Founding Documents of New Jersey – Robert R. Livingston, Jr.’s Copy
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First edition of an important compilation of charters, concessions, patents, and laws from the proprietary era of West and East Jersey through 1702, when New Jersey became a royal colony. Includes The Concession and Agreement of the Lords Proprietors of the Province of New-Caesarea, or New-Jersey…[1665; pp. 12-27]; The Concessions and Agreements of the Proprietors, Freeholders and Inhabitants of the Province of West New-Jersey… [1677; pp. 382-411]; and, The Fundamental Constitutions for the Province of East New Jersey [1683; pp. 153-156]. This copy was a gift from James Parker to New York politician Robert R. Livingston, Jr., who signed and inscribed on the title page, “Robt R. Livingston, Junr:- being presented to him by James Parker, Esqr: 1772.” ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON, JR.
Signed Book. Aaron Leaming and Jacob Spicer, eds. The Grants, Concessions, and Original Constitutions of the Province of New-Jersey… (Philadelphia: W. Bradford, ). Contemporary tooled calf. 763 pp. 11¾ x 7½”.
This was a fine gift for a young statesman at a time when Americans were debating the rights of Englishmen. Livingston would have found the liberality of New Jersey’s earliest frames of government, and the rights granted to the hardy first settlers, instructive. He may even have referenced its pages when called as a delegate to New York’s first state constitutional convention, or when serving on the committee to draft a Declaration of Independence in Congress.
Included in this volume were the Concessions and Agreements (1665), promulgated by Sir George Carteret and John Lord Berkeley, the first proprietors of New Jersey. After the conquest of New Netherland in 1664, King Charles II consigned the territory between the Delaware and Connecticut Rivers to James, Duke of York (the future King James II), who in turn granted the lands that became New Jersey to Carteret and Berkeley. With so many different colonies in English North America, both Carteret and Berkeley sought to encourage speedy settlement by guaranteeing special rights to prospective emigrants. The Concessions and Agreements established freedom of religion, trial by jury, and a popularly elected assembly.
Over time, East Jersey and West Jersey developed distinctive settlement patterns. West Jersey was settled primarily by Quakers because Lord Berkeley sold his share to two Quakers, Edward Byllynge and John Fenwick. Fenwick accompanied one hundred passengers aboard the Griffen in November 1675, establishing the town of Salem on the Delaware River. A board of trustees, comprising leading English Quakers such as William Penn, intervened to resolve disputes between Byllynge and Fenwick for the betterment of the colony. One consequence was the West Jersey Concessions (1676). The trustees instituted a headright system, promising forty acres to each free settler, and guaranteed freedom of conscience, trial by jury, security from arbitrary arrest, a popularly elected assembly, and the secret ballot.
As historian John Pomfret concludes, “these seventeenth-century ‘constitutions’ offered liberal inducements, and both guaranteed a modicum of self-government and liberties to the individual (xvi).”
Robert R. Livingston, Jr. (1746-1813) was a delegate to the New York state constitutional convention and a member of the Continental Congress. In Congress, he sat on the committee of five, with Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, and Sherman, which drafted the Declaration of Independence—he was recalled before he could sign. Under the Articles of Confederation, he was appointed the first Secretary of Foreign Affairs, serving until 1783, when he became Chancellor of the State of New York. An advocate of the Federal Constitution, Livingston served as a delegate to New York’s ratifying convention in 1788, and a year later administered the oath of office to George Washington at Federal Hall. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson appointed Livingston resident minister at the court of Napoleon, where he subsequently negotiated the Louisiana Purchase. He was an innovative gentleman farmer in the Hudson Valley, and funded Robert Fulton’s construction of the first commercially successful steamboat, the Clermont, in 1807. Livingston had been succeeded as Minister Plenipotentiary to Napoleon by his brother-in-law, John Armstrong, Jr.
William Bradford was the publisher of The Pennsylvania Journal and the royally commissioned printer for New Jersey. At the time of its publication, Grants, Concessions, and Original Constitutions was the largest book from Bradford’s press. One hundred and seventy copies were produced for subscribers; there were probably fewer than three hundred printings in all. Bradford was later the official printer for the Continental Congress. James Parker established a mercantile business with Beverly Robinson in Perth Amboy, trading principally with the West Indies. He was the longtime agent for the East Jersey Proprietors, and a councilor under Governor William Franklin.
Sabin, Joseph. Dictionary of Books Relating to America, 39527.
Pomfret, John. Colonial New Jersey: A History (New York, 1973).
Scattered minor foxing, light dampstaining affecting the last four leaves of the index in the rear; small circular defect on the upper cover, short tear at the head of the backstrip, bump to the bottom edge of the upper cover, but despite all that, fine and attractive.