Nassau Hall

Nassau Hall
Princeton, New Jersey
July 3, 1783 to Nov. 4, 1783

1 Nassau Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544

Nassau Hall  Princeton, New Jersey  July 3, 1783 to Nov. 4, 1783

The structure was built in 1756 at a cost of £2,900 for the College of New Jersey.  Originally the brick-paved halls extended one hundred and seventy-five feet of what was the largest stone structure in the Colonies. In November, 1776, the British took possession of the building and used it as barracks and hospital but were briefly ejected by George Washington during the Battle of Princeton. After the war Nassau Hall, was found to be in great disrepair with “mostly bare partition walls and heaps of fallen plaster."[1] An Article in the New American Magazine of 1760 reported on the building:
There are three flat-arched doors on the north side giving access by a flight of steps to the three separate entries (an entry refers here to the hallway on each floor running the full length of the building). At the center is a projecting section of five bays surmounted by a pediment with circular windows, and other decorations. The only ornamental feature above the cornice, is the cupola, standing somewhat higher than the twelve fireplace chimneys. Beyond these there are no features of distinction. 
The simple interior design is shown in the plan, where a central corridor provided communication with the students' chambers and recitation rooms, the entrances, and the common prayer hall; and on the second floor, with the library over the central north entrance. The prayer hall was two stories high, measured 32 by 40 feet, and had a balcony at the north end which could be reached from the second-story entry. Partially below ground level, though dimly lighted by windows, was the cellar, which served as kitchen, dining area (beneath the prayer hall), and storeroom. In all there were probably forty rooms for the students, not including those added later in the cellar when a moat was dug to allow additional light and air into that dungeon.[2]
Nassau Hall, New American Magazine, March 1760

Secretary USCA writes of the first Session of Congress, June 30th, 1783, in Nassau Hall in a letter to his wife Hannah:

Dear Hannah, By nine o clock, the evening I left you, I arrived at Bristol, where I met the Minister on his return.  ... Next day I started a little after three and was in the boat at Trenton ferry before Six. The ride thus far was exceedingly pleasant, the morning Serene, and the air cool and refreshing. At Trenton I shaved, washed & breakfasted ... As soon as I had breakfasted I set forward and travelling easy I arrived at Princeton about eleven. .... The town is small not much larger than Newark and the chief part of the houses small & built of wood. There are a number of genteel houses around & in the neighborhood. With respect to situation, convenience & pleasure I do not know a more agreeable spot in America. As soon as I had dressed I went to the College to meet Congress. I was conducted along an entry (which runs from one end to the other through the middle of the college) & was led up into the third story where a few members were assembled. Whether it was design or accident that led me this way, I know not. But it had the effect of raising my mortification & disgust at the Situation of Congress to the highest degree. For as I was led along the entry I passed by the chambers of the students, from whence in the sultry heat of the day issued warm steams from the beds, foul linen & dirty lodgings of the boys. I found the members extremely out of humour and dissatisfied with their situation. They are quartered upon the inhabitants who have put themselves to great inconveniencies to receive them into their houses & furnish them with lodgings, but who are not in a situation to board them. ... [3]
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Later, the USCA regular sessions met in Nassau Hall’s library room, which was located over the front entrance. For official dignitary occasions, it adjourned to the chapel on the main floor.  The move of the capital from Philadelphia to the College of New Jersey was a boom for the Princeton economy. 
It had leaped at a bound into national importance; from a “little obscure village” it had within the week “become the capital of America.” And where the “almost perfect silence” of a country hamlet was wont to reign, now nothing was “to be seen or heard but the passing and rattling of wagons, coaches and chairs.” To supply the metropolitan taste of Congressmen the produce of Philadelphia markets was brought up every week, with the result that the village street now echoed to the unfamiliar “crying about of pineapples, oranges, lemons, and every luxurious article both foreign and domestic.”[4]    

[1] Varnum Lansing Collins, , Princeton.  New York:Oxford University Press, 1914, p. 82
[2] Henry L Savage,., ed., Nassau Halls, 1756-1956, Princeton: Princeton University Press,, 1956.  .
[3] Letters of Delegates to Congress, Smith, Paul H., et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789. 25 volumes, Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1976-2000). Charles Thomson to Hannah Thomson, June 30. 1783.
[4] Collins, op.cit., p. 57 references a letter of Ashbel Green, a senior in college, to his father, July 5th, 1783  cited in H. C. Alexander, Life of J. A. Alexander  (1870), Vol. I, p. 16, as well as the Independent Gazeteer of November 1st, 1783.

United States Continental Congress Nassau Hall Legislation:  

June 30, 1783 Congress Reconvenes at Princeton, NJ. July 1 Directs General Robert Howe to suppress mutiny; adopts report explaining congressional response to the mutiny. July 2 Thanks New Jersey officials for their reception of CongressJuly 9-11 Debates proposals for paying arrears due Continental troops. July 16 Orders recall of commissioners investigating British embarkations from New York; directs Secretary Thomson to maintain record of unrepresented states. July 23 Receives Philadelphia address inviting Congress' return. July 28 Returns noncommittal response to Philadelphia address; directs General Washington to attend Congress; relieves General Howe's detachment ordered to suppress Pennsylvania mutiny. July 29 Ratifies Treaty Of Amity And Commerce with Sweden. July 30 Directs Superintendent Of Finance to publish regulations for receiving "Morris notes" in payment of taxes. August 1 Rejects motion to adjourn to Philadelphia. August 6 Authorizes distribution of "necessities" to Delaware Indians and friendly "northern nations." August 7 Orders preparation of "an equestrian statue of the Commander in Chief." August 9 Authorizes furloughing additional Continental troops and continuation of subsistence for Hazen's Canadian regiment. August 13-14 Debates motion for returning to Philadelphia. August 15 Receives proceedings of the court-martial of the Philadelphia mutineers. August 18 Directs Superintendent Of Finance to report estimate of the Continental debt. August 26 Conducts audience with General Washington. August 28 Debates ordinance for prohibiting settlement of Indian lands. September 1 Receives Pennsylvania Assembly resolves for returning to Philadelphia. September 10 Orders renewal of committees to oversee the executive departments. September 13 Adopts stipulations concerning the cession of Virginia's western land claims; confirms acquittal of leaders of the Philadelphia mutiny. September 16-19 Debates Massachusetts' call for retrenchment of Continental expenses. September 22 Adopts proclamation regulating the purchase of Indian lands. September 24 Adopts secret order authorizing Washington to discharge Continental troops "as he shall deem proper and expedient." September 25 Reaffirms commitment to commutation of half pay claims; proclaims treaty with Sweden; debates report on federal jurisdiction over site of congressional residence. September 29 Lifts injunction of secrecy on most foreign dispatches. September 30 Promotes Continental officers not promoted since 1777.  October 1 Debates instructions for ministers abroad. October 3 Debates Indian affairs. October 6-9 Debates location of the Continental capital. October 8 Receives Quaker petition for suppression of the slave trade. October 10 Resolves to leave Princeton; debates location of the capital. October 15 Adopts resolves regulating Indian affairs. October 17 Debates location of the capital. October 18 Adopts Thanksgiving Proclamation. October 21 Adopts two capital locations-Congress to meet alternately "on the banks of the Delaware and Potomac." October 22 Orders distribution of the Peace Treaty to the states. October 23-24 Debates peacetime military arrangements. October 27-28 Fails to convene quorum. October 29 Adopts instructions for negotiating commercial treaties. October 30 Authorizes Pennsylvania to negotiate Indian lands purchase. October 31 Ratifies fiscal contract with France; holds audience with Dutch minister van Berckel. November 1 Orders Post Office theft inquiry; adopts rules to improve congressional attendance. November 3 Convenes new Congress; elects Thomas Mifflin President of the United States in Congress Assembled (elects Daniel Carroll chairman in the president's absence). November 4 Authorizes discharge of the Continental Army- "except 500 men, with proper officers." Adjourns to Annapolis, to reconvene the 26th.

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