Today in History

Today in History: December 18

New Jersey Ratifies the Constitution

Now be it known, that we, the delegates of the state of New Jersey, chosen by the people thereof, for the purpose aforesaid, having maturely deliberated on and considered the aforesaid proposed Constitution, do hereby, for and on the behalf of the people of the said state of New Jersey, agree to, ratify, and confirm, the same and every part thereof.

"In Convention of the State of New Jersey" in The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (Elliot's Debates, Vol., 1).
A Century of Lawmaking for the New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875

The New Jersey ratifying caucus approved the Constitution on December 18, 1787. Highly critical of the Articles of Confederation, the delegates acted quickly to ratify the new constitution. Following the votes of Delaware and Pennsylvania, New Jersey was the third state to join the Union.

Map of New Jersey
A New Mapp of East and West New Jarsey [sic]: Being An Exact Survey by Mr. John Worlidge, London, 1706.
Map Collections

Prior to the American Revolution, New Jersey was part of the original land grant to the Duke of York. He, in turn, granted it to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret in June 1664. The province was divided, in 1676, between the proprietors. By that division, East New Jersey was assigned to Carteret, and West New Jersey to William Penn and others, who had purchased it from Lord Berkeley. The division and divisiveness continued until Queen Anne, in April 1702, reunited both provinces into one province, and by commission appointed a governor over them.

In the nineteenth century, New Jersey was nicknamed "The Garden State." Abraham Browning, a Camden attorney, is credited with the name, noting that the "Garden State is an immense barrel, filled with good things to eat and open at both ends, with Pennsylvanians grabbing from one end and New Yorkers from the other." Over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, however, farmland gave way to urban industry. Today New Jersey exports manufactured goods around the world and is a center of the biotechnology industry.

Tourism is another important industry for New Jersey. Since the nineteenth century, city dwellers have sought cool ocean breezes on the 125 miles of New Jersey coastline. President U. S. Grant was among vacationers who flocked to resorts at Long Branch and Cape May. First opened in 1870—and then only eight feet wide, the Atlantic City boardwalk continues to draw visitors to its beaches and casinos.

New Jersey is home to Princeton University and Rutgers University. Singer Frank Sinatra, suffragist Alice Paul, and football coach Alonzo Stagg were born in the Garden State.

Panoram of Trenton, New Jersey, 1909.
Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991

The American Memory collections contain a wide variety of resources relating to New Jersey.

Three people laying on the Atlantic City beach
Atlantic City Idyl, New Jersey,
Carl Van Vechten, photographer,
June 13, 1937.
Creative Americans: Portraits by Carl Van Vechten, 1932-1964