From Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant
Trenton 19. July 1776
I am told You are alarmed at Philadelphia with the last clause in our charter.1 That and another respecting Judges2 was hard fought; especially that of Reconciliation, upon a Motion to defer printing the Copy ’till it could be reconsidered.
However we have formally ratified Independency and assumed the Stile of the Convention of the State of New Jersey.3 This very unanimously, and the Votes go down by this Express to the printer.
We are mending very fast here. East Jersey were always firm; West Jersey will now move with Vigour. The Tories in some parts disturbed us; but they have hurt us more by impeding the Business of the Convention and harassing with an Infinity of Hearings. But for this we have provided a Remedy by an Ordinance for trying Treasons Seditions and Counterfeitings.4 And now we shall apply our chief Attention to Military Matters, for which End we remove to Brunswick on Monday, after delaying it too long. In haste, Sir, Yours
Jona D Sergeant
P.S. Since writing the above, I find Time to add. May I beg the Favour of a Line from You once in a while. We want Wisdom here. Raw, young and unexperienced as your humble Servant is, I am really forced to bear a principal part. Would to Heaven that I could look round here, as when with You, and see a Number in whose Understanding I could confide. But we have a miserable prejudice against Men of Education in this State. Plain Men are generally returned, of sufficient Honesty and Spirit, but most of them hardly competent to the penning of a common Vote.
I wrote to You from Bristol more than a Month ago; but received no Answer. Did You receive it? Our new Delegates You find sound and hearty.
You will pardon the Freedom I have repeatedly taken, and favour me with a Line in Answer. Your most obedt.
J. D S.
Upon Recollection it was Mr. S. Adams, I wrote to from Bristol. Will You ask him if he received it?
RC (Adams Papers).
1. The last clause of New Jersey’s charter read: “Provided always, and it is the true intent and meaning of this Congress, that if a reconciliation between Great-Britain and these Colonies should take place, and the latter be taken again under the protection and government of the crown of Britain, this Charter shall be null and void—otherwise to remain firm and inviolable.” This charter was passed 2 July (Thorpe, Federal and State Constitutions description begins Francis N. Thorpe, ed., The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America, Washington, 1909; 7 vols. description ends , 5:2598).
2. Art. XII set terms for Supreme Court judges at seven years and those for inferior judges at five, with reappointment possible for both. Art. XX denied a seat in the assembly to all judges and others who held places of profit in the government, with the exception of justices of the peace (same description begins Francis N. Thorpe, ed., The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America, Washington, 1909; 7 vols. description ends , p. 2596, 2598). JA, of course, believed in judicial tenure during good behavior, but he would have approved the intent of Art. XX.
3. The charter referred throughout to the Colony of New Jersey. The avoidance of the term “constitution” was itself significant. The designation “State of New Jersey” was enacted on 18 July (Minutes of the Provincial Congress and the Council of Safety . . . , Trenton, 1879, p. 511).
4. The ordinance, passed 18 July, provided the death penalty for those levying war against the state, giving aid or comfort to the King of Great Britain or his associates, and counterfeiting the paper currency of any of the states or the congress (Force, Archives description begins [Peter Force, ed.,] American Archives: Consisting of a Collection of Authentick Records, State Papers, Debates, and Letters and Other Notices of Publick Affairs, Washington, 1837–1853; 9 vols. description ends , 5th ser., 1:412–413).