The possession of New Jersey was originally contested for by the English, Dutch and Swedes. For a while New Jersey was annexed to New Amsterdam, and later passed with this colony to England, in 1664.

The government of New Jersey under English rule underwent many rapid changes. The territory was part of the grant to James, Duke of York, and was by him granted to two of his favorites, Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. These proprietors established a liberal form of government and offered liberal terms to purchasers of land and many settlers were soon attracted to the province. After a few years a great deal of trouble began to be experienced in connection with land titles and quit-rents, which resulted in continued agitation, and on one occasion in open rebellion. In 1676 Lord Berkeley sold his undivided one-half interest in the colony to William Penn and a number of other Quakers. New Jersey was shortly afterward divided into two colonies, the Quakers taking West Jersey and Sir George Carteret receiving East Jersey. In 1682, East Jersey was likewise purchased by the Quakers. During a portion of the reign of James II, New Jersey was united with all the colonies lying north of her, under the rule of Governor Andros, but upon the accession of William and Mary was restored to her Quaker Proprietors. In 1702, after the Quakers had secured possession of Pennsylvania and Delaware, New Jersey was surrendered to the King. From 1702 to 1739, New Jersey was annexed to New York, but in the latter year was made a separate royal province with the form of government usual in such colonies. The population of New Jersey was of very diverse character. The Tory sentiment was very strong in this colony during the revolution period.