Scot’s Model

View of the Castle of Dunnottar.

THERE’S no second chance to make a first impression, and this had all the makings of an audacious debut. Notices of a new historical society for New Jersey, emanating from the busy pen of its corresponding secretary, had barely reached the meeting rooms of other learned associations around the country. Now they, and the wider world, were promised an inaugural publication on New Jersey history from the same tireless hand.

When the Society met in Newark for the first time in May 1845, the speaker for the day, Charles King, a future president of Columbia College, stressed the gravity of the moment: “upon those whom this day has brought together,” he said, “must it very much depend, whether the Society shall be equal to the occasion which calls it into existence, and to the pure beauty of the annals of our State.”1

Charles King

In drawing on those annals for his address, King benefited directly from the loan of a study authored by William A. Whitehead entitled East Jersey under the Proprietary Governments. King freely incorporated much of the corresponding secretary’s text into his own. And, convinced that Whitehead’s production should reach a far wider audience, he could think of no better “first fruit offering” from the just-born Society than its immediate publication, “as the demand for the work would undoubtedly render it a source of profit rather than expense.”2

The Society responded warmly to the call, appointing a committee on publications that knew the importance of first impressions: the finished book, which became the first volume in the Society’s series of Collections,3 enhanced by engravings and two folding maps, should represent “the most elegant style of modern printing,” the quality of its paper and type to “exceed any volume put forth by any one of the Historical Societies in the United States.”4

This was a tall order for an infant organization with little experience, limited funds and many well-established historical societies to measure itself against. Although the volume would be sold mainly by subscription, the treasury had to advance funds to cover the costs of printing. When it emerged that the book would contain 350 pages, not the anticipated 300, publication was delayed from December 1845 to the following February.5

Yet the edition’s success was assured. A network of agents lined up subscribers at a price of $1.50 each, and excepting those copies reserved (on Whitehead’s motion) for deposit with major American libraries, exchange with other learned societies, or the New Jersey society’s own use, the run was readily disposed of.6 Buyers not subscribed in advance to what the Newark Daily Advertiser deemed “one of the finest specimens of modern book printing”7 could at best hope to secure one of the remaining copies “only at an enhanced price” of two dollars apiece.8

By early May 1846, Charles King’s prophecy of the year before had been largely fulfilled: almost all copies of the book were spoken for, and all the funds advanced were returned to the treasury. It was calculated that, once bills were paid, subscriptions collected and copies distributed, the Society would see a profit of $250.9 Whitehead, who now sat on the Publications Committee, insisted the surplus go to the Society’s treasury, but the committee voted to award the profits to him, “one only dissenting, and that the Author.” Whether the Society as a whole ratified that decision is not recorded, but we may guess that Whitehead in the plenary was left “in the same lean minority as in the Committee.”10

The Historical Society’s maiden publishing venture seems not to have been in Whitehead’s plans. While he’d placed his manuscript “at the service of the Society,” its transformation into a printed volume was pursued contrary to his “expostulations.”11 He was no stranger to authorship, however. The investigations that grew “gradually, and imperceptibly almost,”12 into East Jersey under the Proprietary Governments had, for more than five years, been communicated publicly through the pages of the Newark Daily Advertiser. Whitehead regarded East Jersey, a work originally “undertaken by the Author solely for his own use,” as little more than “a simple narration of events”: “It is submitted to the public,” he stated in the preface, “at the request of the New Jersey Historical Society, rather as furnishing materials for history, than as being in itself complete.”13

Probably the finished volume’s greatest contribution, at least in Whitehead’s view, was an appendix that perfectly exemplified the limited but crucial enterprise of “furnishing materials for history.” Running for more than a hundred of the book’s pages was a republication of The Model of the Government of the Province of East-New-Jersey in America, a work designed to foster continued Scottish migration to the colony of East Jersey in the 1680s.

Title page of the Harvard copy of Scot’s Model.

Whitehead seems, consciously or not, to have echoed the words of George Scot, Laird of Pitlochie, whom the Scots Proprietors of East Jersey had engaged to compose the Model: “I have been advised to consent, to the publishing of the following sheets, at first collected, only for my own divertissement, and more clear information in the affair…”14

Scot’s long and discursive work, as earnest a promotional brochure as New Jersey has ever received, took the form of “a Letter from a Gentleman at Edinburgh, concerned there; to his Correspondent in the Countrey.”15 Its arguments in favor of emigration ran from the teachings of Scripture to examples from nature; from the duty to evangelize to the comparative infertility of Scottish soil; from the restraints of primogeniture on sons who were not first-born to (importantly) the prospect in the East Jersey colony of toleration for divergent beliefs, a policy “no where else to be found in His Majesties Dominions.”16

In the opinion of the author, although he had never personally set foot there, East Jersey by virtue of its mild climate, fresh waters, produce, fish, game, livestock, minerals, its scattered but serviceable natives from whom land “is truly Purchased,” its favorable terms for settlers both free and bound, and much more besides, was far and away the best destination a Scottish immigrant might consider: “What I judge the most proper place in Americathe advice given to Phaeton, appears very apposite, medio tutissimus ibis, and so East-Jersey, upon the River of Hudson, is the place I find my self oblidge to preferr to any other of the English Plantations upon that coast …”17

Appended to Scot’s Model – what became, in Whitehead’s East Jersey, the appendix to an appendix – were transcripts of more than 30 letters or abstracts of letters, sent between 1683 and 1685, from Scotsmen already resident in the province. The originals of these letters had a large and keen readership in Scotland; their publication at the end of the Model reinforced its varied arguments for settlement, but also furnished invaluable details of life in the colony’s rising towns and rural districts.

At what point Whitehead first became cognizant of the Model is uncertain, but his reading in colonial history impelled him to seek it out. A seminal treatment of early America by Scotsman James Grahame, first published in 1827, made extensive reference to the Model, but until 1840 Whitehead could locate no copies of the work in the United States.18 By the following year he had learned of one in the library at Harvard College, where Jared Sparks taught. “Should you know of a copy that can be purchased,” he entreated the celebrated historian, “you would much oblige me by informing me who is the possessor of it.”19

When that hope went unfulfilled, Whitehead made arrangements – “at his own expense,” we’re credibly informed – for the Harvard text to be transcribed and the transcript sent to him.20 By 1845, using this transcript, he had recopied and annotated the Model; his manuscript survives with that of East Jersey under the Proprietary Governments, a bound volume among the Whitehead papers at the Historical Society.21

John Thornton, A new mapp of East and West New Jarsey (detail)

Probably only after the decision to publish his East Jersey was made would Whitehead learn of a second copy of the Model extant in America, in the library of Charles King’s family on Long Island,22 a discovery that came too late to reveal some differences from his own republished version. In contrast with the title page of the Harvard copy, which gave the name and location of the stationer where Scot’s Model was sold, the version in the King library bore the more succinct imprint “EDINBURGH : Printed by John Reid, Anno DOM., 1685.”

A more puzzling discrepancy appeared later in the work, where a passage had evidently been altered. Whitehead would not notice these differences until he had the chance to examine a volume identical to the King copy, donated to the Historical Society seven years after republication of the Model.23 But the explanation he would offer for this variant has never been disputed.

The justice of George Scot’s title, The Model of the Government, has likewise never been called into question. His somewhat diffuse and disjointed treatise propounded no system of governance for East Jersey; if anything, it extolled the mechanisms already in place there. Rather, the choice of the word “model” seems to align the work with a long tradition of reforming treatises issued during the civil and religious strife of the seventeenth century: John Dury’s A Model of Church-Government, and William Bartlet’s Ichnographia, or a Model of the Primitive Congregational Way, both published in 1647; George Lawson’s Politica sacra & civilis: or, A Model of Civil and Ecclesiastical Government, first published in 1660; and Richard Haines’s A Model of Government for the Good of the Poor, and the Wealth of the Nation, issued in 1678. Unlike these “models,” Scot’s template for reform was not such as could be committed to print; it was, rather, to wed principle with practice.

Printing of the Model in 1685 in Edinburgh had gone ahead without its author’s oversight, owing to “other pressing affairs.”24 Having chartered the Henry and Francis of Newcastle, a ship of 350 tons and “20 great Guns,” Scot had set about gathering potential emigrants for transportation to New Jersey. To do so, he petitioned for prisoners of conscience, most notoriously the wretched inmates of the dungeon at Dunnottar, to be released to his protection. Many whom Scot had succeeded in freeing from their chains would languish below decks on the Henry and Francis until it sailed from Leith on 5 September 1685. Soon after, the ship’s company was overtaken by a malignant fever; they were three months getting to North America, by which time more than sixty had perished en route, including the author of the Model and the organizer of the scheme, together with his Lady.25

As it happened, an interest beyond history drew William Whitehead to this saga. Among the survivors of the ordeal were the daughter of George Scot of Pitlochie and Dr. John Johnstone, who subsequently married. Janet Johnstone, a daughter of these émigrés, became the wife of John Parker, great-grandfather of Whitehead’s wife Margaret.26

Whitehead hypothesized that, in the civil and religious tensions George Scot was forced to negotiate, which had led him to embrace the emigration scheme of 1685 – and ended in his death – lay the causes of the variation in the printed Model. He guessed the original passage had belonged to “an issue intended for circulation in Scotland,”27 but when judged “to reflect too harshly upon the government, whose oppressive acts were leading to forced or voluntary expatriation,”28 it was replaced with a more neutral one.

It’s a theory that merits consideration: the original is a stronger text, avowing “as a fundamentall, that no man shall be any way imposed upon in matters of principle, but have their own freedom without the least hazard.”29 Yet other passages in Scot’s Model appear to endorse freedom of conscience, and to have survived without alteration.30

Whitehead’s theory, advanced more than a century and a half ago, has yet to be put to the test; I’m hopeful that another uncertainty can be more speedily resolved. Sometime before 1875, when a second, expanded edition of East Jersey under the Proprietary Governments came off the press, Whitehead acquired a long-coveted copy of Scot’s Model for his own collection. Currently, at least ten libraries in the United States are known to possess specimens of this rarity. Which of them, if any, was his?

Copyright © 2021-2023 Gregory J. Guderian

[1] Charles King, “A discourse delivered before the New Jersey Historical Society, May 7, 1845,” Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society (hereafter Proceedings) [ser. 1] 1:1 (1845) (21-62) 23.

[2] “The New Jersey Historical Society,” Newark (N.J.) daily advertiser 10 May 1845 2:2; Proceedings [ser. 1] 1:1 (1845) 10. Cf. Minutes, Manuscript Group 1258, New Jersey Historical Society Records, Box A1 (hereafter Minutes), 7 May 1845.

[3] Seven more volumes of Collections (plus a supplement to number 6) followed in the course of the nineteenth century. Another eighteen were published during the twentieth century. The last volume, numbered 26, appeared in 1993.

[4] “History of East New Jersey,” Newark daily advertiser 17 November 1845 2:3; Minutes, 15 January 1846.

[5] “History of East New Jersey”; Minutes, 4 September 1845, 15 January 1846. Cf. Newark daily advertiser 6 December 1845 2:3; Proceedings [ser. 1] 1:2 (1845) 68, 1:3 (1845-1846) 98, 116; “East Jersey under the Proprietors,” Newark daily advertiser 5 February 1846 2:1; Newark daily advertiser 7 February 1846 3:1.

[6] Minutes, 15 January 1846; Proceedings [ser. 1] 1:3 (1845-1846) 118.

[7] Newark daily advertiser 6 November 1846 2:2. The Advertiser, which was not without firm ties of business and friendship to both the Society and the book’s author, had given a long and laudatory announcement at the time of its release, which began: “We congratulate our readers, and the students of American History generally, upon the appearance of this valuable contribution to the early annals of our country; and that, too, in a form which beautifully illustrates the present improved state of book printing. In this respect, at least, all promise and expectation must be fully realized. We have seen no handsomer volume of history from the American press.” “East Jersey under the Proprietors.”

[8] “History of East New Jersey”; Newark daily advertiser 6 December 1845 2:3; Minutes, 15 January 1846; “East Jersey under the Proprietors.”

[9] Minutes, 7 May 1846; Newark daily advertiser 9 May 1846 2:1; Proceedings [ser. 1] 1:3 (1845-1846) 128.

[10] Minutes, 7 May 1846. Whitehead was one of two members added to the Publications Committee in September 1845: Minutes, 4 September 1845; Proceedings [ser. 1] 1:2 (1845) 69.

[11] King, “A discourse,” 48n.

[12] Preface to manuscript of East Jersey under the proprietary governments, 4. Manuscript Group 177, William A. Whitehead Papers, New Jersey Historical Society.

[13] William A. Whitehead, East Jersey under the proprietary governments: a narrative of events connected with the settlement and progress of the province, until the surrender of the government to the Crown in 1702 (hereafter Whitehead, East Jersey) (Collections of the New Jersey Historical Society, 1. [New York] 18461, Newark 18752) v.

[14] [George Scot,] The model of the government of the province of East-New-Jersey in America; and encouragements for such as designs to be concerned there. Published for information of such as are desirous to be interested in that place (Edinburgh 1685) (hereafter Scot, Model) [iv]; Whitehead, East Jersey (18461) 241, (18752) 367.

[15] Scot, Model [1]; Whitehead, East Jersey (18461) 243, (18752) 369.

[16] Scot, Model 50; Whitehead, East Jersey (18461) 262, (18752) 391.

[17] Scot, Model 52; Whitehead, East Jersey (18461) 263, (18752) 392.

[18] G.P., “Grahame and Bancroft, on the early history of East Jersey, No. IV,” Newark daily advertiser 27 March 1840 2: (1-2) 1.

[19] W. A. Whitehead to Jared Sparks, 23 June 1841, Jared Sparks Letterbooks, MS Sparks 153, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

[20] King, “A discourse” 48n.

[21] Manuscript Group 177, William A. Whitehead Papers, New Jersey Historical Society. In a report of 1853, the location of Whitehead’s original was given as the American Antiquarian Society, which appears to be an error. In the second edition of East Jersey, Whitehead again named Harvard as the repository. Proceedings [ser. 1] 6:4 (1853) 163; Whitehead, East Jersey (18752) 359.

[22] “The use of Mr. King’s copy has also been politely extended to the Editor during the passage of the work through the press.” East Jersey (18461) 233. Whitehead referred to this volume as “in the possession of John A. King, Esq., of Long Island” or “Hon. John A. King at Jamaica” (Proceedings [ser. 1] 6:4 [1853] 163. It’s unclear whether Charles King’s brother John Alsop King (1788-1867) or nephew John Alsop King Jr. (1817-1900) is meant. The New-York Historical Society most probably holds this copy.

[23] “New Jersey Historical Society,” Newark daily advertiser 24 January 1853 2:5; Proceedings [ser. 1] 6:4 (1853) 163. By the time of East Jersey’s second edition, Whitehead had realized that the alteration in the Harvard version (and every copy like it) was made by insertion of a new (cancel) leaf. East Jersey (18752) 364.

[24] Scot, Model [vi].

[25] Scot’s elaborate emigration scheme and its aftermath were narrated by Whitehead in Contributions to the early history of Perth Amboy and adjoining country, with sketches of men and events in New Jersey during the provincial era (New York 1856) 23-35, and more fully by George Pratt Insh, Scottish colonial schemes 1620-1686 (Glasgow 1922) 159-178.

[26] Introducing his republication of the Model Whitehead commented that “there are still, among the most respected citizens of New Jersey those who can trace their descent from George Scot; testifying, by their own characters and talents, to the service rendered by their ancestor when in addition to the influence of his work he embarked his family for East Jersey.” Whitehead, East Jersey (18461) 237, (18752) 363.

[27] Whitehead, East Jersey (18752) 364 n.3; cf. 385 n.1.

[28] Proceedings [ser. 1] 6:4 (1853) 164.

[29] Scot, Model 37-38; Whitehead, East Jersey (18752) 385-386.

[30] See especially Scot, Model 49-50, 103-104, 126; Whitehead, East Jersey (18461) 262, 268-269, 270-271, (18752) 391, 398-399, 401.

Images: 1) Dunnottar: “Prospectus Arcis Dunotrie. The prospect of Dunnotter Castle,” from John Slezer, Theatrum Scotiæ, containing the prospects of Their Majesties castles and palaces: together with those of the most considerable towns and colleges; the ruins of many ancient abbeys, churches, monasteries and convents, within the said kingdom. All curiously engraven on copper plates with a short description of each place (London 1693), plate 31, via Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain. 2) Charles King, photograph via Columbia University Archives. 3) Title page: [George Scot,] The model of the government of the province of East-New-Jersey in America; and encouragements for such as designs to be concerned there. Published for information of such as are desirous to be interested in that place (Edinburgh 1685), Houghton Library, courtesy Harvard University Library via Early English Books Online. 4) John Thornton, A new mapp of East and West New Jarsey being an exact survey taken by Mr. John Worlidge (London [1706]), detail, from Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

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