Documents, Manuscripts, Maps, & Photographs
Manuscript Group 46, New Jersey Legislature Minutes, 1751-1808, 0.9 linear feet / 7 volumes
Call Number: MG 46 + Box number
Seven volumes of original New Jersey Assembly minutes; minutes of the Committee of Safety and Provincial Congress, 1776, kept by William Paterson (1745-1806). There are frequent, though mostly minor, textual differences between these manuscript minutes and the published Votes and Proceeding of the...General Assembly of the State of New-Jersey (Trenton, -1808), and the Minutes of the Provincial Congress and the Council of Safety of the State of New Jersey (Trenton, 1879).
The New Jersey Assembly had similar functions both before and after the American Revolution. In colonial days, the representatives, who were elected by adult white males over the age of 21, were sworn in, and then chose the speaker. The Governor could veto the assembly’s choice for speaker but most of the time he gave his approval. To hold a meeting of the Assembly at least two members and the speaker had to be present, however, they needed sixteen votes to enact ordinary legislation and eighteen or twenty to pass a money bill. If a bill passed its third and final reading it was sent to the Council, which then made amendments and sent the bill with suggested changes back to the assembly for approval. If the Assembly approved then the bill was sent to the governor for his signature. If the bill was not approved then committees from both houses were appointed to confer. If they failed to agree then the bill was thrown out. The governor had no power of amendment but his assent was required. The assembly was re-established with the writing of the New Jersey Constitution in 1776. It provided three-quarters of the votes for the governor and chief officials, chose its own officers, and had the sole right to draw up all money bills. The assembly and council passed all laws.
Donald L. Kemmerer. Path to Freedom: The Struggle for Self-Government in Colonial New Jersey, 1703-1776 (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University, 1940).
The source of this collection is unknown.
This collection consists of seven volumes of original minutes from the New Jersey Assembly, kept by William Paterson (1745-1806) dating from 1751 to 1808 and measuring 0.9 linear feet. The attending assemblymen are listed at the beginning of each volume. The minutes were published in Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, General Assembly of the State of New-Jersey (Trenton, 1779-1808) and The Minutes of the Provincial Congress and the Council of Safety of the State of New Jersey (Trenton, 1879). The subject of the bills varies from landownership, acts regarding violence, dog ownership to the building of inter-county turnpikes. A number of the bills discussed from 1776-1781 are in regard to the Revolution and how to handle Tories.
A few noteworthy bills discussed include one passed in May 1787 for a tax to discourage dog ownership and one in 1782, which was not passed, calling for the cessation of the plundering of Staten Island properties by New Jerseyans.
For more information on the New Jersey Assembly from 1751-1808 see:
Processed by James Lewis, June 2001 as part of the "Farm to City" project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
The New Jersey Historical Society