Revolution and confederation period: New Jersey at the crossroads

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© 2012 by Rutgers, The State University. All rights reserved. The American Revolution came slowly to the colony of New Jersey. There were no dramatic revolutionary moments such as the Boston Massacre or the Boston Tea Party (although New Jersey did have a couple of "tea parties" of its own). There was no equivalent of Patrick Henry's famous "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech.1 New Jersey was a relatively quiet place during the late colonial period. Most of the 122,000 inhabitants at the time of the American Revolution were planters who owned modest tracts of farmland. The colony had no major cities, few large merchants, and a heterogeneous population that made unified political action difficult. When the American Revolution eventually did overtake New Jersey, it came with a bang. The state was the site of some of the most important battles in the war. Th is "Crossroads of the Revolution" was trampled upon and severely damaged by British and American forces. In the wake of the war, thousands of damage claims were filed. New Jersey also served as winter headquarters for both armies. And it was the site of fierce civilian conflict between patriots and loyalists. According to one estimate, more than six hundred battles and skirmishes took place on New Jersey soil.2 As a small state, New Jersey had its doubts about the Articles of Confederation, but its leadership ratified the document nevertheless. In 1787 it was the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. New Jersey's postwar economic ills and its commitment to remedying those ills, particularly as they related to trade and monetary policy, made its political leaders strong supporters of a federal union.


Originally published as: Lurie, M. N., Veit, R. F., & Lurie, M. (Eds.). (2019). 3. Revolution and confederation period new jersey at the crossroads. In M. J. Birkner, H. Gillette, G. K. Piehler, B. Greenberg, L. Greene, G. R. G. Hodges, J. Fea, P. Israel, M. Mappen, M. N. Lurie, & R. Veit, New Jersey (pp. 64–89). Rutgers University Press. https://doi.org/10.36019/9780813554105-007

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