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 (mss): 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


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 photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

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 (mss): Box 1-6