Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Houston, William Churchill, approximately 1746-1788
William Churchill Houston Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1731-1807 (mostly 1782-1793)
6 boxes and 4.42 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-6


William Churchill Houston was a professor at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), a lawyer, and a statesman. He was a New Jersey delegate to the Continental Convention and the Continental Congress. The collection documents his legal career and his tenure as receiver for Continental taxes in New Jersey.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The William Churchill Houston Papers covers Houston's legal career and his tenure as receiver for Continental taxes in New Jersey. The papers document aspects of the nation's legal and taxation history during the transition from colonial period to sovereign nation. Documents include correspondence of Houston with Robert Morris (1734-1806) and Michael Hillegas (1729-1804) regarding Houston's responsibilities as tax collector for New Jersey. Also included are legal files, which consist of account ledgers, case notes, deeds, depositions, indentures, and summonses. The bulk of the legal files pertain to Houston's private legal practice. The files were created during cases tried in the Courts of Common Pleas in Burlington, Hunterdon, and Monmouth counties. Documents related to Houston's estate are also included.

Collection Creator Biography:

Houston, William Churchill, approximately 1746-1788

William Churchill Houston was born in South Carolina in 1746. He came to New Jersey for the purpose of attending the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). He graduated from the College in 1768 and became master of the College's grammar school. In 1771, the College's trustees appointed Houston to the newly created post of Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. He remained on the faculty until 1783. He also served as deputy secretary to the Continental Congress in 1775 and 1776.

Houston joined the Somerset County militia when British forces arrived in Princeton. The militia elected him captain of the Second Regiment of Foot in February of 1776, but Houston resigned from the position shortly afterward, feeling it was more important to attend to his duties on campus while President John Witherspoon was attending the Continental Congress. While helping to maintain the College during the war, he also represented Somerset County in the New Jersey General Assembly. Houston resigned from the General Assembly in May of 1779 when he was elected to serve as a representative of New Jersey to the Continental Congress. He served regularly until 1781, when he first became ill with tuberculosis, and then intermittently until 1785. Houston involved himself mostly in fiscal issues, commenting extensively on taxation. While serving in Congress, Houston used his spare time to study law with Richard Stockton. He was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1781 and was appointed clerk of the Supreme Court of New Jersey shortly thereafter.

In April of 1782, Superintendent of Finance of the United States Robert Morris appointed Houston receiver of Continental taxes in New Jersey. State receivers were responsible for coordinating tax collection in the state and facilitating payment to Congress. It was also around this time that Houston settled in Trenton and began to build his private law practice, litigating cases in Burlington, Hunterdon, and Monmouth counties. As Houston began to expand his legal practice and scale back his Congressional duties, his tuberculosis worsened. The New Jersey legislature elected Houston to serve as one of its delegates at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. However, he had a very limited role due to his illness and was not able to sign the United States Constitution. Houston died on August 12, 1788.

Collection History


The legal papers were purchased from a private dealer on April 28, 1964 . The correspondence was purchased from Daniel Maggin on September 18, 1964 .


No accruals are expected.


No appraisal information is available.


These papers were processed with a general operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Casey Babcock in August of 2007. Finding aid written by Casey Babcock in September of 2007.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

William Churchill Houston Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-6