Guide to the Records of the New York and New Jersey Boundary Disputeca. 1750-1866 MG 237
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Newark, New Jersey 07102
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The New Jersey Historical Society, Publisher
Inventory prepared by Bob Golon as part of the “Farm to City” project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
Finding aid encoded by Danielle Kovacs. February 2004. Production of the EAD 2002 version of this finding aid was made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Finding aid written in English.
New York and New Jersey disagreed on the location of their northern border since the Royal actions of 1664 set the boundary of New York and New Jersey from latitude 41 degrees 40 minutes on the northwest corner to latitude 41 degrees on the Hudson River. These actions were the result of the original granting of the land from King Charles II of England to his brother James, the Duke of York, and with the Duke’s granting of the land to John Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. For the next 100 years, New York merchants argued for a much broader piece of territory, stating that the original boundary line was incorrectly drawn, depriving New York of valuable acreage and commercial opportunities.
By 1760, the two provinces agreed that the only solution was to let King George III appoint a commission to study and recommend a settlement. He did not appoint the commissioners until 1767, and the commissioners did not formally meet until 1769 to deliberate the matter.
The East Jersey Merchants had a large commercial stake in the boundary dispute, and prominent in the pre-hearing activity and planning of the East Jersey Proprietors was James Parker of Perth Amboy. Parker was born in 1725. After serving in the provincial military service, he became engaged in mercantile business in New York with Mr. Beverly Robinson, conducting most of his business with the West Indies. He moved permanently to Perth Amboy in the early 1750s, and held many legal offices in the city, including that of councilor under Governor William Franklin. It was during this time that Parker engaged in most of his activities concerning the boundary dispute, and while on the council, Parker wrote most of its official documents. He also served as Mayor of Perth Amboy for a time. Parker shunned partisan politics, preferring instead to act in the best interests of his family business and to keep strict personal neutrality concerning the royalists and the provincials. Parker died in 1797.
On October 7, 1769, the Royal Commission decided the boundary lines to be of latitude 41degrees 21 minutes on the Delaware River and 41 degrees on the Hudson. Even though thought to be still very favorable to the New York merchants, they appealed the ruling, but King George III decided to abide by his Commission’s decision.
Some dispute remained between the two states in subsequent years regarding the exact boundaries within the waterways between New York and New Jersey, and regarding the extent of each other’s maritime jurisdiction over the waters. In an act of Congress approved in 1833, representatives from New York and New Jersey entered into an agreement that respected each state’s territorial limits and jurisdictions, and serves as the boundary lines observed today.
Debate over this issue continued, however, as evidenced by the sharp exchanges contained in the collection between representatives of the New York and New Jersey Historical Societies in 1865-1866.
This collection consists of documents and correspondence produced as part of the Royal Commissioner’s hearings to settle the New York and New Jersey boundary dispute. The Commission met and made their decision in 1769.
Oversize boxes 1-3 consist of three bound volumes entitled “Papers Connected with the proceedings before the Commission Appointed to Settle the Boundary Between New York and New Jersey Which Sat in New York in October 1769.” These papers were compiled and indexed by noted New Jersey Historical Society secretary William A. Whitehead between 1860 and 1872.
Oversize box 1 consists of both incoming and outgoing correspondence of James Parker, primarily with Lord Stirling, William Franklin, John Stevens, Walter Rutherfurd and Benjamin Chew. It also includes a claim issued to the Commissioners, dated September 28, 1769, stating the position of the New Jersey Proprietors and signed by Parker, Stevens, and Rutherfurd; the decision of the Commission, dated October 7, 1769 by John Jay; and manuscript copies of documents dating back to 1664, covering the original land granting activities of King Charles II and James, Duke of York to John Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. Also, minutes and supporting documentation of various meetings from 1686 through 1754, showing the activities of the Council of East Jersey, the Supreme Court of New Jersey, and the Assembly of New Jersey, containing signatures of John Thomson, John Smyth, and Bowes Reed, all pertaining to claims of the boundaries.
Oversize box 2 consists of numerous copies of documents, petitions, memorials, and proclamations from the 1660s forward, used as exhibits and evidence during the 1769 Commission proceedings, as well as summaries of testimonies. It includes, too, a manuscript copy of the response from Peter Stuyvesant to the British regarding King Charles II granting the land called New Netherland, occupied by the Dutch, to his brother, James, the Duke of York, and of the British Navy potentially taking control of the harbor at New Netherland. The British asked the Dutch and Stuyvesant to peacefully surrender control, promising life, estate, and liberty to all who submit to the King’s authority. After writing this letter, Stuyvesant ordered his troops to prepare for an attack, but his own citizens asked him not to shed innocent blood, and he signed a treaty with the British on September 9, 1664, where Captain Richard Nicholls was named Governor and the town renamed New York. The volume also contains proclamations from that time period from Richard Nicholls, as well as manuscript copies from the Dutch Book of Records, dated from May 6, 1638 to September 19, 1673. Several maps of the Delaware and its branches follow the papers and the last document is the printed state of the claim of New Jersey as presented to the Commissioners on July 18th, 1769. This document is signed by: John Stevens, James Parker, Henry Cuyler, and Walter Rutherfurd.
Oversize box 3 consists of two drafts for a “State of the Claim” which was not adopted. It also contains a printed Act for New Jersey’s government, containing rules and procedures for governing, sent to King George III, produced at a session of the New Jersey General Assembly held in Perth Amboy on May 25, 1763. Meeting notes from the Royal Commission’s hearing in October 1769 are contained, as well as lists of inhabitants, circa 1769, from Saddle River, Monitque, Landistown, Wantage, and Hardistown, New Jersey. A New Jersey tax ratable schedule, by county, produced in 1769 is in this volume, as are numerous copies of documents, petitions, memorials, and proclamations from the 1680s forward, used as exhibits and evidence during the 1769 commission proceedings.
Oversize box 4 consists of two bound volumes. The first is entitled “New York and New Jersey Boundary. Abstract of Documentary Evidence Down to 1748.” It consists of handwritten summaries of all pieces of documentation and evidence, in abstract form, pertaining to the boundary dispute. The abstracted documents date from March 12, 1663 through November 1, 1748. Abstracts of maps are also described. The second volume is entitled “New York and New Jersey Boundary. Application for the Royal Approval of Act of Assembly for Running the Line 1753.” It was submitted by the Government Council in Assembly of New Jersey, to the British royalty, applying for approval of the act, first proposed in 1747, for running the boundary line. Contents include summaries of Acts and proclamations by both sides. There is also a section of objections put forth by parties opposing the Royal approval of the act, with answers to those objections by the New Jersey agents.
The manuscript box contains a bound volume entitled “Controversy Respecting the Eastern Boundary of New Jersey between John Cochrane, H. B. Dawson, and William A. Whitehead, 1865,” consisting mostly of newspaper articles. Also, there is some personal handwritten correspondence of William A. Whitehead, as well as a report of the New Jersey Historical Society from March 1866, detailing and reviewing the dialogue that had taken place regarding the controversy between the corresponding parties, General John Cochrane, Attorney General for the State of New York, John Romeyn Broadhead, “learned historian of New York,” Henry B. Dawson, Editor of The Yonkers Gazette, and William A. Whitehead of Newark, N.J., Corresponding Secretary of the New Jersey Historical Society.
On June 6, 1865, General Cochrane read a report before the New-York Historical Society, claiming that the waters off of Staten Island and Sandy Hook should be considered as part of the Hudson River (instead of the Kill van Coll, the Sound, or the Raritan River) and thus wholly the possession of New York and not New Jersey. He also stated that New Jersey was attempting to “neutralize the commercial advantages of New York and promote her own aggrandizement.” This position was supported at the same meeting by Mr. Broadhead. Broadhead’s remarks drew rebuttal from Mr. Whitehead, and the subsequent correspondence between them was published by Mr. Dawson in the The Yonkers Gazette. After Whitehead’s article, another lengthy article appeared, this time by an unnamed member of the New-York Historical Society (who turned out to be Dawson) aggressively pursuing the positions of Cochrane and Broadhead. This again drew a rebuttal from Whitehead, which appeared in the Gazette in December, 1865. The dialogue grew increasingly hostile, and a reply from Henry B. Dawson, thoroughly ridiculing Whitehead and his position, appeared in the Gazette in January of 1866. In March, 1866, William Whitehead wrote a full review of the articles that appeared in the Gazette, as well as his own rejoinders, and presented his report to the New Jersey Historical Society. Included in his report is a copy of the Act of Congress of 1833, confirming the agreement between New Jersey and New York regarding the boundary. Finally, there appears one last article written by Henry Dawson, once again severely criticizing Whitehead and the New Jersey Historical Society, this time accusing Whitehead of misrepresenting his views as his own, where Dawson states that the views were really those of the “organ” of the NJHS.
The remainder of the collection consists of: original interrogatories and questions to be put to Ebenezer Keeler, a witness on the part of New York, Cornelius Lydecker, Sarah Miller, Dennis Morris on the part of New Jersey, Thomas Nottingham on the part of New York, Rudolphus Ritzma on the part of New Jersey, Jacobus Quick and Hermanus Rosekrans on the part of New Jersey, Jacob Sarly, Thomas Hill, and W. Smith on the part of New York, Samuel Seely on the part of New Jersey, Daniel Van Vleet on the part of New York, Samuel Whitehead on the part of New Jersey, Cornelius Wood on the part of New Jersey, Dirk Wynkoop on the part of New York, John Zabriski, Johanne J. Blavelt and William Cole on the part of New Jersey, Jonathan Knapp on the part of New York, William Knapp on the part of New Jersey and New York, Daniel Hennion, David Hennion and Conrad Fredrick on the part of New Jersey, Solomon Finch on the part of New Jersey and New York, Jacobus Elmendorph on the part of New York, John Doughty on the part of New Jersey, Cornelius Devoire on the part of New Jersey, Daniel Cooley on the part of New York, Charles Clinton on the part of New York, Joseph Clarke on the part of New York, Isaac Brooks on the part of New Jersey and New York, Lawrence Bogert on the part of New York, John Bogart on the part of New York, John Campbell on the part of New York, Richard Clarke on the part of New York, and one set of questions to a unidentified person. Only two of these interrogatories are dated 1769, the others are all undated.
This collection is arranged by type of material and chronologically therein.
There are no access restrictions on this collection.
Photocopying of materials is limited and no materials may be photocopied without permission from library staff.
Researchers wishing to publish, reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission.
The New Jersey Historical Society complies with the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code), which governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials.
For related materials at the New Jersey Historical Society, see:
Part or all of this collection may have been purchased from Sotheby’s.
This collection should be cited as: Manuscript Group 237, New York and New Jersey Boundary Dispute Records, The New Jersey Historical Society.
The items in this collection are generally in fragile condition, with weak bindings and torn pages.
Cunningham, John T. The East of Jersey. Newark, New Jersey: The New Jersey Historical Society, 1992.
History of Union and Middlesex Counties, New Jersey, with Biographical Sketches. Woodford Clayton, Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1882.