SIR EDMUND PLOWDEN AND NEW ALBION
Before the grant of the Province of Maryland to Cecilius Calvert, second Lord Baltimore, in 1632, Sir Edmund Plowden, an Englishman of distinguished ancestry, with Sir John Lawrence and others, petitioned Charles the First for a grant of Long Island and thirty miles square, to be called Syon. This was modified in another petition to the king, asking permission to occupy "an habitable and fruitful Island named Isle Plowden, otherwise Long Isle," "near the continent of Virginia, about sixty leagues northwards from James City, without the Bay of Chesapeake," and "forty leagues square of the adjoining continent, as in the nature of a County Palatine or body politick, by the name of New Albion, to be held of your Majesty's Crown of Ireland, exempted from all appeal and subjection to the Governor and Company of Virginia." One month after the Province of Maryland was given to Cecilius Calvert, King Charles ordered his secretary, John Coke, to request the Lords Justices of Ireland to grant to the petitioners the island "between thirty-nine and forty degrees of latitude," and forty leagues adjacent on the adjoining continent, with the name of New Albion. This grant, which was enrolled in the city of Dublin, where Sir Edmund Plowden close to have it registered, being a Peer of Ireland,* conveyed to him the following uncertain-bounded territory:
"Our south bound is Maryland north bound, and beginneth at Aquats or the southermost or first cape of Delaware Bay in thirty-eight and forty minutes, and so runneth by, or through, or including Kent Isle, through Chesapeake Bay to Pascataway; including the fals of Pawtomecke river to the head or northermost branch of that river, being three hundred miles due west, and thence northward to the head of Hudson's river fifty leagues, and so down Hudson's river to the Ocean, sixty leagues; and, thence of the Ocean and Isles acrosse Delaware Bay to the South Cape fifty leagues; in all seven hundred and eighty miles. Then all Hudson's river, Isles, Long Isle, or Pamunke, and all Isles within ten leagues of the said Province."**
Shortly after New Albion was granted to Sir Edmund Plowden, Captain Thomas Young, a son of Gregory Young, of York, received a special commission from the king, which is printed in Rymer's "Foedera," and dated September 23, 1633, authorizing him to fit out armed vessels for the voyage to Virginia and adjacent parts; to take possession in the king's name of all territory discovered, not yet inhabited by any Christian people; to establish trading posts with sole right of trade, and to make such regulations and to appoint such officers as were necessary to establish civil government.
In the spring of 1634 the exploring expedition departed, the lieutenant of which was Robert Evelyn, a nephew of Young; Evelyn's father, of Godstone, Surrey, having married Susan, the captain's sister. Among other officers was a surgeon named Scott, and the cosmographer was Alexander Baker, of St. Holborn's Parish, Middlesex, described by Young as "skilful in mines and trying of metals." The great object of Captain Young was to ascend the Delaware River, which he called Charles, in compliment to the king, until he found a great lake, which was said to be its source, and then to find a Mediterranean Sea, which the Indians reported to be four days journey beyond the mountains. He entered Delaware Bay on the 25th of July, 1634, and on the 29th of August had reached the Falls of the Delaware River. On the first of September Lieutenant Robert Evelyn was sent in the shallop "up to the rocks both to sound the water as he went and likewise to try whether the boats would pass the rocks or no." Meeting a trading vessel there from Manhattan, Young ordered Evelyn to see the Hollanders outside of Delaware Bay and then to go and discover along the Atlantic coast. He was sent as far as Hudson's River, and then returned to Young on the Delaware. Captain Young writes: "As soon as he was returned I sent him presently once more up to the falls, to try whether he could pass those rocks at a spring-tide, which before he could not do at a neap-tide; but it was then also impossible with any great boats, whereupon he returned back to me agayne."***
After this expedition Young, still being in the Delaware River, where he traded with the Indians at Fort Eriwoneck, Robert Evelyn was sent with dispatches to England, where he remained until the fall of 1636, when he returned to Virginia and the next year was one of the councillors and surveyors of that colony. At this time George, his brother, came to Kent Island, in Maryland, as the agent of the London partners of William Clayborne.
When Robert Evelyn again returned to England he was induced, in 1641, to write a small quarto with the title "Direction for Adventurers, and true Description of the healthiest, pleasantest, richest plantation of New Albion, in North Virginia, in a letter from Master Robert Eveline, who lived there many years." The description was in the form of a letter and addressed to Plowden's wife.(4*)
Sir Edmund Plowden's first visit to America was in 1642. Robert Evelyn, who had also returned on the 23d of June of the same year, was commissioned by the authorities of Maryland "to take charge, and command, of all or any of the English in, or near about, Piscataway, and levy, train and master them."
During the year 1642 Plowden appears to have sailed up the Delaware and visited "the fort given over by Captain Young and Master Evelyn," which seems to have been in or near the Schuylkill. His residence was chiefly in Northampton County, Virginia,(5*) and he brought some servants of his family from England.(6*)
John Printz, the third governor of New Sweden, arrived on the 15th of February, 1643, at Fort Christina on the Delaware. He appears to have resisted the claims of Plowden. In the "Remonstrance of New Netherlands," published in 1650, is the following:
"We cannot omit to say that there has been here, both in the time of Director Kieft and in that of General Stuyvesant, a certain Englishman who called himself Sir Edmund Plowden, and, styling himself Earl Palatinate of New Albion, pretended that the country on the west side of the North River as far as Virginia, was his property under a grant from James, (Charles I.) King of England; but he remarked that he would have no misunderstanding with the Dutch, but was much offended with, and bore a grudge against, John Prins, the Swedish Governor in the South River, in consequence of receiving some affronts which were too long to record, but which he would take an opportunity of resenting and possessing himself of the South River."(7*)
It appears by the statement of Charles Varlo (8*) that Sir Edmund Plowden, with his wife and two children, came over to New Albion to enjoy his property. Finding that it was occupied, and claimed by the Swedes and Dutch, he took up his residence for six years in Northampton County, Virginia, and on Kent Island and other portions of Maryland, which he claimed were included in his grant. He brought over with him numerous servants and settlers, and went to great expense and labor, in endeavoring to establish his claims. He leased to Lord Mason 5,000 acres, who was to settle it with 50 men; to Lord Sherrard he leased 1000 acres, who was to settle it with 100 men; to Sir T. Dandy he leased 1000 acres, who was to settle it with 100 men; to Mr. Heltonhead 5000 acres, who was to settle it with 50 men; to Mr. Heltonhead's brother 5000 acres, who was to settle it with 50 men; to Mr. Bowls 4000 acres, who was to settle it with 40 men; to Captain Wm. Clayborne 5000 acres, who was to settle it with 50 men, and to Mr. Muskery 5000 acres, who was to settle it with 50 men.
According to Evelyn's account of New Albion, a splendid palatinate was projected the banks of the Delaware were set off into manors all the earl's children received titles, and a chivalric order was instituted under the imposing name of The Albion Knights of the Conversion of the twenty-three Kings. His grant as we have shown, embraced all of the territory now comprised within New Jersey, regardless of the prior grant of a large portion thereof, to the New England Company, all of Delaware, and parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. By the liberal grant which Plowden procured from his sympathetic monarch, he was invested with the title of Earl Palatine, which drew after it very great privileges to the grantee; for Bracton, "the ancientest of lawyers," as Plantagenet calls him, defines an Earl Palatine to be one who has regal power in all things, save allegiance to the king. The first of the manors, called Watcessit, the earl reserved for himself. It was situated about the site of Salem, N.J., at the southern end of what Plantagenet calls "the mountless plain, which Master Evelin voucheth to be twenty miles broad and thirty long, and fifty miles washed by two fair navigable rivers; of three hundred thousand acres fit to plow and sow all corn, tobacco and flax and rice, the four staples of Albion." Three miles as was estimated from Watcessit, lay the domain of "Lady Barbara, Baroness of Richneck, the mirror of wit and beauty," adjoining Cotton River (now Alloway's Creek), "so named of six hundred pounds of cotton wilde on tree growing," says our historian; who further sets forth the value of the seat awarded to the Earl's favorite daughter, by adding that it was of "twenty-four miles compasse, of wood, huge timber trees, and two feet black mould, much desired by the Virginians to plant tobacco." The manor of Kildorpy, at the falls of Trenton, was unappropriated. Bolalmanack, or Belvedere, on the Chesapeake shore of Delaware State, was given to Plantagenet under the lord's seal, as a reward for his pains in exploring the country.
How far this scheme was realized we cannot tell. It is said that the New Haven settlers at Salem were visited by Master Miles, who swore their officers to fealty to the Palatine before their expulsion by the Dutch and Swedes. When the Earl himself came to New Albion, in 1643, it is said he "marched, lodged and cabinned together among the Indians."
The Knights of the Conversion, composed originally of Sir Edmund Plowden, and the seven persons with whom he conferred, partook strongly of the fantastic spirit which marked the Hudibrastic age. Whatever selfish motive might have influenced them in reality in their organization, they professed to have at heart only a desire for the conversion of the twenty-three Indian tribes living within the limits of Sir Edmund's grant. Hence upon the badge of their order we find their own and Plowden's arms, supported by the right hand of an Indian kneeling, around which are twenty-two crowned heads; the whole being enriched by the legend Docebo iniqouos vias tuas, et impii ad te convertentur. The knight's device was a hand holding a crown upon the point of a dagger, above an open Bible; and the Palatine's arms, two flowers upon the points of an indented belt, with the legend virtus beat sic suos.
Of the mode intended to be pursued by these knights in proselyting the Indians, Plantagenet has left us a hint, for he tells us that any gentleman who was out of employ, and not bent to labor, might come to New Albion "and live like a devout apostolique soldier, with the sword and the word, to civilize and convert them to be his majesty's lieges, and by trading with them for furs, get his ten shillings a day," which he thought much better than contracting with the government at home "to kill Christians for five shillings a week."
But notwithstanding the "apostollic blows and knocks," which the Knights of the Conversion thus meditated for the good of their red brothers souls, the Earl himself intended no such logic for his English subjects. He meant by an act of his parliament to require an observance of some of the fundamental creeds, but there was to be "no persecution to any dissenting, and to all such as the Walloons free chapels." The government he had projected was, excepting his own exorbitant powers, as liberal as his church. Its officers were "the Lord, head governor, a deputy-governor, secretary of estate or seal keeper, and twelve of the council of state, or upper house; and these, or five of them, were also a court of chancery." His lower house consisted of thirty burghers freely chosen, who were to meet the lords in Parliament annually on the tenth of November, to legislate for the palatinate. Any lawsuit under forty shillings, or one hundred pounds of tobacco in value, was to be "ended by the next justice at one shilling charge." The jurisdiction of the county courts, consisted of four justices, and meeting every two months, began at ten pounds sterling, or fifteen hundred weight of tobacco; and the costs of no case tried herein were to exceed four shillings. Appeals lay from these courts first to chancery and then to parliament; and our author concludes his exposition of the Earl's judiciary by saying: "Here are no jeofails nor demurers; but a summary hearing and a sheriff, and clerk of court with small fees, and all for the most part in a few words."
After the dispersion of the New Albion subjects (as Plantagenet claims the settlers on Varcken's Kill, in 1642, to have been) the land embraced in their purchase of the Indians was the cause of much controversy between the Dutch governor of New Amsterdam, and the commissioners of the united colonies of New England. On the 19th of September, 1650, all difficulties were apparently removed by a treaty concluded at Hartford, between Stuyvesant and the said commissioners, by which it was agreed "to leave both parties in statu quo prias, to plead and improve their just interests at Delaware, for planting or trading as they shall see cause."(9*)
Having failed to induce the emigration of the "viscounts, barons, baronets, knights, gentlemen, merchants, adventurers and planters" to the hopeful colony, and having studied minutely the character and peculiarities of his twenty-three kings, and as Watcessit had fallen, and disgusted with the treachery of the men he had loaded with titles and promises, Sir Edmund Plowden determined to return to England. In the summer of 1648 he visited Boston on his return home. Governor Winthrop in his journal writes: "Here, arrived one Sir Edmund Plowden who had been in Virginia about seven (six) years. He came first with a patent of a County Palatine for Delaware Bay; but wanting a pilot for that place, he went to Virginia, and there having lost the estate he brought over, and all his people scattered from him; he came hither to return to England for supply, intending to return and plant Delaware, if he could get sufficient strength to dispossess the Swedes."
Arriving in England, Plowden determined to make another effort to stock the country with settlers. Accordingly "A Description of the Province of New Albion" was issued, and on Tuesday, June 11, 1650, a pass was granted for about "seven-score persons, men, women and children to go to New Albion," but there is no evidence that the party ever sailed. The effort to awaken an interest in New Albion failed, and when the Dutch Commissioners, in the fall of 1659, visited Secretary Philip Calvert in Maryland, they argued that Lord Baltimore had no more right to the Delaware River than "Sir Edmund Plowden, in former time would make us believe he hath unto, when it was afterward did prove, and was found out that he only subuptiff and obreptiff hath something obtained to that purpose which was invalid." To this it was replied by Calvert "That Plowden had no commission, and lay in jail in England on account of his debts; that he had solicited a patent for Novum Albium from the king, but it was refused him, and he thereupon applied to the Vice Roy of Ireland, from whom he had obtained a patent, but that it was of no value."
Plowden signed his will on the 29th of July, 1655, in which he styles himself "Sir Edmund Plowden, Lord Earl Palatinate, Governor and Captain-General of New Albion in North America," and devised his possessions in America to his son Thomas, and made William Mason, Esq., of Gray's Inn, his trustee. He directed that his body should be buried in Ledbury Church in Salop, with "brasse plates of my eighteene children had affixed to the said monument at thirty or fourty powndes charges, together with my perfect pedigree as is drawne at my house."(10*)
In his will which was proved July 27, 1659, he says he "resided six" years in New Albion. Sir Edmund Plowden's son Thomas died in 1698, and in his will which was signed on the 16th of May, and proved on the 10th of September, 1698, he bequeathed to his wife New Albion, the patent of which he said had been wrongfully detained for years to his great loss and hindrance, by his son-in-law Andrew Wall, of Ludshott, in the county of Southton.(11*)
Before the War for Independence Charles Varlo, of London, purchased one-third of the charter of New Albion, and spared no expense to secure the property, by registering his title deeds under the great seal of London. He also sent printed copies of the charter to be distributed among the inhabitants of East and West Jersey. After the close of the Revolution, in May, 1784, Mr. Varlo secured an appointment as governor of the province of New Albion, and embarked with his family for America. He took steps to recover the estate by a suit in chancery, and pursued other measures but failed, and after the expenditure of much time and treasure he returned to Europe. He there petitioned to the king but received no answer. He then applied to the treasury to secure compensation which was then usually paid to loyalists, but he failed to obtain redress because there was no act of Parliament authorizing his special payment. He then sought the Prince of Wales to use his influence with the king to make some "restitution for the heavy losses I have had, in perusing an unconstitutional act, arising from a crowned act." In all these efforts Mr. Varlo failed, and upon the acknowledgment of the independence of the colonies as free and independent states, all the rights of the heirs of Sir Edmund Plowden were swallowed up by the occupants of the territory.
* Pennsylvania Magazine, Vol. vii., page 396.
** Force's Historical Tracts, Vol. ii. page 28.
*** Young's letter in Mass. Hist. Society Collections, Fourth Series, Vol. ix., page 81.
(4*) Rev. Edward D. Neill, President of Macalester College, Minnesota, who has given much time and thought to early American history, in his very interesting paper on Sir Edmund Plowden, published in the Pennsylvania Magazine, Vol. vii., page 206, to which we are indebted for most of the facts embraced in this chapter, says: "When Evelyn was in England in A.D. 1634, Edmund Plowden was living at Wanstead by no means happy, and causing those who were in any way dependent upon him to feel most miserable. His harsh treatment of others, and ungovernable temper, made him a pest in the neighborhood. About this time, also, he left the Church of Rome, and conformed to the Church of England. His wife, Mabel, to whom he had been married twenty-five years, on account of his cruelty was at length obliged to make complaint. The court sustained her, and Plowden was ordered to pay the expenses of suit and provide alimony. Another complaint was lodged against him on May 3, 1638, for beating the wife of Rev. Philip Oldfield, Rector of Lasham, who was about to become a mother, because Plowden and the clergyman had disagreed upon the terms of a certain lease. As late as November 14, 1639, he manifested passion, obstinate lying, and persisted in contempt of court, by refusing to pay his wife's alimony. It had become evident that if he should sail for America, his absence would not be deplored."
Sir Edmund Plowden was the lineal descendant of Edmund Plowden, the learned and honorable pleader, who died in 1584, whose commentaries on law, Chief Justice Coke called "exquisite and elaborate." Abont the year 1610, Plowden was married to Mabel, daughter of Peter Mariner, of Wanstead, Hampshire. In the Calendar of State Papers of 1634-35, there is a notice of five pounds and nineteen shillings of shipmoney assessed upon Sir Edmund's tenants in Hampshire.
(5*) In the manuscript-records of Northampton County, Virginia, there are some particulars in the life of Sir Edmund Plowden, Kngt. It appears when he sailed for America with a friend he brought two letters of introduction from William Webb, of London, one addressed to "Thomas Copley at his plantation in Maryland," he being at that time the temporal coadjutor of the Jesuit Mission, and the other was addressed to the head of the Mission, "To his Noble Reverend Mr. Andrew White, Esq., att Maryland." There is an account against Plowden by the clerk of the Northampton Court of three hundred pounds of tobacco for taking depositions, making copies, etc. There are other brief notices of him on the records showing his residence in the county, among others a verdict between "Capt. Thomas Burbage plaintiff and Edmund Plowden," dated March 6, 1642-43. Pennsylvania Magazine, Vol. x., page 180.
(6*) In the manuscript records of Maryland, in the Land Office at Annapolis, there is a notice of Margaret Brent, the intimate friend of Governor Leonard Calvert, visiting the Isle of Kent, in the Chesapeake Bay, accompanied by Anne, a lame maid-servant of Sir Edmund Plowden. In 1643 Nathan Pope petitioned the Provincial Court of Maryland to have three maid-servants of Sir Edmund Plowden delivered to him, so that he could convey them to Sir Edmund in Virginia. On July 17, 1643, William Eltonhead made oath before the same court that in June, 1642, in Setter Lane, London, Jane and Eleanor Stevenson did contract with Sir Edmund Plowden, Kngt, to serve him for five years in New Albion, in Delaware Bay, and were to have fifty pounds sterling per annum, and they find themselves clothes. On January 15, 1643, "Robert Ellyson, barber-chirurgeon, demanded of Sir Edmund Plowden, Knt, 1156 Ibs. of tobacco, due by account of chirurgery and physick this last summer for Ellen and Jane Stevenson, maid-servants of the said Sir Edmund"; and he attached Sir Edmund Plowden's right of service until the bill was paid. Sir Edmund afterwards used his two maid-servants for one thousand pounds of tobacco for trespass for departing unlawfully out of his service in Virginia. Ellen Stevenson afterwards married William Branthwaite, a prominent citizen of St. Mary's County, Maryland. Anne Fletcher, who had contracted with Sir Edmund Plowden in England to serve as a waiting maid for his lady and daughters in New Albion, used him for her wages in February, 1643, and, not liking the country, desired him to pay the expense of her transportation home. George Binx, about the same time, demanded of Sir Edmund one thousand pounds of tobacco "for painse and physick last somer for cure of Anne Fletcher, maid-servant to the said Sir Edward." Hazard, and others, note a purchase, in 1643, of a half interest in a bark, by Sir Edmund, which was then used by him.
(7*) The following interesting report of Sir Edmund Plowden is to be found in the second report of John Printz, Governor of New Sweden, to the Swedish West India Company, dated Christina, June 20, 1644:
"In my former communications concerning the English knight, I have mentioned how last year, in Virginia, he desired to sail with his people, sixteen in number, in a barque, from Heckemak (Accomack) to Kikathans (or Kecoughtan, the present Hampton); and when they came to the Bay of Virginia, the captain (who had previously conspired with the knight's people to kill him) directed his course not to Kikethan, but to Cape Henry, passing which, they came to an isle in the high sea called Smith's Island, when they took counsel in what way they should put him to death, and thought it best not to slay him with their hands, but to set him, without food, or clothes, or arms, on the above-named island, which was inhabited by no man or other animal save wolves and bears; and this they did. Nevertheless, two young noble retainers, who had been brought up by the knight and who knew nothing of that plot, when they beheld this evil fortune of their lord, leaped from the barque into the ocean, swam ashore, and remained with their master. The fourth day following, an English sloop sailed by Smith's Island, coming so close that the young men were able to hail her, when the knight was taken aboard (half dead and as black as the ground) and conveyed to Hackemak, where he recovered. The knight's people, however, arrived with the barque May 6, 1643, at our Fort Elfsborg, and asked after ships to Old England. Hereupon I demanded their pass, and inquired from whence they came; and as soon as I perceived that they were not on a proper errand, I took them with me (though with their consent) to Christina, to bargain about flour and other provisions, and questioned them until a maid-servant (who had been the knight's washer-woman) confessed the truth and betrayed them. I at once caused an inventory to be taken of their goods, in their presence, and held the people prisoners until the very English sloop which had rescued the knight arrived with a letter from him concerning the matter, addressed not alone to me, but to all governors and commandants of the whole coast of Florida. Thereupon I surrendered to him the people, barque and goods (in precise accordance with the inventory), and he paid me 425 riksdaler for my expenses. The chief of these traitors the knight has had executed. He himself is still in Virginia and (as he constantly professes) expects vessels and people from Ireland and England. To all ships and barques that come from thence he grants free commission to trade here in the river with the savages; but I have not yet permitted any of them to pass, nor shall I do so until I receive order and command to that effect from my most gracious queen, her Royal Majesty of Sweden." Pennsylvania Magazine, Vol. vii., page 50.
(8*) "Nature Displayed," London, 1794, page 142, et seq.
(9*) "Reminiscences of Old Gloucester, N.J., by Issac Mickle, page 23.
(10*) A writer in the first series, 4th volume, of London Notes and Queries, asserts "that Sir Edmund died at Wanstead, County of Southampton, in possession of large estates in eleven parishes of England, and that to each of these parishes by his will, A.D. 1655, he left money (40 apiece) to be paid eight days after his demise and directs to be buried in the chapel of the Plowdens at Lydbury, in Salop, and a stone monument with an inscription in brass bearing the name of his children, and another with his correct pedigree, as drawn out in his house at Wanstead."
(11*) Pennsylvania Magazine, Vol. VII., page 52.
SOURCE: Page(s) 57-61, History of Delaware, 1609-1888, Volume One by Scharf, Thomas J., Philadelphia; L.J. Richards & Co., 1888