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Collection Overview

Sergeant, Jonathan, 1712-1777
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Sergeant Family Collection
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box and 0.4 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1


Consists of selected correspondence and documents by and about three members of the Sergeant family and their relationship with the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) during the Colonial period: Jonathan Sergeant, his son Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant, and his grandson John Sergeant.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of selected correspondence and documents of and about Jonathan Sergeant, his son Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant, and his grandson John Sergeant, the majority of which is related to the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). Jonathan Sergeant's material Includes receipts, surveys, statements of accounts, and a receipt signed by Isaac Smith for his salary at the College. Of importance is a draft of a bond to the Trustees of the College, the original document having been issued at the election of Jonathan Sergeant as Treasurer of the College in 1750. There is a letter to William Carey regarding raising money for the College; other letters mention John Witherspoon (6th president of the College of New Jersey) and his arrival in Princeton in 1768. A letter from Caleb Smith, dated Nov. 26, 1758, discusses the situation of the children of the Rev. Aaron Burr (2nd college president) after his death. In addition, there is a letter to Carey regarding the estate of a Col. Alford, considering its location within the boundaries of the "East Jersey Properties."

Material of Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant includes receipts for custom-made suits and clothing, provisions, bonds, title for property in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, judgments, lawsuits, statements of accounts, debt settlements, opinions regarding wills, and an indictment for horse racing. Of significance is an autograph letter from Sergeant and the Committee of Inspection of Princeton to the Committee of Inspection and Correspondence at Elizabeth Town, N.J., dated April 24, 1775, calling for a Provincial Congress. There is also a letter to Evan Reynolds, dated October 9, 1775, regarding the purchase of a "Negro Wench" and her two children, with Reynolds's receipt of payment on the verso, dated May 13, 1776. In addition, there is a short biographical note about Sergeant written in his granddaughter's hand.

John Sergeant's material includes a letter to Mr. Carey regarding the Committee of the Temperance Society, and two letters to James Carnahan (9th college president) about the return of Sergeant's son to the College of New Jersey. In addition, there is a letter to Miss Lydia Spencer dated August 9, 1794 or 5, while he was still a college student.

Also included is miscellaneous business and official correspondence and documents, as well as correspondence and documents related to other family members or friends. Some of the people represented are Charles Chauncey, John Ewing, Daniel Cox, Samuel Harvey, Joseph H. Hedges, John Keen, William Montgomery, Aaron Musgrove, Charles Pettit, William Semple, Caleb Smith, Samuel Stanhope Smith, John Smyth, Job Stockton, and Henry Waddell.


Folders are arranged by accession number.

Collection Creator Biography:

Sergeant, Jonathan, 1712-1777

Jonathan Sergeant came to Princeton from Newark in 1758. He was a trustee of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) from 1750 to 1777. Sergeant represented the County of Middlesex, N.J., in the first Provincial Congress in 1775 and took an active part with the citizens of Princeton in the cause of liberty in the early stages of the revolution. Sergeant was also the son-in-law of the Rev. Jonathan Dickinson, first president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University).

Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant, the son of Jonathan Sergeant, was a lawyer from Princeton. Sergeant graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1762 and studied law in the offices of Richard Stockton; in 1767 he started his own practice in Princeton. From 1774 to 1776 Sergeant was a member of the revolutionary New Jersey Provisional Congress. He also represented New Jersey in the Second Continental Congress in 1776 and 1777, and later served as attorney general for the state of Pennsylvania.

John Sergeant, son of Jonathan Dickinson, graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1795. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1799, and practiced in Philadelphia. He was deputy attorney general for Philadelphia in 1800 and a member of the State House of Representatives from 1808 to1810. However, Sergeant was an unsuccessful National Republican candidate for election as vice president of the United States in 1832.

Collection History


Letters to James Carnahan were a gift of Princeton Prof. Henry Clay Cameron on November 27, 1918 .

Letter to Carey regarding East New Jersey Properties, draft of bond to the Trustees, and letters concerning Witherspoon were a gift from the Pyne-Henry Collection in October 1900 .

Letter to Miss Spencer was a gift of William Heywood Meyer, Jr. Princeton Class of 1909, on September 26, 1924 .

Letter from Caleb Smith about Witherspoon was a gift of Louis L. Tucker, Director, Historical and Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, on June 2, 1961 .

Letter about the Provincial Congress was a gift of William Nelson on November 30, 1869 .

Autograph note of Caleb Smith was a gift of William Nelson on March 21, 1902 .

Letters to John Meare, Aaron Musgrove, William Semple, and Joseph H. Hedges were purchased in 1906-1907 .

Letter to Charles Chauncey and biographical note were a gift of Mr. Miller in November 1913 .

All other material was a gift of the Pyne-Henry Collection in 1901-1906 . Various AM.

Custodial History

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Dina Britain on September 28, 2008. Finding aid written by Dina Britain on October 1, 2008. Folder Inventory added by Hilde Creager (2015) in 2012.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

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:

Sergeant Family Collection; 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