History of New Jersey

Peter D. Vroom, 1829-1832, 1833-1836


Born on December 12, 1791, in Hillsborough Township, NJ, the son of Colonel Peter D. Vroom, an old and respected landowner in Somerset County, and Elsie (Bogart) Vroom, both members of the Dutch Reformed Church. Vroom attended Somerville Academy, graduated Columbia College (New York), and was admitted to the bar in 1813.

Vroom’s political career began in 1820 when he supported General Andrew Jackson for president. A Democrat and the advocate of state construction of a canal from the Delaware River to the Raritan River, Vroom was elected to the General Assembly from Somerset County in 1826. He was elected governor of New Jersey in 1828, reelected in the next two years, and again in 1833.

Vroom's major accomplishment as governor was the enactment of a bill incorporating the Delaware and Raritan Canal Company in 1830. He also believed in strengthening the authority of the governor under the state constitution. To accomplish this goal and stay within the limitations of the 1776 Constitution, Vroom reintroduced the practice of sending messages to the legislature and meeting with his party’s legislative caucus to influence its decisions. His efforts produced a number of contributions to the state, especially in the areas of prison and militia reform, education, and internal improvements.

To improve New Jersey’s penal system, Vroom proposed building a new institution modeled after the Eastern Penitentiary in Pennsylvania. He also proposed the abolition of imprisonment for debt, which was not enacted until 1842. Vroom also urged legislature to reform the militia system, requiring every able-bodied man between the age of eighteen and forty-five had to train regularly with a unit. The training meetings, which accomplished little, ended in 1834. In school reform Vroom got the legislature to disperse part of the money in the school fund to local townships to support public education.

In 1837 President Van Buren appointed him Claims Commissioner to the Chickasaw tribe in Mississippi, where he was to adjust land claims arising from the removal of the Choctaw Indians from the state. In 1838 he was elected to the House of Representatives. Vroom also played an active role in the New Jersey Constitutional Convention of 1844, where he urged the delegates to increase the power of the governor. In 1846, he was involved in revising the statutes of the state to bring them into compliance with the new Constitution. President Franklin Pierce appointed his ambassador to Prussia in 1853.

Vroom died on November 18, 1873, in Trenton, leaving an important mark in the politics of New Jersey.

Teresa Barroqueiro