DAVID BREARLEY (1745-1790)
Soldier, Patriot, Jurist, Statesman, Mason
"First and principally,
I commit my Soul unto Almighty God"
Last Will and Testament, David Brearley
United States Founding Father
Signer of the Constitution
The first settlers in Maidenhead (Lawrenceville) were the Brearley family, who came in 1682. The historic Brearley House on Meadow Road still stands as a reminder of the family’s contribution to the revolution and to the nation. David Brearley earned honors at Princeton (at age 18) and was admitted to the Bar four years later, in 1767. He practiced law in Allentown and later moved to Trenton.
The Brearleys were directly involved in the local resistance against British rule. In 1747, David’s father was arrested for high treason, but was liberated by a mob of his fellow citizens. With the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, David Brearley was commissioned Captain in the Second Regiment, New Jersey Continental Line, October 28, 1775. On November 28th of the following year, at the recommendation of General Washington, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel of the Fourth Regiment, and he was transferred to the First Regiment on January 1, 1777, involved in action at Germantown, Brandywine and Monmouth.
After independence was won, Colonel David Brearley was elected Chief Justice of New Jersey Supreme Court, June 10th, 1779. While on the bench, he rendered the decision in the famous Holmes v. Walton case, decided by the Supreme Court of New Jersey in 1780, ruling that the judiciary had the authority to declare whether or not laws were unconstitutional (known today as judicial review).
An active member of the Masonic Order, he became the first Grand Master of the New Jersey Masonic Lodge, serving from 1786 to 1790. Two Masonic bodies in N.J. are named after him: Brearley Lodge No. 2 and Brearley Chapter No. 6. Today, Candice Brearley is a member of the Masonic Order’s David Brearley Charity Foundation. One of the compilers of the 1785 Episcopalian Prayer book, David Brearley was also a delegate to the general convention of that body in 1786 in Christ's Church, Philadelphia, PA.
Unanimously elected as a member of the constitutional convention in 1787, in Philadelphia, he was a member of the panel that decided on the length of the President’s term and he chaired the committee which decided to include a Vice President. A signer of the Constitution of the United States, September 17, 1787, he also served as a member of the Convention of New Jersey that ratified the Constitution.
In 1789, President Washington, appointed David Brearley Justice of the United States District Court of the State of New Jersey. He was known to be a learned and impartial judge. He held this office until his untimely death at the young age of 45.
THE BREARLEY HOUSE (1761)
Candice Brearley, Artist
Acrylic on Canvas 20" x 24"
Available Giclée on Canvas
Hand Signed & Numbered
Limited Edition of 100 and 1 Artist's Proof
HISTORICAL HOUSE PORTRAIT
Candice Brearley has donated this painting of the Brearley House, built in 1761, to the Lawrence Historical Society. The builder of the house was John Brearley, first settler from England to Maidenhead (now Lawrence Township). His nephew, David Brearley, was one of this nation's Founding Fathers. He was a member of Washington's Continental Army, an active member in the Constitutional Convention, a signer of the U.S. Constitution, the first Chief Justice of New Jersey, and the first Grand Master of the New Jersey Masonic Lodge.
Candice, whose late husband, Purvis Brearley, was a direct descendant of David Brearley, served an important role in the efforts to restore the house. She contacted members of the Brearley family throughout the country, which helped the Lawrence Historical society raise the funds needed for the restoration. Learn more about the history of the Brearley House, visit the Lawrence Historical Society by clicking here!
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Giclée: 20" x 24" Unframed: $900
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This special acrostic verse was penned for the 10th anniversary of the Brearley House restoration:
THE BREARLEY HOUSE IN MAIDENHEAD
The house was built in seventeen hundred and sixty one,
His majesty, King George the third, did the colonists shun,
Every major aspect of their lives was taxed a ton!
Brothers Joseph and David and even the latter’s son,
Readied among the local folk for what must be done,
Each played a crucial role as the hostilities begun,
Arming themselves against Redcoats and the hired Hun!
Relying on their muskets, each patriot with a gun,
Liberty was the goal and true independence was won!
Every Colony knew freedom; the world did this stun!
Yes, the great powers of Europe trembled, all did save none!
How to forge a lasting union became the new quest,
Our future did on the Constitution Conventioneers rest,
Unless they compromised, all posterity would be lost,
So young David convinced them to pay politic’s cost,
Essentially past due when the Delaware was crossed!
Instead of a figurehead leader, David he proposed,
New powers of action be in the executive enclosed!
Moreover, an assistant in waiting, he suggested,
All to smooth succession in whom power is invested,
In time proving that partisan bloodshed can be bested!
Daring, as Chief Justice, he helped guide the Constitution,
Establishing judicial review as a democratic institution!
Now the house on Meadow Lane stands as reminder of when,
Home was the Georgian Brick for Brearley women and men,
Ere will this historic structure have a story to say,
As their legacy of justice does survive to this day,
David and the Brearleys helped define the American way!