Lord John Berkeley, Sir George Carteret and the Concessions and Agreements

On June 24, 1664, only three months after being granted the lands in the New World, the Duke of York gave, what become known as New Jersey, to Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret, two friends and supporters of the king during the English Civil War. Their intent was to make a profit from their new acquisition by renting all of the land to settlers they would recruit from England. 

The Act of Uniformity passed in 1662 prescribed the form of public prayer, administration of the sacraments and the rites of the Established Church of England. Adherence to these rites was required to hold office in the government or the church in England. Berkeley and Sir George Carteret saw this as an opportunity to entice dissatisfied Englishman to emigrate to the New World to populate their colony. They wrote The Concessions and Agreements, which guarenteed those who would settle the land, freedoms and rights that they could not enjoy in England; freedom of religion, freedom from persecution for religious beliefs, land, and the right to manage their own affairs. 

However, their plan to profit from the land was foiled for two reasons. First, the new Governor of New York, who had arrived with the Duke of York’s fleet, had already granted a half a million acres of the land, known as the Elizabeth Town Purchase, to settlers from Long Island and Connecticut. When Philip Carteret, cousin of Sir George Carteret, the appointed representative of Carteret and Berkeley, arrived in New Jersey he was met by settlers already in possession of the land. A second obstacle to Berkeley and Carteret’s rent scheme was the impracticality of collecting rents in the vast unsurveyed territory. 

While the Concessions and Agreements were not an effective enticement for immigration from England they were a major incentive for an influx of settlers from New England and Long Island, where many, such as Quakers, had experienced religious persecution; others were desirous of new lands and opportunities. The Concessions provided settlers, in return for swearing Allegiance to the King and faithfulness to the interests of the Lord  Proprietors: the status of freeman, guaranteed freedom from being molested, punished, disquieted or called in question for any difference in opinion or practice in matters of Religious concernments; the right to choose representatives from among themselves for an Assembly charged with making laws, establishing fair courts, laying out of towns and other divisions; and levying equal taxes on the lands to support the “public charge” of the Province; constitute a military from within the Province for security; and, receive clear recorded title to land after seven years. Future settlers were to be seen as naturalized, with all the rights provided by the Concessions, by swearing allegiance to the King and faithfulness to the interests of the Lord Proprietors.  

The Concessions and Agreements, signed in 1665, was an extremely important document, which established a representative form of self-government, set civic responsibilities and guaranteed personal freedoms in New Jersey 110 years before the Revolution.  A key provision of the Concessions, which became of central importance in the next century, was that taxes could only be levied by the representative Assembly of the New Jersey for the sole use to support the Province. King George’s attempt to levy taxes for the support of England and the Crown was viewed by colonists as taxation without representation and a direct violation of the Concessions and contributed to revolutionary furor in New Jersey (see Appendix A- Excepts from the Concessions and Agreements).

References

Cleveland, Henry R. “Henry Hudson Explores the Hudson River,” A project by History World International. (Internet archive).

De Angelo, Walter A. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Middlesex County,” Middlesex County Board of Freeholders, 2008. (Internet archive).

Jahn, Robert. Down Barnegat Bay: A Noreaster Midnight Reader, Plexus Publishing Inc., Medford, NJ, 2000.