The Making of the 50 States: New Jersey

• Part 2: The Rest of the Story

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The Making of the 50 States
The 13 American Colonies
Clickable map of the 13 Colonies with descriptions of each colony
American History Glossary
The First European Settlements in America
Colonial Times

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Part 1: In the Beginning

The third state to ratify the Constitution, New Jersey played an important role in the growth of the American colonies, both before and after the Revolutionary War.

Before European settlers arrived, however, what we now call New Jersey was populated by Native Americans, primarily the Lenni-Lenape, part of the Algonquin tribe. The Lenni-Lenape clashed with Dutch and Swedish traders almost from the beginning, mainly because the European traders wanted to claim Native American land for themselves.

Early European explorers of the area included Peter Stuyvesant, who later served as head of the New Netherland settlement, which included part of what is now New Jersey. In 1664, English victories over Holland and Sweden gave English settlers rights to settle in the New Jersey territory. English traders traded many small-value objects for rights to lands, and the colony soon resembled not so much a set of Native American villages as an English home-away-from-home.

Leading the settlement drive were Sir George Carteret and Lord Berkeley of Stratton, who had been granted the right to organize things by England's James, Duke of York (later King James II). James, who had himself been given the land by his brother, King Charles II, had rewarded Carteret and Berkeley for their support during England's mid-17th-Century Civil War.

New Jersey was originally two colonies: West Jersey and East Jersey, as created in 1676. The Eastern colony was dominated by New York; the Western colony was largely controlled by William Penn and others from nearby Pennsylvania. Struggles between the colonies continued until 1702, when they were united as New Jersey, a colony governed by New York. This "stewardship" ended in 1738, when New Jersey became its own British colony.

Trouble persisted, however, as the Native American population shrank to one-fourth what it was when the Dutch arrived. Desperate, the Lenni-Lenape joined the French in fighting the French and Indian War. The English victory solidified English claims on the colony.

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David White