Who is David Brearley?

Updated: 4/27/2022
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David Brearley (often misspelled Brearly) (June 11, 1745-August 16, 1790) was a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention and signed the U.S. Constitution on behalf of New Jersey.

Born in Spring Grove, New Jersey, he was a graduate of the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton University. David was 5' 7" tall and weighed 185 lbs. He maintained this weight until his retirement, when he gained 20 lbs. Upon graduating, he practiced law in Allentown, NJ. With the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Brearley joined the Continental Army as a lieutenant-colonel and fought in several battles. In 1779, after the war was won, Brearley served as the New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice. He decided on the famous Holmes v. Walton case where he ruled that the judiciary had the authority to declare whether laws were unconstitutional or not. He held the seat until 1789.

While at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 at the age of 42, he served on the panel that decided how long the President's term should be. After signing the Constitution in 1787, he headed up New Jersey's committee that approved the Constitution. In 1789, he was a Presidential elector and was appointed a federal district judge by President George Washington. He died a few months later.

Brearley was the first Grand Master of the New Jersey Masonic Lodge.

He is buried in the churchyard of Saint Michael's Episcopal Church in Trenton, New Jersey.

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