This Week in History: Celebrate Garden State’s Birthday!

Light the candles and put on your party hat. It’s New Jersey’s birthday!

Garden State celebrated its 235th anniversary this week. On December 18, 1787, New Jersey formally ratified the United States Constitution. Upon ratification, the Garden State will become her third state in the newly formed nation. But how did this come about?

New Jersey was first founded in 1609 by Henry Hudson, a marine explorer and navigator. Hudson declared the province of Holland and subsequently named his nascent colony New Netherland. The Dutch West India Trading Company provided land grants to facilitate settlement, attracting various immigrants from Sweden and Holland. The area remained Dutch until 1664, when England sent British warships into New York Harbor. After the arrival of the British, the Dutch handed over control of the area to the English settlers.

New Jersey eventually received a permanent name after the British occupied the land. On June 24, 1664, Lord Berkeley and George his Carteret took ownership of the land between the Hudson and Delaware rivers, eventually coming to be called New Jersey. This land was divided into his two regions, East Jersey (now North Jersey) and West Jersey (now South Jersey). The land charter named the area New Jersey in honor of Carteret’s defense of Jersey during the English Civil War. As the area continued to develop, more and more immigrants flocked to the area.

In the 1670s, Quakers, Finns, Swedes, and Dutch began immigrating to New Jersey. Settlers in the area began to form strong ties with surrounding communities, such as Philadelphia, establishing a culture of progressive government and religious freedom. New Jersey was temporarily divided into her two regions, but was eventually united after England regained control. In typical New Jersey fashion, early New Jerseyans turned the dynamics of British rule on their heads rather than suffering from the rigors of it. The governor will bear most of the suffering. New Jersey shared the governorship with New York until 1738, when New Jersey eventually gained Governor Lewis Morris. When asked how the state should handle his reign, MPs said, “Let’s keep the governors poor and we’ll let them do as they please.”

Tensions continued to rise among settlers in the area until the American Revolutionary War began in 1776. New Jersey was ultimately the site of over 100 battles during the Revolutionary War. The most famous is the Battle of Trenton. After winning the Battle of Trenton, Washington and his army also won the Battle of Princeton a week later. These victories galvanized American military efforts and ultimately allowed America to win its independence. By 1781 the United States had virtually won the war, and by 1783 the fighting was officially over. As the newly formed nation began to form, New Jersey became her third state to ratify the United States Constitution. 235 years later, New Jersey is still making history.

As we celebrate the Garden State’s 235th anniversary, let’s remember the generations of New Jerseyans who brought us to where we are today.


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