David Brearley (June 11, 1745–August 16, 1790) was a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention who signed the U.S. Constitution on behalf of the state of New Jersey. He was the first Grand Master Mason of New Jersey and an Episcopalian.
Brearley was born in Spring Grove, New Jersey. He pursued a college degree and eventually graduated from the College of New Jersey which was to become Princeton University. He went on to practice law in Allentown, New Jersey in 1767.
When the American Revolution took place, David Brearley was a captain, rising through the ranks to become a colonel in the militia brigade. He served in the Continental Army and saw action at Monmouth, Germantown and Brandywine. He also served a Valley Forge with the New Jersey Line as a Lieutenant Colonel. During the campaigns that he was active in, the Continental Army was saved.
David Brearley had been appointed Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court at the age of 34 and presided over many important precedent setting cases. He was already a well-respected Continental Army veteran and Judge at the tender age of 42 when he was a part of the Constitutional Convention where he attended sessions regularly.
Brearley opposed the idea of proportional representation of each of the states, instead favoring the system of only one vote for each state in Congress. He was the chair of the Committee on Postponed Matters, which was ultimately responsible for deciding the powers and the length of the term to be serviced by the elected President of the United States of America. Brearley signed the Constitution, actively supporting the ratification of the Constitution by the State of New Jersey.
George Washington nominated David Brearley as a Federal District Judge for New Jersey on September 25, 1789 and Brearly received his commission on the day following. Brearley was one of 13 Federal District Judges to be appointed altogether. If he had lived past the age of 45, he may have gone on to lead one of the most distinguished and influential careers to be recorded in the annuls of history.