Image: Trenton Free Public Library
David Brearly was born in 1745 in Spring Grove, New Jersey. His family, originally from Yorkshire, England, first migrated to New Jersey around 1680. Brearly attended, but did not graduate from, the nearby College of New Jersey (later Princeton). He became a lawyer, and originally practiced at Allentown, New Jersey.
Brearly was an avid Revolutionary. The British once arrested him for high treason, but a group of patriots freed him. In 1776, he took part in the convention that drew up the New Jersey state constitution. During Revolutionary War, he rose from a captain to a colonel in the New Jersey militia. In 1779, Brearly was elected Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, a position he held until 1789. In 1780, he presided over the case of Holmes v. Walton, one of the cases that established the principle of judicial review. The next year, he received an honorary Masters of Arts degree the College of New Jersey.
Brearly was one of New Jersey's delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Like his fellow New Jersey delegate, William Paterson, Brearly opposed proportional representation of the states in Congress and was an advocate of the New Jersey Plan. Brearly attended the Convention regularly and chaired the Committee on Postponed Matters. He was one of the signers Constitution and presided at the New Jersey Ratification Convention.
Later Government Office
Brearly served as a presidential elector in 1789. That same year, President Washington appointed him as a federal district judge, and he served in that capacity until his death two years later. Brearly was one of the leading members of the Masonic Order in New Jersey, as well as state vice president of the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of former officers of the Revolutionary War. He was also active in the Episcopal Church. He was a delegate to the Episcopal General Conference (1786) and helped write the church's prayer book.
Brearly was married twice. His first marriage was to Elizabeth Mullen in about 1767. After her death, he married Elizabeth Higbee in 1783. Brearly died in Trenton at the age of 45 in 1790, and is buried there at St. Michael's Episcopal Church.
Jonathan Dayton was born at Elizabethtown (present Elizabeth), New Jersey, in 1760. His father was a storekeeper who was active in local and state politics. Dayton graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) in 1776. He immediately entered the Continental Army and saw extensive action. He achieved the rank of captain by the age of 19 and served under his father, Gen. Elias Dayton, and the Marquis de Lafayette. He was a prisoner of the British for a time and participated in the Battle of Yorktown, VA.
After the war, Dayton returned home, studied law, and went into practice. During the 1780s, he divided his time between land speculation, legal practice, and politics. He sat in the New Jersey Assembly from 1786 to 1787.
Dayton was chosen to be a delegate from New Jersey to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 after the leaders of his political faction, his father and his patron, Abraham Clark, declined to attend. Dayton did not arrive at Philadelphia until June 21 but thereafter faithfully took part in the proceedings. He spoke with moderate frequency during the debates. Although he objected to some provisions of the Constitution, he was nonetheless one of the signers.
Later Government Office
Dayton was elected to the First Congress in 1789, but he declined to serve. Instead, he became a member of the New Jersey Council and Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly. In 1791, however, he did enter the United States House of Representatives, and served as Speaker in the Fourth and Fifth Congresses. A strong Federalist, he supported Alexander Hamilton's fiscal program, suppression of the Whisky Rebellion, Jay's Treaty, and a host of other Federalist measures. He was elected to the Senate in 1799, where he supported the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and, in keeping with his Federalist views, opposed the repeal of the Judiciary Act of 1801
In 1795, Dayton purchased Boxwood Hall in Elizabethtown, where he resided for the remainder of his life. In 1806, illness prevented Dayton from accompanying Aaron Burr's abortive expedition to the Southwest, where Burr apparently intended to conquer Spanish lands and create an empire. Subsequently indicted for treason, Dayton was not prosecuted but could not salvage his national political career. He remained popular in New Jersey, however, continuing to hold local offices and sitting in the assembly from 1814 to 1815.
In 1824, the 63-year-old Dayton played host to Lafayette during his triumphal tour of the United States. He died later that year in Elizabethtown, and is buried there at St. John's Episcopal Church. Because he owned 250,000 acres of Ohio land between the Big and Little Miami Rivers, the city of Dayton was named after him. Dayton was married to Susan Williamson, with whom he had two daughters.
William Houston was born about 1746 to Margaret and Archibald Houston. He attended the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) and graduated in 1768. He became master of the college grammar school, and later its tutor. In 1771, he was appointed professor of mathematics and natural philosophy.
From 1775 to 1776, Houston served as Deputy Secretary of the Continental Congress. He also saw active military service in 1776 and 1777 when, as captain of the foot militia of Somerset County, he engaged in action around Princeton. During the Revolution, Houston also served in the New Jersey Assembly (1777) and the New Jersey Council of Safety (1778). In 1779, he was once again elected to the Continental Congress, where he focused primarily on the areas of supply and finance.
In addition to serving in Congress, Houston remained active in the affairs of the College of New Jersey and also found time to study law. He was admitted to the bar in 1781, and was appointed clerk of the New Jersey Supreme Court in the same year. Houston resigned from the College in 1783 to concentrate on his Trenton law practice. He represented New Jersey in Congress once again in 1784 and 1785.
Houston was one of New Jersey's delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Though illness forced him to leave after one week, he did serve on a committee to consider the distribution of seats in the lower house. Houston did not sign the Constitution, but he signed the report to the New Jersey legislature.
Houston died of tuberculosis on August 12, 1788, leaving his wife Jane, two daughters, and two sons. He is buried in the Second Presbyterian Churchyard in Philadelphia.
Image: New York Historical Society
William Livingston was born in 1723 at Albany, New York. He was raised by his maternal grandmother until he was fourteen, and then spent a year with a missionary among the Mohawk Indians. He attended Yale and graduated in 1741. Despite his family's hope that he would enter the fur trade or mercantile pursuits, Livingston chose to pursue a career in law. Before he completed his legal studies, in 1745 he married Susanna French, the daughter of a wealthy New Jersey landowner. They had thirteen children.
Livingston was admitted to the bar in 1748. Associated with the Calvinists in religion, he opposed the dominant Anglican leaders in the colony and wielded a sharply satirical pen in verses and broadsides. Livingston attacked the Anglican attempt to charter and control King's College (later Columbia College and University) and the dominant De Lancey party for its Anglican sympathies. By 1761, Livingston had risen to the leadership of his faction in the colonial assembly. For a decade, his faction controlled the assembly and fought against parliamentary interference in the colony's affairs.
In 1769, Livingston's supporters, split by the growing debate as to how to respond to British taxation of the colonies, lost control of the assembly. Not long thereafter, Livingston, who had also grown tired of legal practice, moved to Elizabethtown (present Elizabeth), New Jersey. There, in 1772-73, he built an estate, Liberty Hall, continued to write verse, and planned to live the life of a gentleman farmer.
The Revolutionary War brought Livingston out of retirement. He became a member of the Essex County, New Jersey Committee of Correspondence. He served in the First Continental Congress in 1774, and in the Second Continental Congress in 1775-76. In June 1776, he left Congress to command the New Jersey Militia as a brigadier general. Later that year, he was elected as the first Governor of New Jersey.
Livingston continued to enjoy his estate whenever possible. He conducted agricultural experiments, and became a member of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture. He was also active in the anti-slavery movement.
In 1787, Livingston was selected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, though his gubernatorial duties prevented him from attending every session. He did not arrive until June 5, and missed several weeks in July, but he performed vital committee work, particularly as chairman of the committee that reached a compromise on the issue of slavery. He also supported the New Jersey Plan. In addition, he spurred New Jersey's rapid ratification of the Constitution.
Later Government Office
After the Constitutional Convention, Livingston continued to serve as Governor of New Jersey until his death three years later. In 1788, Yale University awarded him an honorary Juris Doctorate degree. Livingston died at Liberty Hall in 1790 at the age of 67, and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.
Image: U.S. Supreme Court
William Paterson (Patterson) was born in County Antrim, Ireland, in 1745. His family emigrated to America when he was about two years old. His father was a tinware merchant, and the family moved from Delaware to Connecticut before settling in New Jersey. Paterson attended local private schools and later, the College of New Jersey (later Princeton). He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1763, and a Masters of Arts degree three years later.
Paterson studied law in the city of Princeton under Richard Stockton, who later was to sign the Declaration of Independence. He began practicing law toward the end of the 1780s. By 1779, he had settled near New Brunswick, New Jersey at Raritan estate.
When the War for Independence broke out, Paterson joined the vanguard of New Jersey patriots. He served in the Provincial Congress (1775-76), as well as on the Legislative Council (1776-77) and the Council of Safety (1777). He also held a militia commission. From 1776 to 1783, he was Attorney General of New Jersey, a task that occupied so much of his time that it prevented him from accepting election to the Continental Congress in 1780.
Paterson was one of New Jersey's delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. He only attended until late July, but was nonetheless a prominent figure. He co-authored the New Jersey, or Paterson, Plan, which protected the rights of the small states against the large. He returned to the Convention to sign the Constitution.
Later Government Office
Paterson was elected to the United States Senate in 1789, where he played a pivotal role in drafting the Judiciary Act of 1789. In 1790, he became Governor of New Jersey. Shortly thereafter, he began work on the volume later published as Laws of the State of New Jersey (1800) and began to revise the rules and practices of the Chancery and Common Law courts. In 1793, Paterson was appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Paterson was married twice. He and his first wife, Cornelia Bell, had three children before her death in 1783. Two years later, he married Euphemia White. He died in September 1806, and is buried in the Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, New York.