Your Majesty’s Petitioners
This is an unusual account of historical incidents that illustrate variety and creativity in seeking solutions for the common good. As a 18th Century “amiable renegade” wrote, “I hope it is pleasing and of service to publick”. The service is exposure to what is truly virtuous; compassion, sympathy, and benevolence.
That roving Irishman served in four different armies in Europe to survive his homeland displacement. In New Hampshire a small group of pioneers survived by petitioning the King of England in mid 17th Century, asking for relief from encroachment by Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritans -“to be joyne to Meyne.” Instead they were offered 33 square miles in mid New Jersey for 30 pounds. So in 1666 the settlers of Piscataway created the first democratic local government in colonial America. A group of English, Irish, Dutch, French families were the first melting pot of America people. A provocative item of their purchase agreement with Governor Carteret was recording lands, “...to remain to owners and their heirs forever.” A 18th Century New Jersey Assembly law, “...that all women that seduce and betray into matrimony men of this Colony...shall incur the penalty of the law...” also seemed unenforceable.
The Revolutionary War had many English mercenary troops garrisoned at nearby New Brunswick, and Perth Amboy “...as soldiers plundered the houses, the women trembling and weeping...” The terrorists were eventually driven out by General George Washington troops with the help of the militia, the New Jersey Blues.
Colonial exuberant spirits had many expressions. “Harvest time was a frolic...Mother always had a time on’t for there must be many extras on the table...pigs, sheep and calves were sacrificed for the occasion.” After Sunday meeting there were races, and other athletic outlets.
Descendents started moving to new opportunities in America early in the 17th Century. Today an estimated 100,000 descendents live in every State in the Union and worldwide. By 1790 there were 2261 inhabitants in Piscataway and then the most pronounced influx were Dutch families.
Some early settlers from within America were Henry Langstaff, Samuel Walker, Francis Drake, Henry Greenland, Edmud Slater, Daniel Hendricks, Edward Doty, Cornelius Longfield, Rene Pyatt, Samuel Blackford, from Piscataqua, New Hampshire: John Smalley, Robert Field, from Providence: Benjamin Dunham, William Sutton from Eastham, Massachusetts: Geoffrey Manning, Edward FitzRandolph from near Boston, Massachusetts.
Another famous writer, James Madison Drake, 1837-1913, a half cousin to Charles Drake, wrote FAST AND LOOSE IN DIXIE. He was born in Somerset County, N.J. and learned the printing trade at age 12 from his father in Elizabeth, N.J. Employed by a Trenton, N.J. newspaper at age 15, by age 20 he had established two newspapers there. He organized a Civil War volunteer company in 1861 and joined the 9th N.J. Volunteer Regiment, eventually on the battlefield becoming a Lieutenant. He was discharged as a Captain and in 1880 Congress awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor and also then brevetted Brigadier General by the N.J. State Legislature.
Drake’s fame, described in national newspapers at the time, was a daring escape from a war prison train. At the great April, 1964 campaign to capture Richmond, starting at Bermuda Run, he was captured with many Union men confused by an early morning fog. He was sent to Richmond confinement, Macon, Savannah, and Charleston which he relates in his book as well prison treatment, usually cruel and inhuman, but sometimes kind and considerate in deference to the officer prison population. He, with other bold men, constantly planned tunnel escapes, ingenious but sometimes ending in comic futile achievement.
In late September, the Confederates in fear of Unio