The important role of David Brearley and the U.S. Constitution

Attorney to discuss Brearley biography at Lawrence Historical Society's annual meeting


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David Brearley, one of 39 signers of the U.S. Constitution, is one of the least known of the “founding fathers” of the United States.

Donald Scarinci, the author of the only full-length biography of Brearley, hopes to change that when he speaks about Brearley at the Lawrence Historical Society’s annual meeting Feb. 11.

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The event is free and starts at 3:30 p.m. It will be held at Lawrence High School at 2525 Princeton Pike in Lawrence Township.

Scarinci, who is an attorney, is the guest speaker at the Lawrence Historical Society’s inaugural Ruth Barringer Lecture Series. Barringer served on the historical society’s board of trustees for 35 years, before stepping down in 2022.

Scarinci’s lecture is entitled “David Brearley and the Making of the U.S. Constitution.” It will highlight the integral role that Brearley played in the U.S. Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia 1787.

Brearley was born in 1745 at Spring Grove, the family’s farm off Lewisville Road in Lawrence Township. The property now belongs to The Lawrenceville School.

Brearley settled in Allentown and set up a law practice. He joined the Monmouth County militia and served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.

Brearley was appointed to become chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1779. He was also a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Conventional Convention in 1787, and signed the U.S. Constitution.

As a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention, Brearley was named chairman of the Committee on Postponed Parts – matters that had been delayed.

The Committee on Postponed Parts defined Congress’ power to tax and wage war and established the four-year term for president. It also created the Electoral College.

Barringer, for whom the lecture series is named, moved to Lawrence Township with her husband in 1961. She served on the Lawrence Township Historic Preservation Advisory Committee and on the D&R Canal Watch Board of Trustees.

Barringer co-chaired the fundraising committee in the 1990s to restore the Lawrence Township-owned Brearley House at the end of Meadow Road, off Princeton Pike. The brick farmhouse was built in 1761 by a member of the extended Brearley family.

The Lawrence Township Council set a goal of $175,000 to be raised by the committee to help restore the house. The committee raised more than $175,000, which proved crucial to the restoration effort.

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