Benjamin Franklin Papers

Library Company: Acceptance of the Charter, 3 May 1742

Library Company: Acceptance of the Charter

DS: Haverford College Library

The increasing property of the Library Company suggested that the time had come to incorporate it.1 On June 21, 1739, Rev. Richard Peters informed the Directors that the Proprietor was willing to grant a charter, and he proposed to have one drafted for their perusal. “This Discourse of Mr. Peters’s was very pleasing to the Directors present,” the minutes noted. The matter progressed slowly. The Directors approached Thomas Penn informally; they canvassed the subscribers; and, meeting with general approval, appointed a committee (its composition is not known) to draft a charter. By July 1741, however, when they were about to lay it before the Proprietor, they learned that some subscribers felt strongly that they had exceeded their authority “and were about to obtrude a disadvantageous Charter upon the Company without their [the subscribers’] Consent.” A few wanted no charter at all. The Directors called a special meeting for August 3, to explain their acts and purposes and to ask the subscribers to “determine whether in their opinion a Charter will be of Service to them, and what Method of Application shall be made Use of to obtain it.” Forty-five members appeared, several were represented by proxies, and after some debate they unanimously resolved to apply for a charter. The draft the Directors were considering was read article by article, and two changes were ordered: the Company should reserve specifically the power of making laws for its own government, and a quorum for making laws after notice given should be one fourth of the subscribers, instead of one fifth as proposed. The charter thus amended was transcribed and carried to the Proprietor. He referred it to Governor Thomas, who signed it on August 19, 1741.2

When the subscribers were asked to signify their acceptance, two new objections were made: the charter did not specifically apply to the successors of the present members, and (doubtless through the scrivener’s error) the subscribers were liable not only for their annual 10s. payments but for greater sums “in lieu thereof.”3 The necessary change and correction were made, to the satisfaction of the dissenters; and on March 15 Samuel Rhoads showed the Directors the charter as “fairly engrossed” by Joseph Breintnall. They presented it to Governor Thomas, and he signed it on March 25, 1742. At their annual meeting on May 3 the subscribers approved it unanimously.4

[May 3, 1742]

The third Day of May Anno Domini 1742 We the Subscribers Members of the Library Company of Philadelphia being met in pursuance of Notice for that purpose given do thankfully receive and accept of the Charter granted to the said Company by the honourable the Proprietaries of Pensylvania. Witness our Hands.

Jno Langdale Saml. Hale,
John Roberts  by his Proxy Wm Parsons
Isaiah Warner Nichs. Scull,
Philip Syng  by his Proxy Wm Parsons
George Emlen Jr. Willm. Maugridge,
John Jones jun.  by his Proxy Wm Parsons
Thos: Hopkinson 1742 Wm. Parsons
Richard Peters Jas: Morris
William Peters Joseph Stretch
 by his Proxy Isaac Williams
 Richard Peters  by his Proxy Henry Pratt
Alex: Graydon Henry Pratt
Andrew Hamilton Evan Morgan
Robt Greenway Thomas Shaw
Saml: Morris  by his Proxy Jacob Duché
Saml: Coates Jacob Duché
Benja: Shoemaker Charles Meredith
Hugh Roberts  by his Proxy Henry Pratt
Wm: Coleman Wm Callender
Joseph Breintnall Joseph King
Saml Norris Benja: Paschall
B Franklin John Paschall
Richd Standley Wm Plumsted
Tench Francis Will. Allen
John Read Fras. Richardson
Anth Nicholas Isr: Pemberton junr:
James Hamilton
Samuel Rhoads
Thos Godfrey
James Bingham
Wm Crosthwaite
Thomas Bond } by their proxy
Reece Lloyd Hugh Roberts
Samuel M’Call
John Sober

1This account of the charter is taken from MS Minutes, Lib. Co. Phila.

2The charters of 1741 and 1742 are in Lib. Co. Phila. That of 1742 was recorded in Patent Book A 10, p. 538, now in Bureau of Land Records, Dept. of Internal Affairs, Harrisburg, Pa. In both charters BF’s name is first in the list of the 75 subscribers named.

3The 1742 charter obligated every member to pay 10s. “on the first Monday in May in every Year forever, and those who neglect so to do shall pay such greater Sum or Sums in Lieu thereof at such Times within Twelve Months then next following as by the Laws of the said Company shall be appointed.” The italicized words were omitted from the 1741 charter.

4See below, p. 358. In 1746 BF printed the texts of the charter and by-laws with a list of “Books Added to the Library Since the Year 1741.” Evans 5853.

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