For affirmance -- Chief Justice Weintraub, and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall and Schettino. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Hall, J.
The unusual question posed by this appeal is steeped in New Jersey colonial history. To be determined is the extent of the class presently entitled to the benefit of certain lands laid out "for the maintenance of a free schoole" pursuant to the direction of the original charter of the "Towne and Freeholders of Woodbridge" granted by the proprietors of the colony on June 1, 1669. More specifically the problem is whether the benefit is limited to the public educational purposes of the present confines of the Township of Woodbridge or whether it extends as well to those municipalities and their coterminous school districts, such as Edison and Metuchen, formed in later years in whole or in part out of the larger area which comprised the town as created by the original charter. The Chancery Division decided against the claims of the subsequently formed municipalities.
Procedurally, the matter was decided below by the granting of summary judgment on this facet of the litigation, which had been raised by cross pleadings between the various defendant public bodies. The court directed the entry of
final judgment thereon, R.R. 4:55-2, and the case is here on our certification of the ensuing appeal of Edison and Metuchen to the Appellate Division. R.R. 1:10-1(a).
The answer to the question presented depends on the nature and incidents of the original designation of these "school lands" and the effect of subsequent events. It is essentially a legal one and, there being no factual dispute, it was resolvable by the summary judgment procedure. The underlying informational elements are found primarily in official records, which were before the trial court, given fuller meaning and understanding by authoritative historical materials,*fn1 of which we may take judicial notice. 9 Wigmore, Evidence § 2567 (c), 2580 (3 d ed. 1940); McCormick, Handbook of the Law of Evidence § 325, 330 (1954).
New Jersey was a proprietary colony from the time of its capture from the Dutch as part of New Amsterdam by the forces of Charles II in the early fall of 1666 until the proprietors surrendered all governmental prerogatives to the crown in 1702. Thereafter to 1776 it was a royal province governed by the reigning monarch of Great Britain through an appointed governor. Before the capture Charles II formally granted the whole territory to his brother, James, Duke of York, with full powers of government and complete ownership of the land. N.J.S.A., Acts Saved from Repeal, p. XXXIX. In June 1664, again prior to the Dutch surrender and James' coming into actual possession of the territory, he conveyed
that portion which is now New Jersey by instrument of release to Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret, their heirs and assigns forever, as sole proprietors.*fn2 N.J.S.A., Acts Saved from Repeal, p. XLIII. The name of New Jersey was then given to the area. They appointed Philip Carteret, a relative of George, as governor of the colony.
The territory comprising New Jersey was a wilderness in 1664 except for a few settlements by the Dutch across the Hudson from New Amsterdam and one or two along the Delaware. To attract settlers and stimulate colonization, moved no doubt by hopes of ultimate personal profit, Berkeley and Carteret, some 11 months after the grant from James, [35 NJ Page 542] signed and published their "Concessions and Agreement of the Lords Proprietors of the Province of New Caesarea or New Jersey, to and with all and every the Adventurers and all such as shall settle or plant them." Leaming and Spicer, Grants and Concessions, 1664-1702 (1758; Honeyman reprint 1881) p. 12. See N.J.S.A., Acts Saved from Repeal, p. X. Although perhaps intended more as an ancient advertisement to attract settlers, it quickly came to be regarded by the beneficiaries as the first constitution of the province. It was a most liberal document indeed for those early times. A form of government for the colony was prescribed reposing executive duties in the appointed governor and his council, and the legislative branch in an assembly of representatives elected annually by the freemen of the colony, with power to make laws and levy taxes. A very considerable amount of individual freedom was tendered. We need be concerned only with the provisions relating to the laying out of lands, important because they form the basis of authority for the Woodbridge charter. The general theme was free land. Individual adventurers were offered substantial acreage for settlement during the initial years. Broadly speaking, the governor was empowered to lay out land in large lots or in towns, townships, villages and the like, and issue warrants and register surveys therefor in the name of the proprietors. The latter reserved unto themselves one-seventh of the lands laid out, with the remainder to be subject to an annual quit rent to the proprietors of not more than one penny per acre, first payable in 1670. The proprietors also offered to grant land for highways and streets in cities, towns and villages, for churches, forts, wharfs, harbors and "publick houses" and to each parish for the use of their ministers 200 acres, all such lands to be free of rents, taxes and other charges. The scheme outlined was one not only of proprietary ownership and disposition of the land but also set forth the form of
government itself to be established by the proprietors both as owners of the soil and the representatives of the crown.*fn3
Among the areas in which the proprietors circulated their Concessions to attract settlers was New England and in May 1666 Governor Philip Carteret entered into a contract for Berkeley and Carteret with a group of residents from that section which has come to be called "Articles of Woodbridge and Piscataway Men." It was therein agreed that the signatories and their associates might settle one or two townships, each six or eight miles square and consisting of 40 or 100 families more or less, between the Rahway and Raritan Rivers and that settlement was to begin between the date thereof and the next November. They were given the right to admit their own inhabitants and to lay out and allot each settler's proportion of land among themselves, reserving two lots of 500 acres in each town to the proprietors for their disposition (in lieu of the one-seventh part specified in the Concessions). The individual allotments were to be patented by survey and recordation in the provincial office. It was further provided that in matters of worship, liberty of conscience was to be granted, but that in each town 200 acres should be allowed for the maintenance of the ministry as well as land for the building of a church, church yard and all other public uses, to be exempt from the payment of property taxes or the quit rent of a half penny per acre. The instrument guaranteed in general the same individual rights and obligations set forth in the Concessions and specified that each town would have a charter granted to it (presumably when enough families had settled) to be a
corporation and in which would be set forth a form of local government.
Settlement of the area by New Englanders thereafter began and the general boundaries of the town of Woodbridge were surveyed. Apparently the minimum number of families for a charter was not obtained at once for the articles were extended from time to time and the charter was not granted "to the Towne and Freeholders of Woodbridge" by the proprietors until June 1, 1669. Piscataway, to the west, was similarly chartered.
The charter created the municipal corporation or township called "by the name of Woodbridge" and described its area by metes and bounds, comprising some six miles square and 23,040 acres exclusive of waste land and highways and bounded by Arthur Kill, the Rahway River, the Piscataway line and the Raritan River. Excepted therefrom was Amboy Point (the central portion of the present City of Perth Amboy), which the proprietors selected as the 1,000 acres reserved to them in the agreement. Included in the chartered area were not only the present Township of Woodbridge, but also the Boroughs of Carteret and Metuchen and porttions of the Township of Edison, City of Rahway and City of Perth Amboy.
The freeholders of the township were empowered to admit other inhabitants and divide the land by majority vote, with allotments to be surveyed and recorded with the Recorder General of the province within three years from the charter date and to be subject to the quit rent. Lands not so patented within the three-year period would revert to the proprietors. A rather full form of local government, including a local court, was also specified, as well as the rights, privileges and obligations of ...