the Connecticut River and the east side of Delaware Bay, and in April of the same year a fleet was dispatched to put the Duke in possession. The expedition was commanded by Colonel Richard Nicolls—a hinderer of whom we shall hear more hereafter — upon whom the government of the Province had been conferred by the Duke of York. New Amsterdam at once became New York, and both Oranges Albany, thus preserving the titles of the great grantee. But before the royal Duke was actually in possession of the territory, he had granted to Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret, “the portion of land lying on the westward of Long Island and Manhitas Island bounded on the east part by the main sea and Hudson's River, and upon the west by the Delaware Bay or River” — in other words, our own New Jersey - “said part to be called Nova Caesarea or New Jersey” — a compliment to Lord George Carteret who had so ably defended the island of Jersey against the Long Parliament in the civil war in England. So we come to Philip Carteret. He was a relative of Sir George, but we have little knowledge of his early life in England or of his experiences there, except that he was known as Captain Carteret. He received his commission as Governor of New Jersey in 1665. A storm drove his ship, the Philip, into Chesapeake Bay, but in July of the same year she arrived in New York, and a few days later anchored off of the point which he named “Elizabethport,” where he landed his thirty emigrants. At the head of his little band, and with a hoe over his shoulder, he marched to the spot he had selected for a settlement, two or three miles inland, and which he named “Elizabeth,” not after the Queen, but in honor of the wife of Sir George Carteret.

From an old affidavit we learn that when Governor Carteret arrived, there were but four families in New Jersey and that “few or more would have come thither had it not been for him.” At this point one of our “hinderers” comes to the front in the person of Colonel Richard Nicolls. You will remember that when he came over to New Amsterdam at the close of August, 1664, he fully believed that the province of New Jersey was also in his jurisdiction, not having heard of the deed to Berkeley and Carteret; and there at once arose a conflict of authority between him and the newly arrived Governor Carteret. The latter seems to have possessed an iron will, for he calmly assumed the reins of government, ignoring the authority of Governor Nicolls, and naturally made a bitter enemy of him.

Philip Carteret's simplicity of manner was exemplified when he went from his vessel to the settlement with that hoe on his shoulder to show his people that their work was his also. He at once began his task of colonization, sending messengers to New England and elsewhere, inviting settlers to come to the new province.

The ship Philip having by this time returned from England (but unhappily without the fair Penelope) with more people and chattels, we find New Jersey well to the front then, as now. I may not speak of the trials and tribulations of these early settlers, of the Indian raids and the quarrels over titles and lands. But it was not an altogether joyless place and one historian goes so far as to say “It is worthy the name of Paradise because it hath no lawyers, physicians or parsons.”

It was not until 1668 that Governor Carteret considered it necessary to have any regular legislation for his people. In April of that year he issued a proclamation requiring each town to send two representatives to the general assembly to be held May 11, at Elizabethtown. This first Assembly lasted just four days, an object lesson to the legislators of our day who would have lengthened the sitting to as many weeks or months.

The next session was held in November, 1668, and after this brave beginning we have no record of another session for seven years, although there were probably meetings whose doings were not recorded. It was at this crisis that the clash between Governor Carteret and Governor Nicolls occured, and Carteret was advised to go to England and to explain matters at headquarters. This he did, leaving John Berry as Deputy Governor during his absence.

Scarcely, however, had he started when another small hinderer appeared on the horizon in the person of James Carteret (a natural son of Sir George) who announced himself as “President of the country” and prepared to take up the reins of government. His reign was short, for Philip, the real Governor, soon returned (in 1674) completely reinstated, and Lovelace, who had succeeded Nicolls in New York, was forced to recognize the rights of the Governor of Nova Caesarea. But when everything seemed at peace, another hinderer appeared on the horizon — Edmond Andros, who in 1674 was Governor of New Netherlands, or (as the “New" name was universal) — New York. His aim seems to have been to regain possession of lost New Jersey, and his surest way to accomplish this was to arrest and imprison our sturdy governor, Philip Carteret.

Of this most interesting chapter of our history I may give only the briefest outline. On the 30th of April, 1679, a party of soldiers, sent to Elizabethtown by Andros, dragged the Governor from his bed, brutally maltreated him, and carried him to New York where he was kept a close prisoner until May 27, when a special court was convened to try him, on the accusation of “having persisted and riotously and routously endeavored to the exercise of jurisdiction over his majesty's subjects.” Carteret pluckily refused to abdicate, and demanded his release. The jury brought in a verdict of “not guilty,” but he was not allowed to resume his authority in the province until the matter was referred to England.

Meanwhile Sir George Carteret had died, but after some delay the Lady Elizabeth, his widow, wholly disowned the acts of Andros and obliged him to write a letter to Governor Carteret in November, 1680, relinquishing all claims to the province.

Thus we find our Governor brave in spite of his hinderers, although he lived but a short time to enjoy his triumph, for he died in 1682. His widow, who had formerly lived on Long Island, returned there to her friends.

Governor Carteret was buried at Elizabethtown, and from his will, dated December 10, 1682, we learn that he was survived by his mother in England, Rachel Carteret, to whom he bequeathed his property on the Island of Jersey. At her death it was to descend to the children of his brothers and sisters. As an evidence of his charitableness, we learn from the will that he directed that “two quarters of wheat should yearly for ever be distributed to the poor of the Parish of St. Peters, in the Island of Jersey.” One cannot help wondering if this strange bequest still continues to be followed after a lapse of more than two centuries.

I have perhaps dwelt too long upon Philip Carteret who helped and not long enough upon Nicolls, Andros and the rest who “hindered,” but let us “step lightly on the ashes of the dead” and be thankful for our sturdy old Governor, who though not faultless is entitled to his niche in the hall of fame — Philip Carteret.

Our Quaker ancestors furnish us with much interesting historical data, but I can speak briefly of one who “helped” right nobly in the early times “that tried men's souls” — John Fenwick.

In June, 1675, John Fenwick, a Major in Cromwell's army, came over to West Jersey in the ship Griffen. He also suffered much from the persecution of the “hinderer” Andros. Fenwick was a close friend of William Penn, and came with the intention of purchasing the Berkeley and Carteret interest in New Jersey, and making it a Colony of Friends, as the Quakers preferred being called.

The letters which passed between Fenwick and Andros are very interesting, but I can quote from one only, a reply which Fenwick sent to a summons from Andros, ordering him to appear before him and his Council at New York.

He says: “I did not know that the governor of New York had anything to do with me, and I will obey nothing but what shall come of his Majesty the King or his Highness the Duke of York, and I am resolved not to leave my house unless I am carried away dead or alive and I dare any one to come and take me at their peril.”

In spite of this brave stand a warrant was issued and authority granted to “pull down, break, burn or destroy” Fenwick's house, and full power to fire upon him if he resisted. He was then imprisoned, and after many trials was released on parole. He lived until 1684, having in 1682 sold all his landed estate in the province to William Penn. The deed from Fenwick to Penn is in the library of our own Historical Society of New Jersey, and it is a document of much interest and value.

I should be glad to speak of another document, “the great concession of 1676,” which some assert is of as much importance as the Declaration of Independence, uttered just one hundred years later. This, however, justly demands a paper of its own, and I may only refer you to “Johnson's Historical Account of the First Settlement of Salem” for the full story of Fenwick's agreement with the settlers, as well as the letters of William Penn, for they are too long for quotation, and if I should repeat them here, I might be justly accused of wandering from the subject. I might also speak of the Scotch element and of some of the “helpers” who belonged to that sturdy race; but I am reaching the limit of my time and subject — the end of the seventeenth century. In 1702 the two Jerseys were finally united in one province.

While it is not strictly pertinent to Carteret or to Fenwick, I may be allowed to quote a few titles of books published at this time, in order that we may sympathize with our forefathers who had a taste for literature: “Crumbs of Comfort for the Chickens of the Covenant”; “High Heeled Shoes for Dwarfs in Holiness”; “The Spiritual Mustard Pot to make the soul sneeze with devotion.” I am not sure that such books either helped or hindered the progress of New Jersey in the early days.


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