The Province of New Jersey was an English colony that existed within the boundaries of the current U.S. state of New Jersey from 1674 until 1702. The original boundaries of the province were slightly larger than the current state and extended into portions of the present state of New York.
The Dutch, from their colony of New Netherland, had interfered with the transatlantic trade from the British colonies in North America. The land of the province was part of the New Netherlands colony acquired from the Dutch by the British after being seized by Richard Nicolls in September 1664. The British justified the seizure by claiming that Englishman John Cabot had been the first to discover the place. After capturing the colony, Nicolls took the position as deputy-governor of New Amsterdam and the rest of New Netherland. Nicolls guaranteed property rights, laws of inheritance, and freedom of religion.
The British government gave the territory to James, Duke of York, as part of the Province of New York. Part of the New York province between the Hudson River and the Delaware River was then given by James to Sir George Carteret in exchange for settlement of a debt. The new province was named after the Island of Jersey, which was Carteret's ancestral home. The other section of New Jersey was sold to Lord Berkeley of Stratton, who was a close friend of the Duke. As a result, Carteret and Berkeley became the two English proprietors of New Jersey.
As a result, New Jersey was divided into East Jersey and West Jersey. The exact border between West and East Jersey was often disputed. The border between the two sides reached the Atlantic Ocean to the north of present-day Atlantic City. The border line was created by George Keith and can still be seen in the county boundaries between Burlington and Ocean Counties, and between Hunterdon and Somerset Counties. The Keith line runs NNW from the southern part of Little Egg Harbor Township, passing just north of Tuckerton, and reaching upward to a point on the Delaware River which is just north of the Delaware Water Gap. Later, the 1676 Quintipartite Deed helped to lessen the disputes. More accurate surveys and maps were made to resolve property disputes. This resulted in the Thornton line, drawn around 1696, and the Lawrence line, drawn around 1743, which was adopted as the final line for legal purposes.
The two proprietors of New Jersey attempted to attract more settlers to move to the province by granting sections of lands to settlers and by passing the Concession and Agreement, a document that granted religious freedom to all inhabitants of New Jersey; under the British government, there was no such religious freedom as the Church of England was the state church. In return for the land, the settlers were supposed to pay annual fees known as quit-rents.
Philip Carteret became the first Governor of New Jersey, appointed by the two proprietors. He selected Elizabeth as the capital of New Jersey. Immediately, Carteret issued several additional grants of land to landowners. Towns sprung up, including Woodbridge, Piscataway, Shrewsbury, Middletown and Newark. Many of the houses of the colonists were log cabins. The idea of the log cabin was picked up from the earlier Swedish and Dutch settlers. Since New Jersey was ideally located next to the coast, colonists farmed, fished, and traded by sea.
The idea of quitrents became increasingly difficult because many of the settlers refused to pay them. Most of them claimed that they owed nothing to the proprietors because they received land from Richard Nicolls, Governor of New York. This forced Berkeley to sell West Jersey to John Fenwick and Edward Byllynge, two English Quakers. Many more Quakers made their homes in New Jersey, seeking religious freedom from English (Church of England) rule.
Meanwhile, conflicts began rising in New Jersey. Edmund Andros, governor of New York, attempted to gain authority over East Jersey after the death of Proprietor George Carteret in 1680. However, he was unable to remove the position of governorship from Governor Phillip Carteret and subsequently moved to attack him and brought him to trial in New York. Carteret was later acquitted. In addition, quarrels occurred in between Eastern and Western New Jerseyans, between Native Americans and New Jerseyans and between different religious groups. In the largest of these squabbles, some 210,000 acres (849.8 km²) of land were at stake between New York and New Jersey. The conflict was eventually settled by a royal commission in 1769.