- John Reading (New Jersey)
John Reading (b.
June 6, 1686- d. November 5, 1767) was the first native-born governor of New Jersey, United States, serving in 1747, and again from September 1757 to June 1758. His father, Colonel John Reading, was the first white major landowner in Hunterdon County.
Gov. Reading was one of the founders and trustees of the College of New Jersey, which later became
Princeton University. The Reading family is still very influential in the state of New Jersey.
The following is quoted from Leach's "Genealogical and Biographical Memorials of the Reading, Howell, Derkes, Watts, Latham, and Elkins Families", printed by J. B. Lippincott Company in 1898 for private circulation.
"Governor John Reading was born at Gloucester, in Gloucester (now Camden) county, New Jersey, 6 June, 1686. The father, having enjoyed the advantages of a liberal education, desired the same for his children, John and Elsie, and, with this object in view, he sent them with their mother to England, where they remained for several years. The mental training of the son would appear to have been of a superior character, from the facts that he was selected for a seat in the governor's council when but thirty-two years of age, and that he rose to greater distinction than did any other of the native-born sons of the early New Jersey colonists.
But little is known of the younger Reading's life until the decease of his father. Being an only son, he probably resided with or near the father, and assisted him in his work as surveyor and in the management of his extensive landed interest. He inherited from the latter a large patrimony, especially in lands, which, with the estate he had previously acquired in his own right, made him by far the wealthiest man in Hunterdon county.
On the 3d of November, 1718, a little more than a year after his father's decease, he was nominated by Governor Hunter to a seat in the provincial council, which selection was highly complimentary not only to the son, in view of his youth, but also to the memory of the father. Had Colonel Reading not served in his councillorship with full acceptance to the governor, it is unlikely that the son would have been named for such position. This alone, however, would not account for the selection. Governor Hunter was doubtless frequently a guest at the monorial home of Colonel Reading, and on such as well as on other occasions met the son and found him of large intelligence and possessed of the elements of character that had made his father one of the most valued of the governor's advisers. These qualifications, with the fact that Mr. Reading's large wealth gave him importance in the colony and a personal interest in the proper management of public affairs, may be regarded as the influences which led the governor to the appointment.
While the nomination was pending before the king, Mr. Reading was further honored by the governor in being named one of the commissioners to run the north boundary line between New Jersey and New York, and also one of the commissioners to run the lines between East and West New Jersey. The former appointment was made 28 March, 1719, and the work was completed 25 July, same year. (New Jersey Archives, first series, iv. 394) The latter appointment was made about the same time, and in connection therewith the council of proprietors of West New Jersey, at a meeting 12 August, 1720, by unanimous vote selected Mr. Reading as surveyor to assist James Alexander, surveyor-general of the province, "in running the said division line throughout the whole work." (New Jersey Archives, first series, iv. 452-4) These appointments furnish ample evidence of Mr. Reading's standing as a surveyor.
In July, 1719, Governor Hunter made a voyage to England, and on his departure delivered the public seals and papers into the hands of Honorable Lewis Morris, the senior councilor, who then became acting governor. Governor Hunter never returned, but while in England he was active in furthering the appointment of a new governor, and in securing the confirmation of his nominees to the council, both of which were accomplished 24 June, 1720, when his Majesty commissioned William Burnet governor, and appointed a council, which included the name of John Reading. Governor Burnet arrived in the province and began his administration 22 September, 1720. For unknown reasons, Mr. Reading seems not to have been eager to enter on his councillorship. Finally, however, he responded to the call made upon him, and on 25 March, 1721, attended the governor, and was sworn into office, which action is thus recorded on the minutes of the council:
:"John Reading who is appointed in his Majesties Commission to the Governour to be one of his Majesties Councill appeared and took the Oaths appointed by his Majesties Commission and Subscribed the test and abjuration. :"The Oath of Councillor was Given to him as follows :"You shall swear to the uttermost part of your Cunning, witt will & power you Shall be true and faithful to the Kings Majestie our most dear and Sovereign lord and to his highness heirs and Successors Kings and Queens of England according to the Limitation of the Statute made to that purpose for the Establishment of the Succession of the Crown Imperiall of the Realm of Great Britain you Shall not know nor hear anything that may in anyways be prejudicial to his Majesty or to his heirs and Successors in form afores'd or to the Common wealths peace or Quiet of his Majesty's Realm or this province but you Shall with all dilligence reveall and disclose the Same to his Majesty or to such person or persons of his highness councill as you think may and will honestly convey and bring it to his majesties Knowledge you Shall Serve his majesty truely and faithfully in the room and place of his Highness Councill for this province, you shall Keep close and Secret all such matters as shall be treated, disputed and resolved off in Councill without disclosing the same or any part thereof to any but to such as Shall be of the Councill. And yett If the matter So propounded, treated disputed and debated in any Such Councill Shall touch any particular person Sworn of the Same upon any Such matter as shall in anywise concern his fidelity and truth to the Kings Majesty You Shall in noe wise open the same to him but keep itt Secrett as you would do from any other person till the Kings Majesties pleasure be known in that behalfe, You Shall in all things to be moved, treated disputed and debated in any Such Councill faithfully & truely declare your mind and opinion according to your heart and conscience in nowise forbading So to Doe for any manner of Respect of favour love, need, dread displeasure or corruption Finally you Shall be vigilant dilligent and Circumspect in all your doings and proceedings touching the Kings Majesty and his affairs all which points before Expressed you Shall faithfully observe, full fill and Keep to the uttermost of your power witt and Cunning, So help you God - Then John Reading took his place at this board." (New Jersey Archives, xiv. 150)
The office thus entered upon, Mr. Reading retained until 1758, when he resigned. On two occasions during the period, as president of the council, he became acting governor and commander-in-chief of the province, of which mention is hereinafter made. The duties of a councilor were twofold, - one as adviser to the governor in matters of administration, and the other as a member of the council when, as the upper branch of the legislature, it sat with the assembly in legislative sessions.
On 10 February, 1727, Mr. Reading was commissioned "Collonel of ye Military Regiment of ffoot for ye county of Hunterdon, whereof Daniel Cox, Esq. was Collonel," (Book of Commissions, MSS., AAA, 198) and on the same day he was appointed president judge of the court of common pleas of that county. (Ibid., 195) On 14 August, same year, he was commissioned surrogate for Hunterdon and Somerset counties, the commission reading as follows:
:"John Reading Surrogate. :By His Excellency Wm. Burnet Esq. Captain General & :Commander in Chief of the province of New Jersey & :New York & Territories Thereon Depending in America :& Vice Admiral of ye Same &c.
:"To John Reading of ye County of Hunterdon Esqr Greeting Whereas it hath been found Inconvenient for Persons in ye County of Hunterdon & Somerset in ye Said precinct of New Jersey To go with their witnesses to Perth Amboy or to Burlington to Prove ye Last Will and Testament of Persons Dying within ye Countys or ye Remote parts Thereof Or to Procure Bondsmen at That Distance from Their Habitations To Give Security on Their being Admitted For Administration of ye Estates of Such Persons who shall Dye Intestate in Either of ye Said Countys I have Therefore Thought fitt for ye Care & Benefit of ye Inhabitants of ye Said County of Hunterdon & Somerset with ye Consent of James Smith Esqr whom I have Appointed & Commissioned my Surrogate of ye Said Province of New Jersey To Commissionate Authorize & Impower you ye Said John Reading to be Surrogate of ye Said County of Hunterdon, & Somerset To Swear or Give ye Solemn Affirmation of ye Witnesses To any Last Will & Testaments of Persons Dying within ye Said County of Hunterdon & Somerset, or Either of Them & to Endorse ye same Depositions or Affirmations So Taken on ye Said Last Wills & also To Swear or Give the Solemn Affirmation to ye Executor or Executors in Such Last Wills & Testaments named & to Endorse ye Same in Due Manner And further To Swear or Give ye Solemn Affirmation To all persons That Shall be Admitted for Administration of ye Estate of Persons Dying Intestate in Either of ye Said Countys & To Take ye Depositions or Solemn Affirmation to all Inventorys before you exhibited & To Endorse ye Same in Due form And you are Required Forthwith To Transmitt Such wills Testaments & Inventorys So before you Proved or to be Proved & all Administraceon Bonds before you Taken (which said Bonds you are To Take in ye Name & in ye Legall Form) with ye Prerogative Court in ye Secrys Office at Burlington That Probats & Letters of Administraceon may from Thence Issue out in Legal Manner To ye persons Concerned. In Testimony whereof I have hereunto Sett my hand & caused ye Prerogative Seal of ye Said Province of New Jersey To be hereunto affixed at Perth Amboy the Eighteenth Day of August in ye fourteenth Year of his Majestys Reign Anno Dom One Thousand seven hundred & Twenty Seven."
On the decease of Lewis Morris, governor of the province, 21 May 1746, the administration fell to Colonel John Hamilton, who remained at the head of the government until his decease, 17 June 1747. Mr. Reading then became president of the council, and, as such, succeeded Colonel Hamilton as acting governor and commander-in-chief, being the first native-born Jerseyman to govern the province.
President Reading's administration was a brief one. On the 10th of August following, he was succeeded by
Jonathan Belcher, of Massachusetts, who had received the king's appointment to the governorship in the previous February. Governor Belcher was then in England, but, sailing for America, arrived in New York on 8 August, and two days later took the oath of office and assumed the government.
Governor Belcher continued at the head of the government until his decease, 31 August 1757. President Reading was still the senior member of the council, and the administration, of right, devolved upon him. His age and infirmities, however, were such that he at first declined to act, but he finally consented, though with the utmost reluctance, to assume the duties. He assumed office 9 September 1757, and on the 10th wrote to Thomas Pownall, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, whose commission also named him Lieutenant-Governor of New Jersey, asking to be relieved immediately of office due to infirmities and ill health.
Governor Pownall arrived in the province a few days later, and on 22 September 1757, took the oath of office and assumed command. Governor Pownall's administration lasted but a single day, -a fact, under the circumstances of the case, highly creditable to President Reading. Pownall found that, while the latter was physically weak, he was mentally strong, and that he commanded the respect and confidence of the people in an unusual degree, and so, on the day following his arrival in the province, he returned to Massachusetts, leaving the government to President Reading.
Prior to the union of the provinces, Perth Amboy was the seat of government of East Jersey and Burlington of West Jersey. After the union the two seats were retained, and the general assembly, to accommodate the people of both sections, usually alternated between the two places. Frequently, however, temporary changes were made to suit the pleasure of the governor, which inconvenienced the public. One of such changes occurred in October, 1757, when the assembly met at Trenton, to suit the convenience of President Reading, who seems to have located there at that time for medical treatment. The assembly felt the importance of having President Reading reside at one or the other of the official seats, and, recognizing that his physical condition was such that it would discomfort him to be compelled to stay at an inn, offered to provide at the public expense a home at each capital for the use of himself and family, which offer was gracefully communicated to President Reading in a letter of 22 October, 1757, from the speaker of the assembly.
Early in March, 1757, circular letters from his Majesty's secretary of state, William Pitt, to the royal governors in America, arrived from England, announcing the appointment of Major-General James Abercrombie to succeed the Earl of Loudoun in the command of the King's forces in North America, and the purpose of his Majesty to vigorously prosecute the then pending war, and calling upon the provincial governments to raise troops to unite with the King's forces in "offensive operation against the enemy." These letters were handed to Governor Delancey, of New York, who dispatched those intended for the governments in the other colonies. The one to President Reading was delivered to him, 6 March, together with those for the governors south of New Jersey. The latter he at once forwarded to Honorable William Denny, governor of Pennsylvania.
On 6 November, 1728, he was appointed by the Crown one of the judges "to try pirates." In addition to these offices, he held, throughout the time of his councellorship, that of one of his Majesty's justices of the peace, to which position all the councilors were from time to time appointed; and, 18 April, 1740, he was appointed one of the officers for Hunterdon county to enlist men in the king's service in the war then waging against Spain, and in that year was also appointed by the king one of the commissioners to define the boundary between the colonies of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which latter appointment bears added testimony to his high repute as surveyor. He was also for some years one of the agents for the family of William Penn in managing their landed interests in New Jersey."
On the decease of Lewis Morris, governor of the province, 21 May, 1746, the administration fell to Colonel John Hamilton, who remained at the head of the government until his decease, 17 June, 1747. Mr. Reading then became president of the council, and, as such, succeeded Colonel Hamilton as acting governor and commander-in-chief, being the first native-born Jerseyman to govern the province.
President Reading's administration was a brief one. On the 10th of August following, he was succeeded by Jonathan Belcher, of Massachusetts, who had received the king's appointment to the governorship in the previous February. Governor Belcher was then in England, but, sailing for America, arrived in New York on 8 August, and two days later took the oath of office and assumed the government.
Governor Belcher continued at the head of the government until his decease, 31 August, 1757. President Reading was still the senior member of the council, and the administration, of right, devolved upon him. His age and infirmities, however, were such that he at first declined to act, but he finally consented, though with the utmost reluctance, to assume the duties.
President Reading concluded to qualify, and, being unable to leave home, summoned the council to meet him there, that he might take the oath of office. Three members of the council responded, when, on 9 September, the oath was administered and the governorship entered upon.
Upon assuming office, President Reading forwarded the following letter to the Honorable Thomas Pownall, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, whose commission also named him Lieutenant-Governor of New Jersey, and empowered him to act as such in the event of a vacancy in the governorship:
:"Sepr 10th. 1757
:"To His Excelly Governour Pownall :"May It Please Your Excellency
:"Upon the late Governor Belcher's Death, I have taken upon myself the Administration of the Government of the Province of New Jersey, as eldest Councillor residing and Qualified thereto; tho' at the same Time, have heard, that your Excellency has a Commission of Lieutenancy for the said Province; But as Your Excellency did not reside and the Assembly was then sitting, and cou'd not rise without an Adjournment from a Person qualified to the Administration of the Government, I have adjourned them for ten Days to Burlington, and design to continue them by Short Adjournment to a Longer Time, if nothing of Emergency happens, This I thought was of absolute necessity to be done, and that Anarchy and Confusion might be thereby prevented.
:"I hope Your Excellency will take into Your Consideration, that as I am an aged and infirm Person, and not fit to bear the Weight or Burthen of Government, it wou'd be extreamly grateful to me, that I might be superseded and relieved by an appointment of some Person in my Stead, immediately to be made, (if consistent with Your Excellency's Commission,) for I have been for some Time past, and now am, (in Order to cure an old Distemper) under the care and Direction of a Doctor, in Preparation to undergo a Course of Physick, which is Directly to be enter'd into.
:"I am, Sir, with strictest Regards, Your Excellency's most obedt. humble Servt.:"JNO READING."
A few days later Governor Pownall arrived in the province, and on 22 September, 1757, took the oath of office and assumed command. Upon his arrival he met with some criticism of President Reading's delay to qualigy, and, calling upon him, acquainted him with this fact. From what followed that evening, it is apparent that Governor Pownall was fully satisfied with President Reading's action.
Governor Pownall's administration lasted but a single day, - a fact, under the circumstances of the case, highly creditable to President Reading. Pownall found that, while the latter was physically weak, he was mentally strong, and that he commanded the respect and confidence of the people in an unusual degree, and so, on the day following his arrival, he returned to Massachusetts, leaving the government to President Reading.
In October following, the General Assembly of the province convened at Burlington, and received from President Reading his first message.
Prior to the union of the provinces, Perth Amboy was the seat of government of East Jersey and Burlington of West Jersey. After the union the two seats were retained, and the general assembly, to accommodate the people of both sections, usually alternated between the two places. Frequently, however, temporary changes were made to meet the pleasure of the governor, which inconvenienced the public. One of such changes occurred in October, 1757, when the assembly met at Trenton, to suit the convenience of President Reading, who seems to have located there at that time for medical treatment. The assembly felt the importance of having President Reading reside at one or the other of the official seats, and, recognizing that his physical condition was such that it would discomfort him to be compelled to stay at an inn, offered to provide at the public expense a home at each capital for the use of himself and family, which offer was gracefully communicated to President Reading in a letter of 22 October, 1757, from the speaker of the assembly.
Early in March, 1758, circular letters from his Majesty's secretary of state, William Pitt, to the royal governors in America, arrived from England, announcing the appointment of Major-General James Abercrombie to succeed the earl of Loudoun in the command of the King's forces in North America, and the purpose of his Majesty to vigorously prosecute the then pending war, and calling upon the provincial governments to raise troops to unite with the King's forces in "offensive operation against the enemy." These letters were handed to Governor Delancey, of New York, who dispatched those intended for the governments in the other colonies. The one to President Reading was delivered to him, 6 March, together with those for the governors south of New Jersey. The latter he at once forwarded to Honorable William Denny, governor of Pennsylvania.
President Reading responded immediately to the King's call, and summoned a meeting of the general assembly, which convened at Burlington, 23d of the same month. On the following day, being then present with the council in their chamber, he directed the house of representatives to also attend him there, when he delivered the following addresses:
:"GENTLEMEN OF THE COUNCIL AND OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
:"Having the Honour of his Majestys Commands of the thirtieth day of December Last, Signified to me by the Right Honourable William Pitt Esq'r One of his Majestys Principal Secretaries of State, It became my duty to Call you Immediately Together that you might by your Vigour and Dispatch, have the Opportunity of Shewing the most Gratefull Return to his Majesty, for the Tender Concern he Manifests for his Loyal Subjects in this Part of his Dominions So far Removed from His Royal Presence, the Unexampled Expence Great Britain Chearfully Subjects herself to for the Security of these Colonies Demands the utmost Exertion of your force, to co-operate with the Kings Regular Troops, for the reducing Enemies whose Sole View must Evidently be the Distruction of Your Liberty Property Civil and Religious Rights and Everything that is dear to you. Experience shews you how destructive all delays are in Military Operations and that Every year brings on a Load Greater than the former it is therefore Consistent with Prudence and good Oeconomy as well as your Duty to His Majesty by the Most Vigorous Efforts to Second the Kings Pious Intention for the Future Security of the Colonies, under Providence the work of One Campaign. His Majesty has been Graciously Pleased in Order to Alleviate the Expence of the Colonies, to furnish the Provincial Troops with Arms, Provisions and Camp Equippage and as a Signal Mark of his Favour & Confidence to Establish a Rank for the Officers who shall Serve in those Levies, which I have Reason to Hope will Induce Gentlemen of Knowledge, and Influence to Enter into the Service and by their Example Infuse into the People a Love of their Country and a Willingness to Inlist and in the Deposition of the Commissions on this Occasion I assure you Merit shall be my Single View. As a further Inducement to the Colonys to make their Utmost Efforts, His Majesty has been Graciously Pleased to declare that Strong Recommendations shall be laid before the Parliament to grant a proper compensation for the Expence of the Colonies, According as their Active Vigour and Strenuous Efforts, shall Respectively Appear to Merit and on this Occasion, His Majesty has thought Proper, not to limit the Ardour of any of his Colonys but, Justly Expects from Each as Large a Body of Men as they are able to Raise on this Critical and Important Occasion Mr Secretary Pitts Letter which demonstrates his Majesty's Care and Affection for the Colonies shall be laid before you under the Confidence he is pleased to Express in it.
:"GENTLEMEN OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
:"As no time or Occasion has ever Happened in the Colonies wherein it became so Necessary to Involve your Country in Expence I must Recommend it to you in the Most Fervent Manner to act with a Spirit and Resolution becoming a People who Esteem their Liberty of More Value than the Small Part of their Estate Requisite for the Maintenance of all the Men this Colony can Spare. I have the Favour of a Letter from His Excellency Governor Pownall, informing me that the Colony of the Massachusetts have Voted Seven Thousand Men, and as Lieutenant Governor of this Colony, He Recommends this Extraordinary Service in the Strongest Manner, I am also Favoured with a Letter from the Honourable James Delancy Esq Lieutenant Governor of New York and thereby am acquainted that the Assembly of that Colony Have Voted Three Thousand Six Hundred and Eighty Men, to be Raised for the Service of this Present year, as the Supplies of Money must Constitutionally arrise in Your House, you will Consider that the Raising a Sum inadequate to the Service will Cramp the Operations of this Colony and Loose the Reputation we have Justly Acquired in Preceding Campaigns.
:"GENTLEMEN OF THE COUNCIL AND GENERAL ASSEMBLY
:"The Secretary shall lay before you a Letter I have Received from His Excellency General Abercrombie whom His Majesty has been pleased to appoint Commander in Chief of his Troops in North America in the Room of the Earl of Loudoun, and with the Same Power and Authorities in Which he Recommends the Utmost Application and Dispatch in forming the Levies.
:"I must Entreat you not to Suffer any Jealousy of the Conduct of the Other Colonies, [to] Enter into your Councils, but to Act for yourselves Independantly and detached from Every other Consideration that the Emergent Necessity of Securing to Yourselves and your Posterity the Happiness of Englishmen under the Administration of the best Kings, who Has always had a Just Regard for the Liberties of his Subjects & has given the Most Evident Proofs that He Esteems his Happiness as Interwoven with that of His People, I must Strongly Recommend it to you to fall upon the Speediest and Best Methods of Raising the Greatest Body of Troops this Colony can furnish, and in Case the Proposed Numbers should not be Voluntarily Inlisted within a Limited time by the Methods you Shall fall upon, that I Should be by a Law for that Purpose Enabled to Compel them, so that they may be ready in time to assist in the General Attempt of obtaining by force of Arms that Repose and Security, which Past Events Plainly Shew us we can Never by any other Method expect to Enjoy.
:"Colonel Peter Schuyler is now Here and has Considerable Arrearages & Demands; that Gentlemans Conduct has done Honour to the Colony and Entitles him to its Esteem and his humane Disposition which Extended to all his Captive Countrymen has Endeared him to America; I shall Propose the Recommendation of his Affairs and those of Captain Shaw, who brought home the Troops who were Captivated by the Indians after the Surrender of Fort William Henry, and of the Troops returned by the way of Europe, from Oswego until you have taken Resolutions Respecting the Forces now to be raised, as that Consideration ought to be Paramount to every Other but doubt not but in the Course of this Session, their Particular Circumstances of which I shall Inform you will meet with due regard from you as well as the future Care of the Frontiers; which by the Blessing of Providence on the Vigilence of our Troops, have been protected through the Winter; and a Quiet for a long time before unknown to the Upper Inhabitants, happily Preserved.
:"JOHN READING" :"BURLINGTON, March 24th, 1758
:"Then the Speaker and House of Assembly returned and His Honour withdrew."
About the time President Reading thus addressed the assembly, he issued a proclamation for the raising of a regiment for immediate service, knowledge of which is derived from the following advertisement in the "Pennsylvania Gazette", under date of 27 April, 1758:
:"TRENTON IN NEW JERSEY :"April 18, 1758
:"Whereas there is a proclamation issued out by the Honourable John Reading Esq. President of his Majesty's Council and Commander in Chief of New Jersey, for the Raising a Regiment of One Thousand Men, and paying them a Bounty of Twelve Pounds, to have one coat, a pair of cloth Breeches, a white shirt, a check ditto, two Pairs of Shoes, two Pair of Stockings and one Pair of Ticken Breeches, a Hat, a Blanket, Canteen and Hatchet, and to serve till the 15th day of November, and receive One Pound Thirteen shillings and six pence a month. All those that are free and willing to serve His Majesty King George in the above regiment, by repairing to Trenton at the Sign of the Wheat-Sheaf, or to the house of John Cummings, where William Douglas is beating up to raise a Company, shall on their enlistment, receive a Dollar to drink His Majesty's health, enter into Present pay, and have good quarters provided for them.
About the date the above-named proclamation was issued, President Reading appointed a day of fasting and prayer, which fact is thus noted in the 'New Universal American Magazine' of May, 1758:
:"22 MAY  PERTH AMBOY.
:"The Hon. John Reading, Esq. President of this province, hath issued a proclamation, appointing Friday, the 9th of June, to be observed as a day of fasting, prayer and humiliation throughout the said province."
President Reading's second administration came at an interesting time in the history of the colonies. It was in the midst of the period known as the French and Indian War, and at the most critical time in that period. Large demands were made by the mother government on the colonies for assistance in the struggle, which made the position of a royal governor far from enviable, standing, as he did, between the Crown and the people. Pressed by the Crown for support, upon him fell the duty of dispelling the apathy of the people and arousing them to action, a task often difficult of accomplishment, owing to the poverty of the people and the tardiness of legislative movement.
However, President Reading proved equal to the emergency. Reluctant, on account of weight of years and the inflictions of disease, to burden himself with the responsibilities and anxieties of state, yet, having from a sense of duty taken upon himself the same, he gave to the work his best efforts, and exhibited a degree of patriotism, and fitness for executive service, unsurpassed by his predecessors or successors in office.
The last meeting of the council under his administration was held at Trenton, 22 May, 1758, on which occasion he signed warrants for the pay of the officials of the colony. Amongst these is one for one hundred and twenty-five pounds "To himself Or Order for a Quarters Salary as Commander in Chief of this Colony, due 21st inst." Three weeks later, the Honorable Francis Bernard arrived from England with a commission as governor, and on 16 June he qualified and succeeded President Reading in the government. At a meeting of the council on the following day, Governor Bernard laid before that body a letter "received from John Reading, Esq. late President of his Majesty's Council of this Colony, representing the distresses of the frontiers...and advising His Excellency that he had a few days since, ordered a detachment of one hundred men to their relief from the regiment of Hunterdon, Somerset and Morris." This, no doubt, was President Reading's last public act under his governorship. In the King's "Letter of Instructions" to Governor Bernard, the name of John Reading appears at the head of the council. President Reading was, however, still determined to retire from public life. On 28 July, 1758, he waited upon Governor Bernard at Burlington, and informed him that "his great age and infirmities rendered him uncapable to perform the duty of one of his Majesty's Council and desired that his Excellency would be pleased to accept of his resignation and dismiss him from his Majesty's service." Governor Bernard "thanked him for his services, and promised him to represent the affairs of his Majesty's Council in order to obtain his approbation of such dismissal," and, with the unanimous consent of the council, "did suspend [excuse] him from the office and duty of a councillor of this colony, until his Majesty's pleasure be known." The King in due time accepted the resignation and appointed a successor. On his release from public office, President Reading retired to private life, in which he remained until his death, 5 November, 1767. His last will and testament, executed 1 October, 1767, and the codicil thereto, executed 29th of same month, six days before his death, bear unmistakable exidence that he retained his mental faculties until the end. Both the will and the codicil are lengthy and interesting documents, a copy of which is inserted herein. The will itself is in the testator's handwriting. The communion service provided for in the same was later procured and presented to the Old Amwell Presbyterian Church, with which he was connected, and in whose burying-ground his body lies. The personal character of an ancestor, and the degree of esteem in which he was held by his contemporaries, are ever matters of interest to posterity, and in these respects President Reading's descendants are, happily, not left to speculation. Type and ink have preserved an outline of his character, and of the esteem in which he was held by those who best knew him, in the following testimonial from the 'Pennsylvania Gazette' of 28 January, 1768, written by one of his neighbors, probably his pastor:
:"One of our Correspondents from the Country writes us as follows, viz.
::"AMWELL, IN HUNTERDON COUNTY, NEW JERSEY. ::"MESSIEURS. HALL AND SELLARS,
::"'Altho' I am one of your constant Readers, yet I have been a little surprised, that I found no mention made, in any of the public Papers, of the Death or Character of John Reading, Esq. late of this Place, especially as his Station and Character was eminent. That God, who has said, "The Righteous shall be had in everlasting Remembrance," no Doubt expects that we should actively concur in accomplishing that sacred Declaration; And besides, as Example teaches more powerfully than Precept, so, illustrious Examples of Virtue being set before us, excite us to a noble Emulation. These Considerations have induced me to give you the following Strictures of his Character. The God of Nature endowed Mr. Reading with good natural Powers - a Genius above the common Level. His Judgment was clear and manly; his Thoughts under good Command; his Expressions ready and pertinent. He justly supported the Character of being a strictly honest man; one of unshaken Integrity and Uprightness. He was under the Advantage of an early liberal Education; and had his mind enriched with a useful Store of Knowledge - all which Things conspired to qualify him to act with Dignity in the several important Stations in which he was placed in Life; and he had the deserved Honour of being entrusted with some of the most important offices in the Government. He was early appointed a Member of his Majesty's Council in this Province, and was twice the President-Governor of it, which important Offices he executed with a becoming Dignity, Judgment and Fidelity. And though distinguished with such honourable Trusts, he did not appear at all elevated by them, but behaved with that Meedness and Gentleness; that Evenness and Agreeableness, that happily marked his whole Character; and with Condescension and Respect to the meanest and poorest, as well as to the greatest. He was remarkably inoffensive and cautious in his Conduct, and steady, solid and grave in his Deportment; yet he was not morose or sullen, gloomy or unpolite. It might be said, without flattering Panegyric, that he never undertook any Trust, to which he was not eminently faithful, nor sustained any Relation, whether of a Husband, Parent, Friend, Counsellor or Ruler, but he was conscientious in the Discharge of it. And he had the rare Art of doing worthily without appearing conscious of it. He was temperate in his Enjoyments, and charitable to the poor; and was far from being vain and showy in his Appearance; on the contrary, he was plain and unaffected; when he spoke, it was with a natural Guard and Prudence; seldom did an unguarded Word drop from his Lips - He did not live to deal in Calumny or Detraction, or engage in Party Quarrels, but was a quiet and peaceable Member of Society; was scarcely known to speak to the Disadvantage of any, even though their Conduct was disagreeable, but prudently concealed his sentiments in his own Breast, and suffered their own actions to be the severest Libel on their Fame. He manifested an high Regard to Religion, and was a constant Attendant on public Worship; was Catholic in his Sentiments, and loved good Men of every Denomination of Christians - He had a strict Regard to Truth, and was punctual to his Word - Was universally beloved, and died lamented on the Fifth Day of November last.'"
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