Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2015

Department 1



New Jersey’s chief executive enjoys more authority than any but a handful of governors in the United States. Historically speaking, however, New Jersey’s governors exercised less influence than met the eye. In the colonial period few proprietary or royal governors were able to make policy in the face of combative assemblies. The Revolutionary generation’s hostility to executive power contributed to a weak governor system that carried over into the 19th and 20th centuries, until the Constitution was thoroughly revised in 1947. Before that date a handful of governors, by dint of their ideas and personalities, affected the polity in meaningful ways. Derived from a lecture delivered at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute on March 11, 2014, this essay focuses on the long history of the executive office, assessing individual governors and delineating the qualities that made them noteworthy, for good or ill.


This article is written about the author's 2014 book, The Governors of New Jersey: Biographical Essays.



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