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Document recovery and amnestry public notice missing documents

Governor Jon Corzine, Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells, and Commissioner of Education Lucille Davy invited citizens of New Jersey to join in celebrating New Jersey Day—an observance of New Jersey's 345th founding as a British proprietary colony—at the State Museum in Trenton on June 24 at 2:00 p.m.  Click here for press articles and photos of the event.

Why is June 24 New Jersey Day?

Background: Over time, the region of the mid-Atlantic that includes our state has had many names.  It is believed by some that the descendants of the Indians who came here over 10,000 years ago called it Lenapehoking.  In 1524, the Italian explorer, Giovanni Da Verrazano, dubbed it Lorraine.  A century later, the Swedes called it New Sweden and the Dutch called it New Netherland.

But the name that has stuck is New Jersey, a term which appeared for the first time ever in a royal grant issued by King Charles II's brother, James, Duke of York on June 24, 1664.  This grant established an English colony named New Jersey on the land bounded by the Delaware River, the Hudson River, and the Atlantic Ocean. That royal grant can be considered New Jersey's birth certificate.

A second birth certificate came on July 4, 1776, when the representatives of the thirteen American colonies created a new nation they called the United States of America.  With the Declaration of Independence, the colony of New Jersey became a state within the new American nation.

 

 

While both of these documents can be called birth certificates, they were radically different.  The 1664 royal grant was a relic of the age of feudalism, when kings and aristocrats made rules without the need to consult with their subjects. The 1776 Declaration of Independence was something new in the world, a statement that threw off the rule of aristocrats and vested the authority for government with the people.

On June 24, 2009 both of these documents were proudly displayed in the New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, in Trenton as part of New Jersey's 345th Birthday Party, a free event open to the public.

Release of James, Duke of York to John Lord Berkeley, and Sir George Carteret, original proprietors of the Colony of New Jersey, June 24, 1664

In March 1664 King Charles II of England granted his brother James, Duke of York lands in the New World including Maine, Long Island and territory between the Connecticut and Delaware Rivers.   On June 24, 1664, James presented a valuable portion of this land to John Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret in recognition of their loyalty to the crown during the English Civil War.  Described by one of the Duke's followers as some of the "most improvabelest land" held by James, this new proprietary colony was called Nova Caesaria or New Jersey.  In a very real sense, this document represents the birth certificate of New Jersey.

Courtesy of the Council of the Proprietors of West New Jersey from their records on deposit with the New Jersey State Archives and recently conserved through the generosity of the Society of Colonial Wars in New Jersey.

 

Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

On July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson completed the final draft of the Declaration of Independence and rushed it to the local print shop of John Dunlap in Philadelphia. Dunlap printed an estimated 200 copies of the document on large poster size sheets of paper called broadsides. These 200 Dunlap broadside copies of the Declaration of Independence were immediately sent out across the colonies on horseback and read aloud. Two copies were also sent to King George to officially declare America as independent from England.

In 1989 a shopper was perusing a flea market when he came across a frame he admired, and purchased it for $4.00. Later, while inspecting a tear in the back of the painting, he discovered a piece of paper wedged between the frame and the painting. He pulled it out and discovered what would soon be authenticated as the 25th remaining copy of the Declaration of Independence.

After being authenticated by the Getty Museum and changing hands a few times, it was up for auction by Sothebys. In 2000, Lyn and Norman Lear purchased this rare, original copy with the goal of bringing "the people's document" directly to the American people. Launched on July 4, 2001, the DOI Road Trip was founded to tour the nation's birth certificate and a multimedia exhibit across the United States, to engage and energize all Americans, particularly young people, to participate in civic activism and to vote.

This document remains as the only touring copy of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration is currently on a national tour made possible by the National Student/Parent Mock Election, the Pearson Foundation, and the non-profit youth voter registration organization Declare Yourself. It is coming to New Jersey because schools in the state are being honored for their high level of participation in the National Student/Parent Mock Election in November 2008. For their role in organizing the mock election, the New Jersey Division of Elections and the New Jersey Press Foundation will be recognized on New Jersey Day.

The Declaration of Independence original copy is owned by Norman Lear, founder of Declare Yourself, and the national tour is being underwritten by the Pearson Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the education and technology company Pearson.

Image courtesy of Declare Yourself.