Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Hart, John (1708-1780) [Act of Assembly constituting a Council of Safety]

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00753 Author/Creator: Hart, John (1708-1780) Place Written: Trenton, New Jersey Type: Autograph document signed Date: 14 March 1777 Pagination: 4 p. : docket ; 34 x 22 cm

Written by Hart, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, as speaker of the New Jersey Assembly. Also signed by Stevens as Vice President of the New Jersey Assembly. Establishes a committee of safety to govern New Jersey during the Revolutionary War. Lists members of the newly created Council of Safety, including among others, John Cleves Symmes, Silas Condict, Dick Samuel, and Nathaniel Scudder, who were all members of the Continental Congress. Has 10 sections that describe how the council will work. Allows the body to operate under a quorum of five and appoints the governor as President of the council. Gives members of the council powers of justice of the peace in criminal mattes. Allows governor and council to apprehend anyone against the government. Governor and council to call out the militia. Last item says this legislation will be in effect for six months. Marked "A True Copy."

Hart was elected to the Continental Congress from New Jersey in 1776 and signed the Declaration of Independence. He wrote this as speaker of the New Jersey Assembly. Stevens was Vice President of the New Jersey Assembly.

An Act for Investing the Governor and a Council consisting of Twelve with certain Powers therein mentioned for a limited Time -

Whereas it is of the last Importance to the Preservation of the State, that the executive Powers of Government should [inserted: be strengthened & increased & should] be exercised with all possible Vigour and efficacy at a Time when, by the Invasion of the Enemy, and other concurrent Causes, the natural Strength of Government is greatly obstructed in its usual Operation and Energy -
1. Be it therefore enacted by the Council and general Assembly of this State & it is thereby enacted by the Authority of the same, that the Honorable John Cleves Symmes, William Patterson, Nathaniel Scudder, Theophilus Elmer, & Silas Condict; And John Hart, John Mehelm, Samuel Dick, John Combs, Caleb Camp, Edmond Wetherby & Benjamin Manning Esqrs- any five of whom to be a Quorum be, and they as hereby constituted and appointed a Council of Safety, whereof the Governor shall be President with the State and Title of the Governor and Council of Safety for the state of New Jersey, and that they be invested with all the Powers & authorities herein expressed during the continuance of this Act -
2. And it be Enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That every Number of the said Council shall be, & he is hereby invested with all the Authority and Powers of a Justice of the Peace througout this State, so far as respects criminal matters only -
3. And be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That the governor be, & he is hereby fully empowered by and with the Advice and Consent of the Council aforesaid, any five of which to be a Quorum, to fill up any military office, which is or shall become vacant by the Death, Resignation, Removal or otherwise of any military officer; and that the Person so appointed to any office shall nevertheless be approved of [2] or rejected by the Council and Assembly of this State in Joint Meeting at the Siting of general assembly next after such Appointments -
4. And be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid that the governor be and he is hereby empowered by and with the advise of the Council aforesaid, any five of whom to be a Quorum, to apprehend any Person disaffected to or acting against the Government, or whom they shall suspect of being disaffected to, or of having dangerous Designs against the government; and such Person to commit to any Gaol within the State; provided always that the Examination of Witnesses whom they are hereby authorised to convene, be first taken respecting the offence of, or the Ground of suspicion against such Person; and that the cause of Caption and Detention be expressed in the Warrant or Order of Commitment, directed to the gaoler or other officer, who shall be charged with the Custody of such Person. And it is further Enacted, that the Governor, by and with the advice of the Council aforesaid, any five of whom to be a Quorum, shall he and he is hereby authorised to remove any Person already, or who hereafter shall be apprehended or imprisoned for any offence against the government from the gaol in which he may stand committed to any other within the State; & so from Time to Time & from Gaol to Gaol as may be deemed necessary or expedient -
5. And be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, that the governor & Council aforesaid, any five of whom to be a Quorum be and they are hereby empowered & directed to cause the Laws of this State to be faithfully executed, & to expedite, as far as may be, the Execution of such Measures, as shall have been, or may be resolved upon by the Legislative Council & general Assembly of this State; and to recommend it to the Speaker to call the general Assembly, when necessary, before the Day to which they shall stand adjourned -
6. And be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, [struck: That] [3] [struck: the Governor by and with the advice of the Council aforesaid], That the Governor, by and with the Advice of the Council aforesaid, any five of whom to be a Quorum, shall be and he is hereby authorized and empowered to call out such and so many of the Militia of this State, as they shall think necessary to carry their lawfull Orders and Directions and Defence; which Militia shall have the same Pay and Rations, as when on military Duty.
7. And be it enacted, That the Governor and Council aforesaid shall have a Secretary, & keep fair Books of their Proceedings, which Secretary shall have the same Compensation for his Time and Trouble as is allowed to the Clerk of the Legislative Council of this State -
8. And be it enacted, that the Expences of the Governor during the Time he shall attend in the Council aforesaid shall be designed by this State, and that every Member of such Council shall during his Attendance in Council, be allowed at the Rate of Twelve Shillings a Day, to be paid by the Treasurer on Certificate thereof signed by the Governor -
9. And be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, that the Governor, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Council aforesaid, any five of whom to be a Quorum, be and he is hereby empowered to draw on the Treasurer of this State for any Sum of Money which may be necessary from Time to Time in the Exercise of the Powers aforesaid (not exceeding the sum of one Thousand Pounds) and the said Treasurer is hereby authorized to pay any order drawn as aforesaid - Provided always that the said governor and Council of Safety shall and are heavily made accountable to the Legislature of this State for any sum or sums of Money drawn from the Treasury by Virtue of this Act -
[4] 10. And be it further Enacted by the Authority aforesd. That this Act shall continue in Force for the space of six Months, unless sooner Repealed by the Legislature of this State -

Council Chamber March 15th. 1777. House of Assembly March 14. 1777.
This Bill having been three This Bill having been three Times
Times read in Council, read in the House of Representatives
Resolved that the same do pass Resolved that the same do pass
By Order of the House By Order of the House
Jono. Stevens V. Pret. John Hart Speaker

A True Copy -

[docket]
An Act Constituting
Council of Safety
Act of Assembly constituting
Council of Safety

Order a CopyCitation Guidelines for Online Resources