Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Featured Artifact: The History of the Colony of Nova Cӕsaria, or New Jersey by Samuel Smith (Part 2)

MORR 9570
Researching a book does not begin at the book itself, as one might think. The book itself is only the finished product, so why start with the end, when common knowledge tells us to start at the beginning?

Before absorbing any of the information in a book, it is necessary to understand the background of the author. A book is to its author’s experience, as a shard of glass is to a mosaic; the colored glass is beautiful to look at by itself, but it becomes so much more when put into context.

The most thorough source of information for Samuel Smith’s biography came directly from his own book. In the second edition of The History of the Colony of Nova Cӕsaria, or New Jersey, Smith’s nephew, John Jay Smith, wrote a biographical sketch about him and his family’s history. Samuel Smith was not interested in New Jersey simply because he lived there; he was the great-grandson of one of the very first proprietors of West Jersey. Almost the entirety of the men in his family at one point or another worked for the colonial government of New Jersey. In fact, most of the documents that he collected for his History of New Jersey, in all probability, were put into effect while one of his ancestors held a position in New Jersey’s government.

Samuel Smith was no exception; so many government titles are associated with his name that it was difficult to believe that one man could have been so busy. Along with previously being a merchant, John Jay Smith mentions that his Uncle Samuel Smith was a “member and Secretary of the King’s Council, Treasurer of the Province, &c., &c.” To expand on the “&c., &c.” was somewhat a challenge. According to the New Jersey Historical Society website, he was a justice of the peace and the mayor of Burlington; unfortunately, however, I could find no other source to confirm that. The only other title that I felt a suitable selection of sources could confirm was that he was a first-rank leader in the assembly of New Jersey’s Council. Because of the repetition of names in the Smith family, it would be very easy to mistake him with one of his family members, and this could lead to the confusion of his job titles.

Image of William Franklin portrait
             It was particularly interesting to note that there are no records indicating where his loyalties stood on the independence debate; therefore, his stance can only be inferred. He was loyal to William Franklin, a known loyalist, and he stepped down from his position due to ill health before the rest of the council turned on Franklin, but in the preface of his History of New Jersey, he writes “the too general negligence as to particular rights of individual, and the reputation of civil policy…in many parts of the province, are justly made the subject of general complaint” [emphasis added]. Here he seems to be saying that he agrees that the colonists are being treated unfairly, however, this is the only time he addresses the debate, and since his death was in 1776 he was never truly forced to choose a side.

LWS 591

When he was not working for New Jersey, he was volunteering his services to the Quakers.  John Jay Smith also mentions that his uncle was the author of the Constitution for the New Jersey Association for Helping the Indians; this society, made up solely of Quakers, was partly responsible for the creation of the Brotherton Reservation. Coincidentally, this handwritten document is also part of Morristown NHP archival and rare book collection.

Joseph J. Felcone is a leading expert on Smith’s History of New Jersey, and in his overview of the book, he mentions that the Quakers had asked Smith to write a history of Pennsylvania and New Jersey with particular emphasis on how the Friends had impacted the settlement of those areas. Although it was unpublished, this provides an explanation for why specifically Samuel Smith was motivated to write this book, in addition to his family’s history with the state. Felcone also mentions that Smith and his research directly influenced five other authors. Two of the books are also in our library: Aaron Leaming and Jacob Spicer’s The Grants, Concessions, and Original Constitutions of the Province of New Jersey, and Samuel Allinson’s Laws of New Jersey. On the title page of the former it simply says that the documents were “collected by some Gentlemen employed by the General Assembly,” but in the latter, Allinson specifically thanks Smith in the preface: “Nor must he omit to mention the kindness of Samuel Smith and James Kinsey, Esquires, in affording him every material help in their possession, and their readiness to assist with their judgment at any time on doubtful points.” As for the other two books, Felcone mentions that there is a letter written in 1773 from Sewel’s publisher when the book was to be reprinted in 1776 where he states, “I have given Samuel Smith the Inspection of those proof sheets already done….” Lastly, Robert Proud gives Smith extensive praise in the dedication of his book History of Pennsylvania, because Smith’s research for the aforementioned unpublished manuscript of the history of New Jersey and Pennsylvania was one of the main sources of his book. In addition to his expertise on the state’s history, his research on the formation of the Brotherton Reservation is possibly the most complete in existence. While searching for more details about the Reservation, I referenced many books and almost every one of them used Smith’s History of New Jersey as a source. It would be safe to conclude that, at the time, he was the leading expert on the history of the colony.

Smith's History of New Jersey, MORR 9570
Possibly the most interesting story connected to this book was the press that it was printed on. Felcone had quoted many letters written by James Parker (the book’s publisher) to Benjamin Franklin requesting that a press be moved from New York to Burlington in order to print the book. How exactly, then, was the press connected to Franklin? By looking through multiple studies on JSTOR, I was able to piece together a rough timeline of the press; it had originally been used by an apprentice, and then by Franklin’s nephew in Antigua, and had made its way into storage in New York by 1765, but if every source had been proven correct, it would have been in several colonies at once before finally landing there. To fill in the holes, I contacted James Green from the Library Company of Philadelphia, who specializes in the life of Benjamin Franklin as a printer. He quickly provided a detailed history tracing the press from Antigua to Philadelphia where it finally landed after Parker had finished using it to print the book.

spine, MORR 9570

After uncovering the picture around the book, the only thing left to do was to examine the book itself. Luckily, Felcone had previously recorded the physical details of the book. Not being an expert on the terminology, I familiarized myself with the vocabulary he used, and found nothing further to add to his observations.

Read Part 1, HERE

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.

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