When members of the colonial assembly warned Governor Philip Carteret in 1668 that he should abandon any expectations "that things must go according to your opinions," they struck a keynote for the New Jersey experience and suggested to author Thomas Fleming what perhaps should have been the state's motto: "Divided We Stand."
"Division, acrimony, and their children, riot and revolution" have marked New Jersey life from early quarrels between proprietary rulers and local residents to recent combat over a state income tax. Few other states are as closely identified with corruption in political life and the deliberate confusion of public good with private profit. New Jersey offers a case study of a small state whose citizens, locked between the two giants of New York and Pennsylvania and too often moved by ideals no loftier than "devil take the hindmost," largely failed to develop a compelling sense of community and purpose.
Not all New Jersey's past is so unsavory. Ethnic diversity made it an early testing ground for the melting pot, as Yankees, Irish, Italians, and blacks strove for a chance at the good life. To many, that meant a job in the factories that made the state an industrial pioneer; to others it meant life on the farms that made New Jersey truly the "Garden State." Mr. Fleming concludes that today New Jersey may be in the vanguard of a new American way of life, "the first metropolitan state with equally convenient access to cities and to countryside." He foresees an "equally-oriented New Jersey, honestly and efficiently governed," reminding the nation that divisiveness and acrimony can have more than one outcome. After all, New Jerseyites may have voted repeatedly for the "Boss of Bosses," Frank Hague, but they also once chose as their governor a Princeton professor named Woodrow Wilson.