A precursor to the revolution – New Jersey State Quarter

Today, the New Jersey State Quarter celebrates the anniversary of their statehood and tells the story of an early disagreement about taxation with their Governor.

The governor in 1771, William Franklin, was the acknowledged, though illegitimate, son of Benjamin Franklin.

Oddly, William Franklin was a staunch Loyalist whereas his father was one of our most beloved Patriots.

In 1771, the General Assembly wrote their governor disagreeing to the excessive taxation.


To His Excellency William Franklin Esquire Captain General, Governor and Commander in Chief in and over His Majesty’s Colony of Nova Caesarea or New Jersey and Territories depending thereon in America, Chancellor and Vice Admiral in the same &c.

The Humble Address of the Representatives of the said Colony in General Assembly convened.

May it please your Excellency.

We His Majesty’s Dutiful and Loyal Subjects the Representatives of the Colony of New Jersey, in General Assembly convened have taken into our serious Consideration your Excellency’s Speech at the Opening of this Session, and can truly inform your Excellency That the State of this Colony is not altered for the better since the last Session at Perth Amboy.

At which Time this House informed your Excellency That they could not grant further Supplies for His Majesty’s Troops without laying new Taxes on the good People of this Colony, who are already burthened with a heavy Debt contracted for his Majesty’s Service during the late War.

We therefore cannot, consistent with the Duty we owe our Constituents comply with your Excellency’s Requisition at present.

The Militia Law now in Force, we conceive may be sufficient for all the Purposes intended thereby.

We would, on all Occasions, do the strictest Justice to, and cultivate the Friendship of the several Indian Nations. But They have received full Satisfaction from this Colony & publickly acknowledged it.

And We having no Trade or Traders among any of them cannot conceive it necessary to appoint Commissioners on the Part of this Colony.

We are truly thankful to our most Gracious Sovereign for confirming the Law for choosing Representatives for the Counties of Morris, Cumberland and Sussex, by which the Good People of those Counties will be equally Represented.

By Order of the House Stephen Crane Speaker

House of Assembly April 20th 1771.


In response, Governor Franklin wrote a lengthy chastisement in which he closed with the following:

But if you should, nevertheless, obstinately persevere in setting yourselves up in Opposition to the King and Parliament, when you have not even the Assembly of any neighbouring Colony to countenance your Proceedings by a similar Conduct, you will, I believe, in the Opinion of every sensible Man, act a Part extremely rash and imprudent, and big with Mischief to your Constituents.

William Franklin. April 23, 1771.


At this point, the disagreements remained verbal and written, but within a few short years, the Revolution began in earnest with New Jersey divided into three roughly equal factions: Loyalists, Patriots and Undecided.

After the war and the formation of the new document to govern the infant country, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the Constitution on December 18, 1787.

Also after the war, William Franklin moved to England, and due to their differing beliefs, was estranged from his famous father.

The New Jersey State Quarter shows against a drawing from the era showing the federal pillars as the states joined the Union.

New Jersey State Quarter