Featured next is New Jersey’s original Bill of Rights manuscript containing, in fact, twelve constitutional amendments proposed in 1789. Our state holds the honor of having been the first to ratify the Bill on November 20th, 1789. New Jersey approved eleven of the proposed amendments. The first, prescribing a formula for representation in Congress based on population, was approved by New Jersey but not the required number of states. The now-framed manuscript Bill of Rights, originally filed in the Office of the Secretary of State, includes the prominent signatures of Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and John Adams, Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate.
The fourth section of the new website exhibits New Jersey’s legislative actions relating to the 27 federal constitutional amendments, starting with the ten that became the Bill of Rights, through the 27th Amendment, ratified in 1992. Ironically, the 27th Amendment, prohibiting Congress from increasing the pay of members during its current session, was the only one of the twelve proposed in 1789 not ratified by New Jersey at that time. The history of the 14th Amendment—which among other things guaranteed the rights of citizenship and suffrage to freed male slaves—also has a fascinating history in our state. New Jersey ratified this amendment in 1866, then withdrew its ratification in 1868 (which action was vetoed by Governor Marcus Ward and then overridden), and then in 2003 the legislature finally revoked the withdrawal.
The exciting new website was produced by the State Archives Publication Unit, including Veronica Calder, Lois Bredlow and Joanne Nestor, under the direction of Joseph Klett, Chief of Archives. It is the second major addition to the “Documentary Treasures” area in the State Archives’ website, following New Jersey’s own state constitutions of 1776, 1844 and 1947.