The Charter, which created the corporation originally known as The Trustees of the College of New Jersey, was granted in the name of King George II and "passed the Great Seal" of the Province of New Jersey on October 22, 1746.
This charter authorized the erection of a college "for the Education of Youth in the Learned Languages and in the Liberal Arts and Sciences," designated seven men, with five others to be chosen by them, to be the trustees of the college, and ordained that "the said Trustees and their Successors shall forever hereafter be, in Deed, Fact & Name a Body corporate & politick."
The charter granted the trustees and their successors full power and authority to acquire real and personal property, to erect buildings, to elect a president, tutors, professors, and other officers, to grant degrees, and to establish ordinances and laws "not repugnant to the Laws and Statutes of . . . Great Britain, or . . . of New Jersey, and not excluding any Person of any religious Denomination whatsoever from . . . any of the Liberties, Privileges, or immunities of the . . . College, on account of his . . . being of a Religious profession Different from the . . . Trustees of the College."
The original charter was issued by John Hamilton, president of the Council of the Province of New Jersey, who was acting as governor at the time. Because Hamilton's authority was questioned, the legal status of the College came under attack, and a second charter was therefore issued in 1748 by Jonathan Belcher, newly appointed governor of the province.* It corresponded, for the most part, to the charter of 1746, but it increased the maximum number of trustees from twelve to twenty-three, made the governor of New Jersey a trustee ex-officio, and stipulated that twelve trustees were to be inhabitants of the State of New Jersey.+
In 1780, the Council (i.e., Senate) and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey, on petition of the trustees, confirmed the royal charter of 1748 with minor changes, one being that each trustee swear allegiance to the state in which he resided instead of to the king of Great Britain. A further legislative enactment, adopted in 1799, required him also to affirm his intention to support the Constitution of the United States. Still another, adopted in 1866, directed him to swear to perform the duties of his office faithfully and impartially, thus adding the third article of the oath each new trustee has taken ever since.
On February 13, 1896, the corporation adopted a resolution changing its name to The Trustees of Princeton University. President Patton publicly proclaimed this change on October 22, 1896, the 150th anniversary of the granting of the first charter.
The "yearly clear value" of real and personal property the trustees were allowed to acquire for the purpose of the corporation was limited at one time to the equivalent of 20,000 bushels of wheat. Since 1903 the corporation's capacity to receive real and personal property has been -- legally -- unlimited.
In 1963, the Board of Trustees adopted a complete revision of the charter, simplifying and modernizing its language to reflect the requirements and benefits of present law and corporate practice. This revision was filed with the Secretary of State as constituting the current Certificate of Incorporation of The Trustees of Princeton University.
- The text of the charters of 1746 and of 1748 is given in Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker's Princeton 1746-1896, pp. 396-404.
+An amendment adopted in 1926 provided that thereafter there should be from twenty-three to forty trustees, the exact number to be fixed from time to time in the by-laws. The number who were to be resident of New Jersey was reduced to eight and, by another amendment in 1963, to one in addition to the governor and the president of the University.
Source: Leitch p. 89 ff