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Township Act of 1798

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The Township Act of 1798 ("An Act incorporating the Inhabitants of Townships, designating their Powers, and regulating their Meetings", PL 1798, p. 289) is an Act passed by New Jersey Legislature on February 21, 1798, that formally incorporated 104 municipalities in 13 counties in New Jersey.[1] It set standards on format for government of townships. The act was largely replaced by subsequent laws.

Township government[edit]

The Act created towns with a direct democracy form that resembled the early New England town meeting.[2] At the annual town meeting, people were able to vote if they met all of the following criteria

  • white male
  • over the age of 21
  • citizens of New Jersey
  • residents of the town for at least 6 months
  • and for at least a year paid
    • taxes on an owned house or
    • $5 in taxes on a rented house

The Act explicitly allowed the town meetings to manage the town by improving common land, pass municipal laws and ordinances, and to maintain the roads. The people also elected officials for one year: a clerk, tax collector, at least three "freeholders", and a judge.

Original townships and counties[edit]

In the following list, the 104 original incorporated townships are provided, along with the original 13 counties which they were part of in 1798. 88 of the original townships still survive. Some of the townships are now in different counties. The number in the brackets indicate the year the township was originally founded or of its earliest mention.

Bergen County[edit]

Burlington County[edit]

Cape May County[edit]

Cumberland County[edit]

Essex County[edit]

Gloucester County[edit]

Hunterdon County[edit]

Middlesex County[edit]

Monmouth County[edit]

Morris County[edit]

Salem County[edit]

Somerset County[edit]

Sussex County[edit]

Changes since 1798[edit]

New counties and towns[edit]

Since the act was passed, eight additional counties were created: Atlantic County in 1837, Camden County in 1837, Hudson County in 1840, Mercer County in 1838, Ocean County in 1850, Passaic County 1837, Union County in 1857, and Warren County in 1824, for a total 21 counties.


The Township Act of 1899 provided sweeping changes. The town meeting, a staple of towns for the past 101 years, was eliminated in favor of consolidating in the hands of a greatly strengthened township committee, which were given policy-making power. The only provision left unchanged was regarding money. The people of a town keep the power to determine the direction of the power of the money, albeit through a ballot box instead of through a town meeting.

The original provisions of the Township Act of 1798 have largely been replaced by several acts in the 20th century. Most of the modern New Jersey towns are incorporated under the 1911 Walsh Act, 1923 Municipal Manager Law and the 1950 Faulkner Act.


  1. ^ Laws of New-Jersey, p. 332. Joseph Justice, 1821. Accessed December 14, 2015. "AN ACT incorporating the inhabitants of townships, designating their powers and regulating their meetings. Passed the 21st of February 1798."
  2. ^ "The Story of New Jersey's Civil boundaries" (PDF). nj.gov. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  3. ^ "The Story of New Jersey's Civil Boundaries" (PDF). The State of New Jersey. Retrieved January 1, 2016.