THE ELECTION OF CONVENTION DELEGATES
27 November-1 December 1787
The resolutions calling for the election on 27 November of three Convention delegates from each county, provided that the voters should have the same qualifications as voters for members of the General Assembly: be adults worth £50 proclamation money and be residents of a county for a year.
The elections were conducted according to “the Rules and Regulations prescribed” for the election of assemblymen as set forth in the election law of 16 December 1783. Eight counties voted viva voce, while the other five used the secret ballot. Five counties had only one polling place, while eight had multiple sites to which sheriffs could move the polls if they thought it necessary. The polls were to stay open “a reasonable Time,” a phrase which enabled sheriffs to keep the polls open for several days if they decided to do so.
Only one assemblyman, Matthew Whilldin, and one councilor, Jeremiah Eldredge, both form Cape May County, were elected to the Convention. State Supreme Court Chief Justice David Brearley was the only delegate to the Constitutional Convention elected to the Convention.
Essex County Election Notice, 5 November
In compliance with the above resolutions of the legislature, I do hereby give notice to the people of the county of Essex, that an election will be held at the courthouse in Newark, for the choice of delegates to represent this county in the state Convention as above mentioned.
Caleb Camp, sheriff
Robert Morris to Peter Wilson
New York, 22 November
Returning from Trenton I was informed that an Antifederal character to this city had been up into your county [Bergen] to disseminate his principles; and that to give them efficacy, a candidate in some measure under his influence (but having interest in the county) was nominated for the ensuing Convention. That you had declined being held up as a candidate, and had given your sentiments that the representation in the legislature and in the Convention were incompatible. Now sir, tho I think there will be no danger but the Jersey Convention will adopt the proposed Constitution, yet I consider it as a matter of so much consequence to New Jersey that no avoidable hazard ought to be risked. I have therefore taken up my pen, not to mix in politics (I have done with them), but to prevail on a man of judgment, interest, and integrity not to withdraw himself when his country needs his service. The Convention will be generally composed of respectable characters, the duty will be short, and the service honorable and instructing. Under such circumstances both duty and inclination should prompt you to stand forth. If they will not, I have little hope that my persuasions will work any effect, but remember that if you decline and a rejection in whole, or by the Bergen members only, is the consequence that I will both privately and publicly give you the blame. Besides standing a candidate yourself, I think you ought to hold up [John] Outwater and [Adam] Boyd or some other Federal characters as Isaac Blanch, if he is not poisoned, who have sufficient interest to carry an election against an opposition, which I conceive is to be apprehended if the aforesaid Antifederal gentleman has had any success in his machinations. I understand Mr. Wade is proposed. I am persuaded he may be relied on, but I fear he has not sufficient interest in case of opposition and that he will be postponed to your neighbor and many other characters of old and respectable standing in the county who may be set up in the opposite interest. Nicholls ought not be trusted on this question nor any man whose connections in this state are in the opposition as is supposed to be the case with his. Men of Federal sentiments and clear interest ought only to be attempted where so much is at stake. I am so fully convinced of your attachment to the general interest of New Jersey that I rely you will not take amiss this expression of my solicitude and in this assurance remain with sincere respect your very humble servant.
Joseph Lewis: On the Morris County Election
27 November-1 December
Tuesday 27th. Clear morning again but some clouds afternoon. This day I served as clerk at our election of candidates for the state Convention to ratify the Federal Constitution.
Wednesday 28th. Clear. This day I again attended the election at the courthouse….
Thursday 29th. Cloudy and cool. This day I attended the election at Troy.
Friday 30th. Clear and cool. Afternoon cloudy and little rain. I went to attend the election at Rockaway (Howell’s Tavern). Captain Daniel Derrington rode with me. I lodged at Colonel Lindsley’s.
Saturday 1st December. Election held and closed this evening at the courthouse. Will Woodhull, John Jacob Faesch, and Will Winds, esquires were elected.
New Jersey Journal, 5 December
The returns from the different counties for members to serve in Convention, which have come to our knowledge, are highly pleasing. They are men of superior political knowledge and tantamount to the task of confirming or rejecting the new federal system. For
Somerset. Dr. Witherspoon, the Reverend Mr. Hardenburgh, and Colonel Frelinghuysen.
Essex. John Chetwood, Esquire, Colonel Samuel Hay, and Mr. David Crane.
Robert R. Livingston to John Stevens, Sr.
New York, 8 December (excerpt)
I am very glad to hear the choice your county [Hunterdon] has made of members for the Convention, and hope from the general complexion of your state that you will have the honor of being the first in acceding to the new Constitution.