The Jarring Interests

New York's Boundary Makers, 1664-1776

By Philip J. Schwarz

Subjects: New York/regional
Paperback : 9781438445762, 359 pages, May 2012
Hardcover : 9780873953771, 359 pages, January 1979

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Examines the process by which most of New York’s modern boundaries were created.


Focusing on the men who fought, schemed, argued, petitioned, and maneuvered at all levels of government to resolve the intercolonial disputes over land in America, the author analyzes the tangled webs of interest involved in the conflicts. These controversies are seen to necessitate the use of all available legal and political techniques. Meticulously researched in nearly a dozen manuscript repositories as well as the "public record" and with maps to illustrate the varied interests and entanglements with neighboring colonies.

Territorial conflicts between colonies convincingly bear out historian Bernard Bailyn's characterization of much of eighteenth-century provincial politics as the "almost unchartable chaos of competing groups." But the key to New York's boundary disputes is that their settlement required the successful harmonization of discordant interest groups on the local, intercolonial, and Anglo-American levels. This study shows how New York's boundary makers, who had long experience with their province's particularly factionalized politics and with the ever-shifting politics of the Anglo-American connection, managed frequently "to conciliate the jarring interests." The major methodological error of the very few previous studies of boundary quarrels was to rely too heavily on the public record, which was so amply, if not always accurately, made available in nineteenth-century publications of the state of New York. It would be equally mistaken to take private records as the sole repository of a hidden truth, however. The nature of New York's boundary disputes can be made apparent from the public records if they are interpreted with the help of the private sources.

Philip J. Schwarz is Professor Emeritus of History at Virginia Commonwealth University.


"A comprehensive account of a significant but often neglected feature of colonial New York history—the resolution of the province's principal boundary disputes with its neighbors … a valuable analysis of the complex political, economic, and social interests underlying New York's expansionist thrusts … an informative monograph on a subject that should be of interest to all those concerned with the study of colonial American history." — Journal of American History

"Schwarz is at his best in delineating the structure of the imperial decision-making process and the politics of boundary settlements. His research is meticulous and thorough, and his conclusions are well argued … A volume that thoroughly explains the long and arduous process by which most of New York's modern boundaries were created." — William and Mary Quarterly