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New Jersey

New Jersey is the most densely populated state of the United States of America and has the U.S. postal abbreviation of NJ. It is also the fifth smallest state. The state is named after the island of Jersey in the English Channel.

Brief History of New Jersey

Once inhabited by the tribes of the Lenape, the first Europeans to settle the region were the Dutch in the early 1600′s, who formed a settlement at present-day Jersey City. At the time, much of what is now New Jersey was claimed as part of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, which also included parts of present-day New York State and had its capital at New Amsterdam, now known as New York City. Some of southwestern New Jersey was also settled by the Swedes in the mid-1600′s as part of the Swedish colony of New Sweden, which included parts of Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania. These territories were taken by the Dutch in 1655 and incorporated into New Netherland.

The entire region became a territory of Britain in 1664 when a British fleet under the command of Colonel Richard Nicolls sailed into what is today New York Harbor and took over the colony. They met minimal resistance, perhaps because of the unpopularity of the Dutch colonial governor, Peter Stuyvesant. The newly taken lands were divided by King Charles II of England, who gave his brother, the Duke of York (later King James II) the region between New England and Maryland as a proprietary colony (as opposed to a royal colony). James then granted the land between the Hudson River and the Delaware River (the land that would become New Jersey) to two friends who had been loyal through the English Civil War: Sir George Carteret and Lord Berkeley of Stratton.

During the English Civil War the Island of Jersey remained loyal to The English Crown and gave sanctuary to the King. It was from the Royal Square in St. Helier that Charles II of England was first proclaimed King of England in 1649, following the execution of his father, Charles I of England. In 1663 in recognition of his loyalty to the English Crown Sir George Carteret, Jersey′s Royalist Governor, was gifted a large tract of land in North America henceforth known as New Jersey.

Settlement for the first ten years of English rule was in the Hudson River region and came primarily from New England. On March 18, 1673 Berkeley sold his half of New Jersey to Quakers in England (with William Penn acting as trustee for a time) who settled the Delaware Valley region as a Quaker colony. New Jersey was governed as two distinct provinces, West Jersey and East Jersey, for the 28 years between 1674 and 1702. In 1702 the two provinces were united under a royal, rather than a proprietary, governor.

Revolutionary War Era

New Jersey was one of the thirteen colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution.

During the War for Independence, British and American armies crossed New Jersey several times.

In December, 1776, the Continental Army under George Washington crossed the Delaware River and engaged Hessian troops in the Battle of Trenton. The river crossing has become an iconic moment in the early history of the United States of America, having been immortalized in Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze′s painting Washington Crossing the Delaware.

This image was also chosen to represent the State of New Jersey on the reverse side of the 1999 New Jersey State Quarter released by the United States Mint.

Slightly more than a week after victory at Trenton, on January 3, 1777, the American forces scored an important victory over the British under Charles Cornwallis at the Battle of Princeton.

In the summer of 1783, the Continental Congress met in Nassau Hall at Princeton University, making Princeton the country′s capital for four months.

It was there that the Continental Congress learned of the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1783) which ended the war.

On November 20, 1789 the state became the first in the newly-formed Union to ratify the Bill of Rights.

Ironically, on February 15, 1804 New Jersey became the last northern state to abolish slavery by enacting legislation that slowly phased out slavery. However, by the close of the Civil War, several African-Americans in New Jersey were still in bondage and New Jersey initially refused to ratify the Constitutional Amendments banning Slavery and granting rights to America′s black population.

After the war, in the 1790s, when the United States was first founded and Washington, D.C. was being built, Princeton University′s Nassau Hall served as a temporary capital for the fledgling republic.

Modern American History

New Jersey suffered heavy casualties in the September 11 Terrorist Attacks. Of the 3,000 people who died in September 11, 2001, over 650 were commuters and air travelers (United Airlines Flight 93 took off from Newark Airport in New Jersey). This meant the state lost more people in the attacks than any other state except New York.

Miscellaneous Information

  • State bird: American Goldfinch
  • State animal: Horse
  • State flower: Common Violet
  • State tree: Red Oak
  • State song: I′m From New Jersey
  • State fish: Brook Trout
  • State dance: The Square Dance
  • State motto: Liberty and prosperity


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