Images de page
PDF
ePub

town book of land records had the novel sensation of knowing that to all intents and purposes they were his own property, subject of course to the law of the colony, which he himself helped to make through his representatives in the Assembly; subject, too, more remotely, to the authority of the King across the sea. But the King did not often bother him. He could do with his land much as he pleased: sell it if need be, leave it to his children by will, or add to it by purchase. The New Englander loved a land sale as he loved a horse trade and any dicker in prices; but he had a stubborn sense of justice and a regard for the letter of the law which often drove him to the courts in defense of his land claims. Probably a majority of the cases which came before the New England courts in colonial times had to do with land. Yet there was little accumulation of large properties or landed estates, for such were contrary to the Puritan's ideas of equality. Jonathan Belcher, later a Governor of Massachusetts, had in eastern Connecticut a manor called Mortlake, on which were a few unenterprising tenants, holding their land for a money rental. There are other instances of lands let out in a similar manner on limited leases, but the number was not large, for, as Hutchinson said, the Puritan's ruling passion was for a freehold and not a tenancy, and "where there is one farm in the hands of a tenant," he added, "there are fifty occu

^^pied by him who has the fee of it."

Outside New England there was greater V|uirety of landholding and cultivation. The Puritan traveler journeying southward through the Middle Colonies must have seen many new and unfamiliar sights as he looked over the country through which he passed. He would have found himself entirely at home among the towns of Long Island, Westchester County, and northern New Jersey, and would have discovered much in the Dutch villages about New York and up the Hudson that reminded him of the closely grouped houses and small allotments of his native heath. But had he stopped to investigate such large estates as the Scarsdale, Pelham, Fordham, and Morrisania manors on his way to New York, or turned aside to inspect the great Philipse and Cortlandt manors along the lower Hudson, or the still greater Livingston, Claverack, and Rensselaer manors farther north, he would have seen wide acres under cultivation, with tenants and rent rolls and other aspects of a proprietary and aristocratic order. Had he made

further inquiries or extended his observations to the west and north of the Hudson, he would have come upon grants of thousands of acres lavishly allotted by governors to favored individuals, would then have realized that the division of land in New York, instead of being fairly equal as in New England, was grossly unequal. On the one hand were the petty acres of small farms surrounding the towns and villages; on the other were such great estates as Morrisania and Rensselaerwyck, where the farmers were not freeholders but tenants, and where the proprietors could ride for miles through arable land, meadow, and woodland, without crossing the boundaries of their own territory. If the traveler had been interested, asthe average New England farmer was not, in the deeper problems of politics, he would have seen, in this combination of small holdings with large, one explanation, at least, of the differences in political and social life that existed between New England and New York.

What the traveler might have noticed in New York, he would have found repeated in a lesser degree in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. There, too, he would have seen large properties, such as the great tracts set apart for the proprietors and still awaiting sale and distribution, and such extensive estates as that of Lewis Morris, known as Tinton Manor, near Shrewsbury in East Jersey, and the proprietary manors of the Penns at Pennsbury on the Delaware and at Muncy on^'he Susquehanna. But there were also thousands of small fields belonging to the Puritan and Dutch settlers at Newark, Elizabeth, Middletown, Bergen, and other towns in northern New Jersey, and a constantly increasing number of somewhat larger farms in the hands of the Germans and ScotchIrish in the back counties of Pennsylvania. The traveler would have noticed also, as he rode from Perth Amboy to Bordentown or Burlington, or from New Brunswick to Trenton, that central New Jersey was aflat, unoccupied country,with scarcely a mountain or even a hill in forty miles, that the sort of towns he was familiar with had entirely disappeared, and that along the highway to the Delaware and even from Trenton to Philadelphia, the country had only an occasional isolated farmstead. He would have met with no plantations in the southern sense of the word, with almost no tenancies like those at Rensselaerwyck, and with only a few compact settlements, such as the large towns of Trenton, Bordentown, Burlington,

[ocr errors]
« PrécédentContinuer »