Page images
PDF
EPUB

assurance should be given that the excise should be continued and the bills of credit redeemed.

The lieutenant governor immediately ordered the members to attend him. He told them that “ their proceedings were presumptuous, daring, and unprecedented; that he could not look upon them without astonishment, nor with honour suffer the house to sit any longer;" and he accordingly dissolved it. Little more than a year had elapsed, since the members were chosen ; but in that time they had, by their firm and spirited conduct, in support of the rights of the people, merited the gratitude of their constituents.

About this time, a supposed“ negro plot” occasioned great commotion and alarm in the city of New York. The frequent occurrence of fires, most of which were evidently caused by design, first excited the jealousy and suspicion of the citizens. Terrified by danger which lurked unseen in the midst of them, they listened with eager credulity to the declaration of some abandoned females, that the negroes had combined to burn the city and make one of their number governor. Many were arrested and committed to prison. Other witnesses, not more respectable than the first, came forward; other negroes were accused, and even several white men were designated as concerned in the plot.

When the time of trial arrived, so strong was the prejudice against the miserable negroes, that every lawyer in the city volunteered against them. Ignorant and unassisted, nearly all who were tried were condemned. Fourteen were sentenced to

be burned, eighteen to be hung, seventy-one to be transported, and all these sentences were executed. Of the whites two were convicted and suffered death.

All apprehension of danger having subsided, many began to doubt whether any plot had in fact been concerted. None of the witnesses were persons of credit, their stories were extravagant and often contradictory; and the project was such as none but fools or madmen would form. The two white men were respectable; one had received a liberal education, but he was a catholic, and the prejudice against catholics was too violent to permit the free exercise of reason. Some of the accused were doubtless guilty of setting fire to the city; but the proof of the alleged plot was not sufficiently clear to justify the numerous and cruel punishments that were inflicted.

In April, 1740, the assembly again met. It had now risen to importance in the colony. The adherence of the representatives to their determination, not to grant the revenue for more than one year, made annual meetings of the assembly necessary. This attachment to liberty was mistaken for the desire of independence. Lieutenant Governor Clark, in a speech delivered in 1741, alludes to “ a jealousy which for some years had obtained in England, that the plantations were not without thoughts of throwing off their dependence on the crown."

In 1743, George Clinton was sent over as governor of the colony. Like most of his predecessors he was welcomed with joy; and one of his

earliest measures confirmed the favourable accounts which had preceded him, of his talents and liberality. To show his willingness to repose confidence in the people, he assented to a bill limiting the duration of the present and all succeeding assemblies. The house manifested its gratitude by adopting the measures he recommended for the defence of the province against the French, who were then at war with England.

In 1745, the savages in alliance with France made frequent invasions of the English territories. The inhabitants were compelled to desert Hosick; Saratoga was destroyed; the western settlements of New England were often attacked aud plundered. Encouraged by success, the enemy became more daring, and small parties ventured within the suburbs of Albany, and there laid in wait for prisoners. It is even said that one Indian, called Tomonwilemon, often entered the city and succeeded in taking captives.

Distressed by these incursions, the assembly, in 1746, determined to unite with the other colonies and the mother country in an expedition against Canada. They appropriated money to purchase provisions for the army, and offered liberal bounties to recruits. But the fleet from England did not arrive at the appointed time; the other colonies were dilatory in their preparations, and before they were completed, the season for military operations had passed away.

Early in the next year, a treaty was concluded and the inhabitants were for a short period, relieved from the burdens and distresses of war.

During the interval of peace, no event of importance happened in the colony. Upon the recurrence, a few years afterwards, of hostilities, its territory was the theatre of sanguinary conflicts. But of that war, in which all the colonies acted in concert, a connected history will be hereafter given.

CHAPTER VII.

NEW JERSEY.

The first settlement within the limits of New Jersey was made by the Danes, about the year 1624, at a place called Bergen, from a city of that name in Norway. Soon afterwards several Dutch families seated themselves in the vicinity of New York. In 1626, a company was formed in Sweden, under the patronage of King Gustavus Adolphus, for the purpose of planting a colony in America. The next year, a number of Swedes and Finns came over, purchased of the natives the land on both sides of the river Delaware, but made their first settlement on its western bank near Christina creek.

About the year 1640, the English began a plantation at Elsingburgh, on its eastern bank. The Swedes, in concert with the Dutch, who then possessed New York, drove them out of the country. The former built a fort on the spot whence the English had been driven; and gaining thus the command of the river, claimed and exercised authority over all vessels that entered it, even those of the Dutch, their late associates.

They continued in possession of the country, on both sides of the Delaware, until 1655, when Peter Stuyvesant, governor of the New Netherlands, having obtained assistance from Holland, conquered all their posts and transported most of the Swedes to Europe. The Dutch were now in possession of the territory comprising, at this time, the states of New Jersey, New York, and Delaware.

Soon, however, this territory changed masters. King Charles the Second, having granted it to the Duke of York, sent an armament in 1664 to wrest it from the Dutch. After reducing New York, the squadron proceeded to the settlements on the Delaware, which immediately submitted. In the same year, the duke conveyed that portion of his grant, lying between Hudson and Delaware rivers, to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. This tract was called New Jersey, in compliment to Sir George, who had been governor of the island of Jersey, and had held it for King Charles in his contest with the parliament.

The two proprietors formed a constitution for the colony, securing equal privileges and liberty of conscience to all, and appointed Philip Carteret governor. He came over in 1665, fixed the seat of government at Elizabeth town, purchased land of the Indians, and sent agents into New England to invite settlers from that quarter. The

« PreviousContinue »