French Arms Tavern

French Arms Tavern
Trenton, New Jersey
November 1, 1784 to December 24, 1784

No Longer Standing

1 West State Street
Trenton, NJ  08608

French Arms Tavern -  Trenton, New Jersey November 1, 1784 to December 24, 1784 Historic.us
The French Arms Tavern was originally erected in 1730 as a private residence  of stone and stucco for John Dagworthy, which classed at that time as the largest and most handsome house in Colonial Trenton.  The house stood on the southwest corner of King (now Warren) Street and Second (now State) Street in Trenton, New Jersey.  The lot had 66' of frontage on King and extended back 230' on Second Street.  The main structure had inside measurements of forty-five feet in width by 43 feet in depth, two stories high, with a gable roof.  Each story was traversed east and west in the middle by a spacious hall, containing four rooms on a floor, each provided with a large open fireplaces, and with an exceptionally large room in the attic.  Adjoining in the rear , along Second Street, was a two story kitchen built of the same material, the second floor being used as servants quarters.  Further back, at the end of the lot, was located the coach house and stables.(1) The main entrance of the building was reached by eight stone steps, extending either way from north or south to a broad landing, thence to the door in King Street. (2) 

On November 1st, 1740, Mr. Dagworthy leased the house to the Colony of New Jersey and it became the residence of Lewis Morris, the Royal Governor.  Morris remained in the house until June 25th, 1742, when he moved to "Kingsbury" now known as the William Trent House, 15 Market Street (539 South Warren Street, in Trenton. In August, Dagworthy returned to his former residence, moving (4) from his Maidenhead Planatation home (Lawerencefield, NJ) and remained there until his death on September 4th, 1756.(5)  

In 1760 Dagworthy's executors sold the house to Samuel Henry, an iron manufacturer whose work were located on 2nd Street on Assanpink Creek.(7) He occupied the house until March 1780 when he moved to his farm on Nottingham Township. On April 1st, 1780 Henry leased the house to Jacob G. Bergen for  use as a Tavern.  Bergen was a Princetonian who had operated the College of Princeton Inn, which he later named the Confederation Inn. 

Before opening the tavern, which he named "Thirteen Stars," Bergen made extensive changes in the building. He added a third story, with a gabled, dormer-windowed roof; converted two of the first-floor rooms into one room 20 feet in width and 43 feet in length, which became known as the "Long Room;" and set up a barroom in the basement. In 1783 the building was described as a "Dwelling-house 45 by 43 Feet, 3 Stories, 11 Rooms, eight with Fireplaces, a Kitchen and Stabling for 12 Horses."  


French Arms Tavern Sketch after third floor addition in 1781 - Historic.us

The Building’s name later changed to the French Arms celebrating France’s role in the defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown when John Cape took over the tavern’s management.  Bergen returned to the tavern in 1783 and retained the French Arms name.

In 1784 a commission appointed by the New Jersey Legislature leased the tavern, which was still the largest building in town, for the use of the USCA. The Long room walls were re-papered, the floors were carpeted and a platform erected in the center of the south side of the room between the two fireplaces. Thirteen new tables covered with green cloth and forty-eight new Windsor chairs were provided for the delegates.[1]  The New Jersey State  Archives also record that the State purchased the  twelve tables for £4.10.0, the carpet, curtains, and green covering for thirteen tables for £1.18.7, the fireplace tools for £2.2.6, and had the "Lime and White-Washing two Large Rooms for Congress twice over"  for £0.10.  
(1) NJ Archives, Vol. XX, pages 69, 441, Infa. pages 21-23
(2) Woodward, Evan Morrison: History of Burlington and Mercer Counties, page 708
(3) Raum, John O.: History of Trenton, page 89
(4) Strkyer, William S.: Old Trenton 100 years ago, pages 7 and 11.


French Arms Tavern diagram of the first floor in 1784
Historic.us

On August 31st, 1784 Jacob executed the following Memorandum on leasing the French Arms Tavern:
Memorandum of an Agreement Bewtween Jacob, G, Bergen of the one part & Moore Furman, James Ewing, & Conrod Kotts of the other part.  Witnesseth that the said Jacob G. Bergen doth hereby agree to Rent the house he now lives in Situate near the market house in Trenton late the Propery of Saml Henry Deced and now held by lease for and until the first day of April in the Year Seventeen hundred and Eighty Six at the Yearly rent of one hundred and fift pounds, unto the said Moore Furman, James Ewing, & Conrod Kotts for the use & purpose of the Congress of the United States of America to Set in from the thirtyeth day of October next for and until the End and Expiration of the said Lease.  In Consideration of which the said Moore Furman, James Ewing, & Conrod Kotts Doth agree to pay or cause to be paid unto the said Jacob G. Bergen the sum of one hundred and Seventy-five pounds by an order on the Treasurer of this state on the 30th day of October in Gold or Silver Money and also to pay or cause to be paid the said yearly rent of one hundred and fifty pounds Agreeabbly to the said lease & it is further agreed upon that the said Jacob G. Bergen is to have and retain the use of the stables and garden ground for and during and so long as the Congress may set in said house and it ia agreed upon that the said Jacob G. Bergen is to live in & Make use of the said House until the said 30th day of October and until said Congress many want the Same to set in.  In Witness Whereof the said Jacob G. Bergen hath set his hand and seal this 1st day of August 1784.

  Witness Present:    Jacob G. Bergen [SEAL]
  Dan Yard 
Charles Brady
Lease - £175
Table for Congress Hall -  £15

Memorandum of an Agreement Between Jacob, G, Bergen and the agents of the State of NJ to lease the French Arms Tavern for the United States in Congress Assembled Nov 1784 to Nov 1785 Session - Historic.us
 The USCA stay at Trenton was brief and most of its time was spent in appealing to the states to send delegates. John Jay, who was a strong opponent of President Richard Henry Lee, had returned as a delegate to USCA at Trenton and was not in favor of a Trenton capitol.  Additionally, Jay had yet to accept the position of Secretary of Foreign Affairs . Due his great success overseas as a Peace Commissioner, John Jay had been elected secretary for foreign affairs on May 7, 1784 without his knowledge or consent.  John Jay did not learn of Congress' action until he arrived in New York on July 24.  As late as October 20 he wrote Secretary Charles Thomson:
I must decline accepting the Place offered me, at least until the Sense of Congress may be known on two or three points....as I have a Family it is necessary in my opinion, that my Residence should be stationary---;and I think it both reasonable & important that the Persons to serve under me in the office, should be of my appointment.
Jay was elected a delegate to the United States in Congress Assembled on October 26, and attended from December 6 to 24 in Trenton.  During the Trenton session, on December 6, Virginia Delegate James Monroe wrote to James Madison stating:
Mr. Jay is here & will I understand accept the office of foreign affrs. upon condition Congress will establish themselves at any one place.

John Jay was lobbied hard by both southern and northern delegates to accept the position.  The “one place,” however, that Jay wanted the capital was in his hometown of New York.  Jay also wanted the USCA to grant the authority to select his owns clerks and assistants as Foreign Secretary.    


Proposed National Capitol Site in Trenton original Manuscript Map 1784 Historic.us

On the topic of the a permanent seat for the new capital, the Southern States made every effort to have the resolution mandating alternate sessions at Trenton and Annapolis repealed. On December 20, the USCA passed a resolution that repealed the proposed two capitol system and provide money for the erection of federal buildings:
Resolved, that it is inexpedient for Congress at this time to erect more than one federal town public buildings for their accommodation at more than one place.  Resolved, (by nine states,) That a sum not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars be appropriated for the payment of the expense of erecting such buildings; provided always, that hotels or dwelling-houses for the members of Congress representing the different states, shall not be understood as included in the above appropriation.[2]
John Jay managed to gather enough support to temporarily relocate the capital to New York, which insured his acceptance as the second United States Foreign Secretary.   On December 20, the USCA overturned decision to create two capitals. With this understanding,  Delegate Jay introduced a resolution aimed at removing Trenton and Annapolis as the temporary federal capitals clinching  New York City as the next U.S. Seat of Government:
That it is expedient Congress should determine on a place, at which they will continue to sit until proper accommodations in a federal town shall be erected, and that the subsisting resolutions respecting the alternate temporary residence of Congress at Trenton and Annapolis, be repealed.[3]
 Jay then resigned his seat in USCA and took the oath of office as Secretary for Foreign Affairs before Justice Isaac Smith of the New Jersey Supreme Court.  The following day Foreign Affairs Under-Secretary, Henry Remsen, Jr. turned over all the department papers to John Jay.  The following official dispatch, Jay’s first, was sent to the French Chargé d'Affaires, Marquis de Barbé-Marbois:
Having accepted the place of Secretary for Foreign Affairs, it becomes my duty to inform you that Congress will adjourn to-morrow to meet at the City of New York on Tuesday, the 11th day of January next.[4]
On December 23, 1784, Elbridge Gerry wrote to James Warren about this unprecedented Congressional action.
There was a stronger party formed against us than I remember to have seen, but I think it will subside and matters be in good train again. We have carried two great points to-day by passing an ordinance, 1st. to appoint three commissioners to lay out a district on the branch of either side of the Delaware, within eight miles of this place, to purchase the soil and enter into contracts for erecting suitable buildings. 2dly. To adjourn to New-York and reside there until suitable buildings are prepared. This I consider a fortunate affair in every respect but one. It is so disagreeable to our worthy secretary [Charles Thomson] that there is reason to apprehend he will resign his appointment.
We have been so happy also as to remove some objections on the part of Mr. Jay to the acceptance of his office, and he yesterday took the oaths and entered on the business of his department.
Remarkably, the capital of the United States America, had been moved as a condition of John Jay accepting the position of United States Foreign Secretary. 





The historic tavern continued to be known as the French Arms Tavern until it was leased to Francis Witt on January 4, 1785 and renamed the Blazing Star. Two years later, the tavern took center stage again during the ratification of the Constitution of 1787. From  December 11 to December 18, 1787, the French Arms Tavern hosted the New Jersey ratification convention for the United States Constitution.  On December 18, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the US Constitution with the following resolution:

In Convention of the State of New Jersey

Whereas a convention of Delegates from the following States, vizt. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, met at Philadelphia for the purpose of deliberating on, and forming a constitution for the United States of America, finished their Session on the seventeenth day of September last and reported to Congress the form which they had agreed upon, in the words following, Vizt

And Whereas Congress on the twenty eighth day of September last unanimously did resolve " that the said report with the Resolutions and letter accompanying the same, be transmitted to the several Legislatures, in order to be submitted to a convention of Delegates, chosen in each State by the People thereof, in conformity to the Resolves of the convention made and provided in that case."

And Whereas the Legislature of this State did on the twenty ninth day of October last Resolve in the words following, Vizt- " Resolved unanimously, That it be recommended to such of the Inhabitants of this State as are entitled to vote for Representatives in General Assembly, to meet in their respective counties on the fourth Tuesday in November next, at the several places fixed by law for holding the annual elections, to choose three suitable persons to serve as Delegates from each County in a State Convention, for the purposes herein before-mentioned, and that the same be conducted agreeably to the mode, and conformably with the Rules and Regulations prescribed for conducting such Elections."

Resolved unanimously, That the Persons so Elected to serve in State Convention, do assemble and meet together on the second Tuesday in December next, at Trenton, in the County of Hunterdon, then and there to take into Consideration the aforesaid Constitution; and if approved of by them, finally to Ratify the same in behalf and on the part of this State; and make Report thereof to the United States in Congress assembled, in Conformity with the Resolutions thereto annexed."

" Resolved, That the Sheriffs of the respective Counties of this State shall be, and they are hereby required to give as timely Notice as may be, by Advertisements to the People of their Counties of the time, place and Purpose of holding Elections as aforesaid."

And Whereas the Legislature of this State did also on the first day of November last make and pass the following Act, Vizt- "An Act to authorize the People of this State to meet in Convention, deliberate upon, agree to, and ratify the Constitution of the United States, proposed by the late General Convention. Be it Enacted by the Council and General Assembly of this State, and it is hereby enacted by the Authority of the same, That it shall and may be lawful for the People thereof, by their Delegates, to meet in Convention, to deliberate upon, and, if approved of by them, to ratify the Constitution for the United States, proposed by the General Convention, held at Philadelphia, and every Act, matter and clause therein contained, conformably to the Resolutions of the Legislature, passed the twenty-ninth day of October, Seventeen hundred and eighty seven, any Law, Usage or Custom to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding."

Now be it known that we the Delegates of the State of New-Jersey chosen by the People thereof for the purposes aforesaid having maturely deliberated on, and considered the aforesaid proposed Constitution, do hereby for and on the behalf of the People of the said State of New-Jersey agree to, ratify and confirm the same and every part thereof.

Done in Convention by the unanimous consent of the members present, this eighteenth day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the twelfth.-In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names.

Note, Before the Signing hereof, the following words, viz, " Cession of " were interlined between the fifteenth and sixteenth lines on the second sheet.

John Stevens President- and Delegate from the County of Hunterdon

Bergen -   John Fell, Peter Zabriskie, Cornelius Hennion
Essex - John Chetwood, Samuel Hay, David Crane
Middlesex - John Neilson, John Beatty, Benjamin Manning
Monmouth - Elisha Lawrence, Samuel Breese, William Crawford
Somersett - Jno Witherspoon, Jacob R Hardenbergh, Fred: Frelinghuysen
Burlington - Thomas Reynolds, Geo. Anderson, Joshua M. Wallace
Gloucester - Rd Howels, Andw Hunter. Benjamin Whitall
Salem - Whitten Cripps, Edmund Wetherby
County Of Cape-May - Jesse Hand, Jeremiah Eldredge, Matthew Whilldin
Hunterdon - David Brearley, Joshua Corshon
Morris - William Windes, William Woodhull, John Jacob Faesch
Cumberland - Davd Potter, Jonathan Bowen, Eli Elmer
Sussex - Robert Ogden, Thoms Anderson, Robt Hoops

Attest. Saml W. Stockton Secy.

On April 1, 1789 Henry Drake took over the tavern and renamed it the City Tavern. It was here on April 21, 1789 that George Washington, journeying to New York for his inauguration, dined after being received by the citizens of Trenton at the Assunpink Creek Bridge. 


Account of President elect George Washington dining with Trenton's leading citizens on April 21st,  1789 at the City Tavern, formerly the French Arms, on the southwest corner of Second and King Streets.
 Bronze Tablet marking the site where the French Arms Tavern once stood - Historic.us


In 1836, the First Mechanics and Manufacturers Bank purchased the property, tore down the tavern and constructed a new two-story building on the site.  The building is currently occupied by a branch of Wells Fargo...




[1] Godfrey, The Mechanics Bank, pp. 25-6.
[2] Journals of the USCA, Monday, December 20, 1784
[3] Ibid, Tuesday, December 21, 1784
[4] DCC, op. cit. , p. 401


French Arms Tavern
Trenton, New Jersey
November 1, 1784 to December 24, 1784


United States Continental Congress French Arms Tavern Legislation:

The Letter of Thanks to Marquis de Lafayette was adopted to Congress and a resolution was passed to move USCA to NYC to accommodate the wishes of Foreign Secretary John JayNovember 1 Convenes at Trenton, two states represented. November 29 Achieves quorum, seven states represented.  November 30 Elects Richard Henry Lee President of the United States in Congress Assembled. December 3 Registers commission of Swedish consul Charles Hellstedt; orders redeployment of Fort Stanwix troops to West Point. December 7 Countermands redeployment of Fort Stanwix troops, who are ordered to Fort Rensselaer. December 8 Receives Massachusetts and New York agents assembled to select judges for hearing land claim dispute between the two states. December 11 Rejects motion to adjourn from Trenton; commends the Marquis de Lafayette. December 14 Postpones election of treasury commissioners; directs Benjamin Franklin to delay signing consular convention with France. December 15 Receives Spanish announcement closing Mississippi River. December 17 Elects chaplain to Congress; resolves to appoint minister to Spain. December 20 Overturns decision to create two capitals; appropriates $100,000 for capital buildings. December 23 Adopts ordinance for fixing upon a place for the residence of Congress. December 24 Certifies selection of judges for hearing Massachusetts-New York land claim dispute; adjourns to New York City.

Capitals of the United States and Colonies of America

Philadelphia
Sept. 5, 1774 to Oct. 24, 1774
Philadelphia
May 10, 1775 to Dec. 12, 1776
Baltimore
Dec. 20, 1776 to Feb. 27, 1777
Philadelphia
March 4, 1777 to Sept. 18, 1777
Lancaster
September 27, 1777
York
Sept. 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778
Philadelphia
July 2, 1778 to June 21, 1783
Princeton
June 30, 1783 to Nov. 4, 1783
Annapolis
Nov. 26, 1783 to Aug. 19, 1784
Trenton
Nov. 1, 1784 to Dec. 24, 1784
New York City
Jan. 11, 1785 to Nov. 13, 1788
New York City
Nov. 1788 to March 3,1789
New York City
March 3,1789 to August 12, 1790
Philadelphia
December 6,1790 to May 14, 1800
Washington DC
November 17,1800 to Present






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