Famous New Jersey Mason
Joseph Bloomfield was the son of Dr. Moses Bloomfield, who married as his second wife the widow of Dr. Samuel Ward of Greenwich, and was born at Woodbridge, N. J., in 1753. He was partly educated at Deerfield, in this county, by Rev. Enoch Green, pastor of the Presbyterian Church there; who also taught a classical school for a number of years. He studied law with Cortlandt Skinner, the attorney general of the province, who was an influential lawyer, and held important positions as member of Assembly and of Council. At November term, 1774, he presented to the Supreme Court of the province a license form Governor Franklin, authorizing him to practice law, and took the oaths and was admitted by the court. He at once took up his residence in Bridgeton, and at the ensuing February term presented his license before the courts of this county.
Two months later the battle of Lexington took place, and the drilling of troops and preparations for the heroic contest which that battle inaugurated became the principal business with every Whig. Mr. Bloomfield was an ardent patriot, and began his military career as a sergeant of the company of militia, organized in the western part of the county, May 3, 1775. On the election of field officers of the Cumberland militia, June 13th of that year, he was chosen adjutant, and on October 9th was chosen first lieutenant of another company of militia.
He was appointed February 7, 1776, as captain in the Third Battalion of troops raised for the Continental army in this State, and a company of sixty-five men was recruited in this county, with himself as captain; Constant Peck, first lieutenant; William Gifford, second lieutenant; and Ebenezer Elmer ensign. This company left Bridgeton March 27, 1776, and did good service during the year of their enlistment, an account of which, from the journal of Ebenezer Elmer, will be found elsewhere in this volume. Capt. Bloomfield was promoted major of the Third Battalion November 28, 1776, and also appointed judge advocate of the northern army during the same month. He continued in the army until October 28, 1778, when he resigned, having been elected clerk of the Assembly of this State on the preceding day. He was wounded during his term of service, but at what time is now unknown. Lieut. Elmer in his journal entered his opinion of the officers in the command, and of him says, "Capt. Bloomfield, active, unsteady, fond of show, and a great admirer of his own abilities; quick passions, but easily pacified,"–probably a pretty correct statement of the points of his character.
Shortly after he resigned from the army he married a lady in Burlington, where he took up his residence, And resided there during the remainder of his life, being major of the city several years. Previous to the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, which vested all admiralty jurisdiction in the United States Courts, this State passed an act October 5, 1776, establishing a State Court of Admiralty, and Mr. Bloomfield was appointed register of the court, and held the office until 1783.
In that year, upon the resignation of William Patterson, he was appointed by the joint meeting attorney general of the State, and re-elected in 1788, but resigned the office in 1792. In that year he was elected by the Legislature one of the presidential electors. He was also a general of the militia of the State, and commanded a brigade of militia, which took part in suppressing the Whiskey Insurrection in Western Pennsylvania in 1794. He was a founder of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey 1786.
He was an earnest supporter of the administration of Washington, but under the administration of John Adams and the leadership of Alexander Hamilton, the Federal party developed those proscriptive principles which were exemplified in the alien and sedition laws, he became a supporter of the Republican Party of that day, under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson, and was one of the foremost in this State in the great political and social conflict. The joint meeting held October 31st elected Mr. Bloomfield Governor.
In October 1803, the Democrats again had a majority, and Mr. Bloomfield was re-elected Governor, and continued to be re-elected annually until 1812. As Governor he was also chancellor, but the business of the court was not large in his time, and no cases decided by him were reported.
In the war of 1812 he was appointed a brigadier-general by President Madison, and commanded a brigade stationed at Sackett’s Harbor, N. Y., and a part of his brigade, under the command of Gen. Pike, crossed into Canada and made an attack on Fort George, but was unsuccessful, Gen. Pike being killed by the explosion of the magazine. He afterwards was in command of the military district whose headquarters was at Philadelphia, and remained in service until the close of the war in 1815.
In the fall of 1816, Gen. Bloomfield was elected to Congress on a general ticket by the Democrats, and Re-elected in 1818. He was chairman of the Committee on Revolutionary Claims, and introduced the bill granting pensions to the survivors of that struggle and to the surviving widows of those deceased.
After he settled at Burlington, he was a member of and president of the "New Jersey Society for the Abolition of Slavery," a society whose efforts were confined to legal methods of ameliorating the condition of the slaves, and the cultivation of a public sentiment in favor of its abolition. He was elected a trustee of Princeton College in 1783, but resigned when he was elected Governor, and in 1819 was again elected, and held the position until his death.
Mr. Bloomfield married Miss Mary McIlvaine, daughter of Dr. William McIlvaine, of Burlington, soon after resigned his position in the army in the Revolution, which probably occasioned his locating at that place. They had no children, and she died in 1818. He afterwards married a second wife, who survived him. He died in Burlington, October 3, 1823, and on his tomb is inscribed, "A soldier of the Revolution; late Governor of New Jersey; a General in the Army of the United States; he closed a life of probity, benevolence, and public service, in the seventieth year of his age."
Lodge: Trenton 5, Now Trenton Cyrus #5