A Dictionary of American History

Author: Thomas L. Purvis  | Date: 1995

New Jersey

New Jersey In the spring of 1643, the first permanent European settlement was made at Fort Nye Elfborg on the Delaware River, as an outpost of New Sweden. The Dutch placed outposts opposite Manhattan as early as 1641, but continuous occupation did not begin until the 1650s. England acquired N.J. with New Netherland on 7 September 1664. On 28 October 1664, English settlement began with purchase of the Elizabeth area. Charles II made N.J. a proprietary colony, from which East Jersey and West Jersey were formed. When East and West Jersey merged on 26 April 1702 as the royal colony of N.J., the population numbered 14,000.

N.J. was settled without provoking Indian hostilities. The New Jersey land disorders resulted from confusion over property titles issued by the proprietors of East Jersey and of West Jersey. At the peak of the Revolutionary War, N.J. provided four of the 80 Continental regiments, but also provided four Tory regiments (see Tories); it was the site of 238 military engagements, more than any other state, and was the war’s major theater from late 1776 to early 1777. N.J. was the third state to ratify the Constitution on 18 December 1787. In 1800 it was the seventh state in size and had 211,149 residents, of whom 8 percent were black, over half were English or Welsh, and a fifth were Dutch.

N.J. abolished slavery by a gradual emancipation law in 1804. By 1860 its population had grown by 218 percent and it had 672,035 people, of whom 4 percent were black and 18 percent were foreign-born; it ranked 20th among the states in population, 13th in the value of its farmland and livestock and 6th in manufactures. In the Civil War, it furnished 76,814 USA troops (including 1,185 blacks), but contained many Copperheads and was one of only three states to vote against Abraham Lincoln’s reelection in 1864.

By 1900 it had 1,883,669 residents, of whom 29 percent were rural, 4 percent black, and 23 percent foreign-born; it ranked 16th in population, 30th in the value of its agricultural products, and 6th in manufactures. Thereafter, its population rose sharply. From 1900 to 1930, it gained 1,096,600 in-migrants, and another 1,360,000 from 1940 to 1970. By 1990 it was the ninth largest state and had 7,730,188 people (74 percent white, 13 percent black, 10 percent Hispanic, 3 percent Asian), of whom 89 percent were urban and 12.5 percent foreign-born. Manufacturing or mining employed 23 percent of workers.


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Chicago: Thomas L. Purvis, "New Jersey," A Dictionary of American History in A Dictionary of American History (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Reference, 1995), Original Sources, accessed March 31, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L82VHFY4EPXJ8TW.

MLA: Purvis, Thomas L. "New Jersey." A Dictionary of American History, in A Dictionary of American History, Cambridge, Mass., Blackwell Reference, 1995, Original Sources. 31 Mar. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L82VHFY4EPXJ8TW.

Harvard: Purvis, TL, 'New Jersey' in A Dictionary of American History. cited in 1995, A Dictionary of American History, Blackwell Reference, Cambridge, Mass.. Original Sources, retrieved 31 March 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L82VHFY4EPXJ8TW.