Celebrating New Jersey’s 350th Anniversary with a look at The History of the Colony of Nova Cӕsaria, or New Jersey by Samuel Smith
Smith’s personal connection to the colony’s beginnings contributed to his interest in the subject. Samuel Smith’s great-grandfather, Richard Smith, along with his two sons, John and Daniel, signed the “Concessions and Agreements of the Proprietors and People of West Jersey” as original proprietors in 1677. His grandfather, Samuel Smith, the elder, did not join his brothers and father in the New World until 1694 when he moved from Yorkshire, England to the colony. Our author’s father, Richard Smith, along with being a member of the Assembly of West Jersey for twenty years, was a merchant for the West India Company, and was very successful in Burlington and Philadelphia. It seems that politics was in the blood of the Smith family because, in addition to the titles held by his ancestors, his brother, Richard was a member of the Continental Congress, and his son Joseph was the last Royal Treasurer of the Province before the colonies gained independence.
Samuel Smith, our author, was born December 13, 1720 to Richard Smith and Abigail Raper. He spent a few years as a young man in Philadelphia working as a merchant alongside his father. He married Jane Kirkbride November 13, 1741, and together they had four children: Joseph, Abigail, Sarah, and Richard.
When he returned to Burlington, he followed in his family’s footsteps and became very active in politics. His long list of titles includes first rank leader in the assembly of New Jersey’s Council, member and Secretary of the King’s Council, and Treasurer of the Western Division of the Colony of New Jersey. Smith served on the council under Governor William Franklin (son of Benjamin Franklin), who handpicked his assemblymen from the aristocrats of the province, those whom he considered personal friends. Franklin cared deeply for his colony and was devoted to making the right decisions for its citizens. In addition, he had no patience for disorder; therefore, he sided with the British to subdue any commotion stirred up by some colonists. Franklin’s council, including Smith, remained loyal to him until late 1775 when he claimed that he received a “very unexpected attack for the council,” and was forced to concede to a more liberal policy. Soon after the incident, he stepped down from his position. Earlier that year, Samuel Smith had resigned due to health concerns leaving open a position that Franklin was unable to fill. Samuel Smith passed away July 13, 1776. It is unclear whether he had formed an allegiance to either side of the independence debate at the time of his passing. During his time in government, Smith was asked to be a chief compiler of documents for Aaron Leaming and Jacob Spicer’s The Grants, Concessions, and Original Constitutions of the Province of New Jersey (1758), and consultant for Samuel Allinson’s Laws of New Jersey (1776).
Throughout his entire life, Samuel Smith remained very involved with the Quakers of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. With all of the time he spent in New Jersey politics, it is difficult to imagine how he could devote much time to his religious community, but he was clearly active in the leadership positions he held for them. The community had long desired that a history be written of the two colonies emphasizing the Friends’ contribution to the settlement of the area. Though Smith produced a manuscript, it was never published (this manuscript is believed held at the New Jersey Historical Society). However, it was this request that motivated him to single out and expand upon his research on New Jersey and write his History of New Jersey. Robert Proud relied heavily on his original research to write The History of Pennsylvania (1797-98), and William Sewel’s publisher called upon his expertise to update Sewel’s The History of the Quakers in 1772, having been previously published in 1722.
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Although Samuel Smith has an impressive resume, his most acclaimed achievement is writing The History of the Colony of Nova Cӕsaria, or New Jersey. It is only fitting that such an important contribution to history be printed on a printing press of notable pedigree. Supplied by Benjamin Franklin, this press was first used by his apprentice, Thomas Smith (no relation to Samuel Smith), in Antigua in 1748. Franklin’s nephew, Benjamin Mecom, then took over the production in Antigua after Thomas’ death in 1752. Mecom had been an apprentice to James Parker, a partner of Franklin’s and the publisher of Samuel Smith’s book. Unfortunately, Franklin alludes in letters to his sister Jane Mecom, that her son, “Benny”, did not have Franklin or Parker’s passion for printing. Mecom left the Caribbean for Boston in 1756; the press followed him a year later and he continued to work on it until 1762. They removed to New York in 1763, and he kept it in storage there until 1765.
Meanwhile, James Parker ran a press in Woodbridge, New Jersey. He wrote in a letter to Franklin that he would like to have the Antigua press brought to Burlington, New Jersey because he had promised Smith that, if he were to print the book, it would be done in Smith’s hometown. The press was set up in a small building that would later be used to print New Jersey’s first continental (non-royal) money. When the printing of Smith’s book was finished in 1766, the press was sent to Franklin’s old house in Philadelphia where it was used by William Goddard to print the Pennsylvania Chronicle until 1774. After this last move the trail of the press becomes unclear, and its current location can only be guessed at.
Using the Antigua press, Smith’s History of New Jersey was printed in octavo, meaning that each page was printed alongside seven others on one large sheet. The sheet was then folded and cut in order to get a grouping of eight pages. Each grouping was then fastened to the next with thread which resulted in the ridges visible on the exterior spine of the book; similar to how a three ring binder holds papers for us today.
|spine, MORR 9570|
On October 31, 1765, while the book was still in production, the Pennsylvania Gazette ran the following advertisement on its front page: “Now in the press to be speedily published in one volume octave neatly bound and fettered and folded by David Hall in Philadelphia and James Parker in Burlington: The History of the Colony of Nova Cӕsaria; or New Jersey, containing an account of its first settlement, progressive improvements, the original and present Constitution and other events, to the year MDCCXXI with some particulars since, and a short view of its present state. By Samuel Smith.” The book was finished in December of 1765, and the first time that it is advertised for sale was February 5, 1767. It is unclear why it was not publically advertised sooner, since binding the book would not have taken a full thirteen months.
|cover page, MORR 9570|
The Morristown NHP copy is part of the Lloyd W. Smith rare book collection, and was previously owned by David Brearly and Joseph Lewis who both left their signatures scattered amongst its pages.
This rare book will be on display this coming August, at Acorn Hall, in Morristown, along with Smith’s handwritten Constitution for the New Jersey Association for Helping the Indians. What better way to celebrate New Jersey’s 350th anniversary than to honor the author who showed his respect for the colony by researching and publishing its first history?
Allinson, Samuel. Laws of New Jersey. Burlington: Isaac Collins, 1776: vii
Archives of the State of New Jersey, Series I, Vol. IX, pgs. 394-395.
Barnes, Jack C. "A Moral Epistle: A Probable Addition to the Franklin Canon." The New England Quarterly 30, no. 1 (March 1957): 73-84.
Chamberlain, Daniel H., Gamaliel Bradford, James De Normandie, James F. Hunnewell, and Worthington C. Ford. "May Meeting, 1902. Historical Conception of the Constitution; Aid to Glory; Letters from James Parker to Franklin." Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2nd ser., 16 (1902): 151-232.
Eames, Wilberforce. The Antigua Press and Benjamin Mecom, 1748-1765. Worchester: n.p., 1929.
Felcone, Joseph J. Printing in New Jersey 1754-1800. Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 2012: 37-40.
Fennelly, Catherine. "William Franklin of New Jersey." The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 6, no. 3 (July 1949): 361-82.
Frantz, Klaus. Indian Reservations in the United States. N.p.: University of Chicago, 1999.
Green, James N. "Information on Benjamin Franklin's Antigua Press." E-mail message. June 26, 2014.
Gummere, Amelia Mott. "Friends in Burlington (continued)." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 7, no. 4 (1883): 353-76.
Gummere, Amelia Mott. "The 'Friendly Institution' of Burlington, New Jersey." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 21, no. 3 (1897): 347-60.
Green, James N. Philadelphia Library Co. "Information on Benjamin Franklin's Antigua Press." E-mail message. June 26, 2014.
Larrabee, Edward McM. "Recurrent Themes and Sequences in North American Indian-European Culture Contact." Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 66, no. 7 (1976): 1-52.
Leaming, Aaron, and Jacob Spicer. The Grants, Concessions, and Original Constitutions of the Province of New Jersey. Philadelphia: William Bradford, 1797-98.
Proud, Robert. The History of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Zachariah Poulson, 1798: 5.
Redway, Virginia L. "James Parker and the 'Dutch Church.'" The Musical Quarterly 24, no. 4 (October 1938): 481-500.
Schermerhorn, William E. History of Burlington, New Jersey (Enterprise Publishing Company: Burlington, NJ, 1927), pgs. 254-255.
Sutton, Imre. "Sovereign States and the Changing Definition of the Indian Reservation." Geographical Review 66, no. 3 (July 1976): 281-95.
This blog entry by intern Alyssa Vorbeck, Messiah College.
Photographs by volunteer, Steve Newfield.