ALTHOUGH government in New Jersey is essentially the same in general pattern as in each of the other 47 States, there is an amazing number of important differences. In this treatment of the constitutional and political structure of the State, emphasis is placed on these differences as well as on the antiquities and the innovations of which New Jersey citizens are especially proud.
At the outset of the Revolution the fourth Provincial Congress of New Jersey transformed itself into a constitutional convention and on July 2, 1776, adopted a constitution which contained a declaration of independence. New Jersey was the fourth Colony to take this step; and although the work was done hastily and was not intended to be permanent, the constitution was retained for 68 years.
Reflecting the antagonism of its framers to executive interference with the legislature, the constitution was a strange document in that it violated the "separation of powers" principle in a great variety of ways. The Governor was to be elected by the legislature every year; yet he was granted both judicial and legislative powers. At the same time the legislature reserved a large measure of executive and judicial power for itself.
In the case of Holmes v. Walton in 1779, New Jersey set the first precedent after the Revolution for exercise of the power of judicial review -- the right of courts to declare legislative acts invalid.
The Constitution of 1844 : Despite obvious inefficiencies and inequalities in the original constitution and bitter attacks on it, it continued in force until 1844. Then popular sentiment, stirred by democratic Jacksonian tendencies, demanded further revision. Lacking any machinery for revising the original constitution, the legislature of 1844 simply went ahead and called a convention. The work of the convention was ratified at a special election on August 13. The new constitution abolished property qualifications for voters and legislators, recognized the principle of separation of powers among the three departments of government, and (unlike the document of 1776) included a formal bill of rights and provision for amendment.