It has been a very long time since anyone other than a Democrat or Republican was elected to Congress from New Jersey. In fact, it last happened 160 years ago! In 1858, Garnett B. Adrain, who had been elected in the 3rd District as a Democrat in 1856, ran as an Anti-Lecompton Democrat. Jetur R. Riggs ran with the same party identification and was elected in the 4th District. A major issue that year was the admission of Kansas territory to the union as a state. Congress needed to ratify the new constitution of the proposed state. One of the proposed constitutions, the Lecompton Constitution had these provisions in it concerning slavery:
ARTICLE VII.- SLAVERY.
SECTION 1. The right of property is before and higher than any constitutional sanction, and the right of the owner of a slave to such slave and its increase is the same and as inviolable as the right of the owner of any property whatever.
SEC. 2. The Legislature shall have no power to pass laws for the emancipation of slaves without the consent of the owners, or without paying the owners previous to their emancipation a full equivalent in money for the slaves so emancipated. They shall have no power to prevent immigrants to the State from bringing with them such persons as are deemed slaves by the laws of any one of the United States or Territories, so long as any person of the same age or description shall be continued in slavery by the laws of this State: Provided, That such person or slave be the bona fide property of such immigrants: And provided, also, That laws may be passed to prohibit the introduction into this State of slaves who have committed high crimes in other States or Territories. They shall have power to pass laws to permit the owners of slaves to emancipate them, saving the rights of creditors, and preventing them from becoming a public charge. They shall have power to oblige the owners of slaves to treat them with humanity, to provide for them necessary food and clothing, to abstain from all injuries to them extending to life or limb, and, in case of their neglect or refusal to comply with the direction of such laws, to have such slave or slaves sold for the benefit of the owner or owners.
SEC. 3. In the prosecution of slaves for crimes of higher grade than petit larceny, the Legislature shall have no power to deprive them of an impartial trial by a petit jury.
SEC. 4. Any person who shall maliciously dismember, or deprive a slave of life, shall suffer such punishment as would be inflicted in case the like offense had been committed on a free white person, and on the like proof, except in case of insurrection of such slave.
Nationally, the Democrats supported slavery, but some northern Democrats joined with Republicans to oppose it. Adrain and Riggs were among those northern Democrats. Eventually, Congress approved the admission of Kansas as a free state under the Wyandotte Constitution.
Neither of these Congressmen sought reelection in 1860, Adrain returning to his law practice and Riggs to his medical practice. Thanks to Richard Wingers’s Ballot Access News for making me aware of them.
Let our current candidates be inspired by these two men because they were New Jersey’s last 2 Congressmen who were not elected as Democrats or Republicans, because they stood against slavery, and because they both embodied our ideal of legislators not being career politicians.