History of New Jersey
During the Jurassic Period of prehistory, the area which is now New Jersey bordered North Africa. The Appalachian Mountains are the result of the collision and the pressure resulting from the collision of Africa and North America. During the Ice Age which took place some 18000 years ago, some glaciers reached the area and their subsequent retreat resulted in the creation of Lake Passaic, along with many gorges, swamps and rivers. Originally, the territory of the state was inhabited by Native American tribes, in particular the Lenni-Lenape who were present at the time when Europeans started colonizing America. Being not so tightly organized, Lenape practiced agriculture on smaller scale. One of the main cultures was corn. Their society consisted of clans which were based upon the common female ancestry. They were divided into three separate brotherhoods, each with an animal sign (Wolf, Turkey and Turtle) which was used for identification. Their first encounter with the Europeans was in the 17th century when they witnessed the arrival of the Dutch. Later, their relationship with the colonists from across the Atlantic was mainly based on fur trade.
The Dutch settlers were the first ones to claim New Jersey area as their own, founding the colony of New Netherland which covered the area which now belongs to several Middle Atlantic states. The Lenape did not recognize the principle according to which anyone could own land, but the policy of Dutch West India Company still demanded that the colonists buy the land that they intend to settle. Michiel Pauw was the first one to purchase land and he named it Pavonia. Pavonia was situated along the North River and became the Bergen. Another colonist, by the name of Peter Minuit, bought the lands around the Delaware River and named the colony New Sweden. However, the whole area soon came under the British rule, when in 1664 Colonel Richard Nicolls and his fleet sailed into Fort Amsterdam.
After the English Civil War, the region was divided into two parts - the one between New England and Maryland became a proprietary colony and was given to the Duke of York, who decided to give the land between the Delaware River and the Hudson River to two friends and loyal royal subjects in the war - Baron John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret who named the area the Province of New Jersey.
Religious and ethnic diversity were one of the main characteristics of the state from the day of its founding. The settlers who belonged to Dutch Reformed Church, as well as Presbyterians from Scotland lived together with Congregationalists. The largest number of people lived in towns, and held land not larger than 40 ha (100 acres), but there were also some rich landowners who possessed much larger areas of land. Anglicans and Quakers from England were in possession of vast amounts of land. New Jersey was settled mostly by migrants who came from other colonies, rather than directly from Europe, as it was the case with Jamestown, Plymouth and other colonies. Throughout the colonial age, New Jersey was mostly rural, with the exception of some important port towns such as Perth Amboy and Burlington on the Delaware River, which became the hubs for transport to Philadelphia and New York. Known for its tolerance in the issues of religion as well as its fertile ground, New Jersey quickly grew in size and by 1775 had the population of 120 thousand people.
Between 1674 and 1702, New Jersey was split into two provinces, West and East Jersey. A royal governor Lord Cornbury (Edward Hyde) reunited the provinces in 1702 and the resulting province was not proprietary any more but became a royal colony. However, being corrupt, ineffective and easy to bribe, Edward Hyde was sent back to England in 1708, leaving the province to be ruled by the New York governors. The colonists in New Jersey soon started protesting against this decision and in 1738 a separate governor position was reinstated by King George the Second and given to the person who was the leader in advocating for it - Judge Lewis Morris.
Being one of the 13 colonies which started the American Revolution, New Jersey played a prominent part in the fight against British supremacy. It is now known as ‘The Crossroads of the Revolution’, due to a number of important battles which were fought in the state, such as the First and the Second Battle of Trenton and the Battle of Monmouth. Among the signers of the United States Declaration of Independence there were 5 representatives of New Jersey: Abraham Clark, John Hart, Francis Hopkinson, John Witherspoon and Richard Stockton.
New Jersey was the last state from the North to abolish slavery. Although more than 80,000 people from New Jersey participated in the Civil War on the side of the Union, no battles took place in the state.
During the years of the Industrial Revolution a number of cities in New Jersey prospered. The state was home to the famous inventor Thomas Edison, who worked in New Jersey during his life. His New Jersey research laboratories are considered to be the first of their kind in the United States. The twentieth century was an age of prosperity for the state, especially the third decade which brought many inventions of the early 1900s into New Jersey.
New Jersey Economy
The gross state product of New Jersey was estimated (by the Bureau of Economic Analysis) to be $487 billion in 2010. The rate of unemployment in the state is 9% (January 2012 estimation). In 2008, New Jersey's per capita gross state product ($54,669) was higher than the national per capita gross domestic product ($46,588). The state also boasts the 3rd highest per-capita income ($51,358), and nine of its counties rank among the wealthiest 100 in the United States.
Income tax rates in New Jersey range from 1.4 to 8.97% and are determined with seven tax brackets. All retail sales are subject to 7% sales tax rate, except for the certain predetermined products such as medicines, footwear or food that needs to be prepared at home.
The state ranks number one in the highest disparity between the money given to the federal government ($77 million) and the money received ($55 million).
The economy of New Jersey is mostly focused on electronic equipment, printing, publishing, tourism, food processing, telecommunications, chemical development, the financial industry and the pharmaceutical industry. Some of the important products of New Jersey are blueberry (the state ranks 2nd in the US according to its production), spinach and cranberry (ranks 3rd for both), asparagus, head lettuce, peach and bell pepper (4th in the US) dairy products, seafood, nuts and fruits, vegetables, horses and nursery stock.
The scientific branch of the economy of New Jersey is very strong. Many important telecommunication companies are located in the state, such as AT&T Communications, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya and Verizon Wireless. Some of the best known pharmaceutical companies have their headquarters in the state - Bristol-Myers Squibb, Hoffman-LaRoche, Merck, Pfizer, Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis and Johnson and Johnson. New Jersey is also the home of 24 Fortune 500 companies.
The strong service economy of New Jersey owes a lot to the proximity of New York and Philadelphia, major business centers. This is also the reason why Newark Liberty International Airport is the 7th busiest airport in the United States, as well as in the top 20 of the world's busiest airports. New Jersey's location made it one of the most important commercial hubs in the US, while Atlantic City and other seaside and lake resorts made it rank 5th according to the profit from tourism.
New Jersey Geography and Climate
On the north and on the northeast, New Jersey borders New York (across the Arthur Kill, Newark Bay, Kill Van Kull, Upper New York Bay and the Hudson River). On the southwest, the state borders Delaware while on the west, across the Delaware River, it borders Pennsylvania. The eastern border is the Atlantic Ocean.
Natural geography and population-wise, New Jersey can be divided into 5 regions: Northeastern New Jersey (also known as the Gateway region, situated in the New York City Metropolitan Area), Northwestern New Jersey (a mountainous, rural region), the Shore (the coast of the Atlantic Ocean), the Pine Barrens (another rural region covered by forest - mixed oak and pine) and the Delaware Valley (the counties of the southwest which are in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area). At 1,803 feet, High Point in the county Sussex is the highest elevation in New Jersey.
The Toms, Maurice, Manasquan, Mullica, Rancocas, Musconetcong, Rathway, Hackensack, Passaic, Raritan, Delaware and Hudson rivers are some of the major rivers in the state.
The climate of New Jersey varies with regions of the state. A humid mesothermal climate is characteristic for the northeast, central and south regions of the state, while the higher elevation of the northwest part conditions a humid continental climate. On the annual level, New Jersey has between 2,400 and 2,800 hours of sunshine.
New Jersey's summers are humid and hot, with average high temperatures up to 82-88°F and average lows of 60-70°F. Winters are cold (average high 38-46°F, average low 26-32°F), especially in the northwest, where the average lows are below freezing point. Springs and autumns differ from summer, with lower humidity and temperature fluctuations. Annually, New Jersey receives from 43 to 51 inches of precipitation on average.
Population of New Jersey
According to the United States Census Bureau, the population of New Jersey on July 1, 2011 was estimated to be 8,821,155, which is a third of a percent increase compared to the census of 2010, when there were 8,791,894 "New Jerseyans" (or "New Jerseyites) in the state. With 68.6% share in the racial profile of the state, Whites are the most frequent race, followed by 13.7% of African Americans, 8.3% of Asians, Native Americans which take part with 0.3%, mixed races with 2.7% and other races with 6.4%. 17.7% of the people are Latino or Hispanic.
New Jersey has one of the highest percentages (6.4%) of illegal immigrants in the US - it ranks 4th among all the states with a 2010 estimate of 550,000 illegal immigrants. Furthermore, according to the data from 2005, there were 1,600,000 (19.2% of New Jersey's population) non-US born residents in the state.
The census of 2010 places New Jersey at the 8th place on the list of the most populous US states, and ranks it as the state with the densest population in the country (with 1,185 residents per square mile).
New Jersey boasts both religious and ethnic diversity. After New York, the state has the largest Jewish population in the United States; after Michigan, it is the state with the largest number of Muslims in the country, and after Florida, it has the largest number of Cubans. The minorities often live in non-English speaking communities - which results in many languages being spoken across the state, such as Russian, Turkish, Portuguese, Malayam, Tamil, Telugu, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Tagalog, Hindi and Gujarati, together with the most frequent Spanish, Polish and Italian.
There are more than 20 registered religious groups in New Jersey, the most numerous being the Catholics which make up 37% of the population. Non-religious people are at the second place with 15%, followed by the Baptists (8%) and Methodists (6%). Jewish religion is the religion of 2% of the people while Muslims are represented with 1%.
New Jersey Government and Legislature
The head of the executive branch of New Jersey government is the Governor of New Jersey, widely considered among the most influential positions in the country. The Governor's office is divided into departments (according to the constitution of the state, there can be no more than 20 departments), and temporary commissions which may or may not be formed, depending on the need. Since 2010, the Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey may be the head of one of the departments.
One of the roles of the governor is to appoint the state officers - the New Jersey Secretary of State and the New Jersey Attorney General. These decisions are subject to the senate approval. The duties of the executive branch mostly revolve around administering the state budget and enforcing the laws made by the state’s legislative branch.
According to the currently valid New Jersey Constitution from 1947, New Jersey Legislature is bicameral, and consists of two houses - the 40 members Senate (the upper house) and the General Assembly (the lower house) which consists of 80 delegates. Members of the assembly are elected in odd numbered years (their terms last for 2 years), while the senators are elected on the years which end in 1, 3 and 7 (which means they serve for either 2 or 4 years, depending on the circumstance). The primary function of the legislative state is proposing new bills and making them into laws.
The highest judicial body in the state is the New Jersey Supreme Court which is comprised of six Associate Justices headed by a Chief Justice. The state governor appoints them all, after consultations and approval of the majority of the Senate. Justices are chosen to serve for seven years and may be re-elected until they reach 70 years of age when they have to retire.
The courts which handle all the cases of lesser importance, such as traffic tickets and minor offenses are the Municipal Courts, while the Superior Courts in each county deal with the serious civil and criminal cases. Similar to Delaware and unlike any other state in the US, New Jersey possesses separate courts of equity and law. Some other judicial institutions in New Jersey are an Appellate Division of a Superior Court and a Tax Court.
The state consists of 21 counties, out of which 13 are formed in the Colonial Age. The rest were created by dividing the counties which existed before. The officials which are elected to run counties are called "Freeholders" which is a unique name for the representatives in the US. The Freeholders govern their counties through the Board of Chosen Freeholders. In most of the counties, this board performs both executive and legislative functions except for the counties Mercer, Hudson, Essex, Bergen and Atlantic, in which people elect a County Executive who is in charge of performing executive functions (the Board still performs the legislative role and oversees the executive branch.
There are 566 municipalities currently in New Jersey, the last change taking place in 1997 when Pahaquarry Township was incorporated into Hardwick Township. There are five types of municipalities in New Jersey: a borough, township, city, town and village. After the statewide reform of the municipal government which started in the first half of the 20th century, they differ in little more than just a name.
Education in New Jersey
According to the data of 2010, there are 605 school districts in New Jersey. The Education Advancement Initiative was created by New Jersey's Secretary of Education Rick Rosenberg in order to increase by 10% the percentage of the admission to college for New Jersey high schoolers. The aim of the initiative was also to lower the dropout percentage by 15% and raise the amount of money that schools receive by 10%. This initiative faced obstacles when the critics objected that healthcare funds suffered because the money was reallocated in order to fund this project.
The most famous institution of higher education in New Jersey is the Princeton University in Princeton, Mercer County, which is the top ranked US university in 2012 according to US News & World Report, sharing the title with Harvard University in Massachusetts.
New Jersey Transportation
One of the most famous and trafficked roads in the country is located in New Jersey - the toll road called The New Jersey Turnpike, or just Turnpike. It connects the East Coast, specifically the states of Delaware and New York. This road is famous for a large number of rest-areas which have the names of the famous New Jerseyites - from football coach Vince Lombardi to Thomas Edison and Woodrow Wilson.
Air Traffic is also very developed in New Jersey, the Newark Liberty International Airport being one of the airports with the most traffic in the United States. Together with LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports, it covers the needs of the New York City region. There are also two smaller airports that provide commercial flights in New Jersey - Trenton-Mercer Airport and Atlantic City International Airport. New Jersey also boasts good coverage of rail and bus services, under the control of the New Jersey Transit Corporation.