New Jersey colony
Originally part of the newly conquered territory of New Netherland, in 1664, New Jersey was granted by James, Duke of York (later James II) as a proprietary colony to John, Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. Promising freedom of worship and government, the two proprieters attracted a sizable population—about 14,000 by 1700, but the absence of a deep-water port kept New Jersey mainly an agricultural colony, developing in the shadow of neighboring New York colony.
The New Jersey coast was probably first visited by Europeans in 1524 when Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian serving the French government, charted its coastal waters. The Dutch visited the region as early as 1609 and eventually established New Amsterdam (see New York, New York) at the mouth of the Hudson River. From there, they created a trading network that extended into the Hudson, Connecticut, and Delaware River Valleys. Outposts were founded in modern New Jersey in the 1620s, but the first permanent settlement, Bergen, was not established until 1660. Swedes, who had arrived in the 1630s, were forced out of the region in the 1650s. A growing Anglo-Dutch international rivalry led to the ouster of the Dutch West India Company from both New York and New Jersey in 1664. Shortly after Colonel Richard Nicolls was made governor of the former New Netherland, he learned that the duke of York had given New Jersey to two courtiers in reward for their services during the English Civil War. Confusion was rampant, as settlers authorized by Nicolls prior to the transfer clashed with those recruited by Berkeley and Carteret. Although Dutch settlers were allowed to keep their lands, they were sometimes drawn into the disorder. Out of the turmoil, a group of Quaker investors, including William Penn, bought Berkeley’s stake in 1674 leading to the division of the territory into East Jersey and West Jersey. West Jersey became the first Quaker colony in America. Both halves struggled and were reunited in 1702 as a royal colony. Until 1738, New Jersey was governed from New York, but riots led to the establishment of a separate government. Most of New Jersey’s rural agriculturalists, including heavy concentrations of German and Scots-Irish immigrants after 1700, attempted to remain neutral during the American Revolution against Great Britain (1775–83). By 1750, about 20 percent of the population of New Jersey was Scottish or of Scots descent.