[25] Witherspoon left behind an estate which included two enslaved individuals at his country home of Tusculum. Special thanks to T. Jeffrey Clarke for bringing the date of Witherspoon’s move to Tusculum to the author’s attention. Varnum Lansing Collins, President Witherspoon, A Biography, Vol. . Modern scholars, Morrison points out, “have not made much out of Witherspoon one way or another.” For example, a standard text called The Forgotten Leaders of the American Revolution (1955) omits Witherspoon entirely. At 6 A.M. there were chapel services. His views were radical in England and was opposed to the Roman … Wertenbaker, Princeton, 1746-1896, xxvii. The contemporary record is full of encomia and tokens of deference. Witherspoon’s reputation soared during the run-up to and prosecution of the Revolutionary War. John Witherspoon, (born Feb. 15, 1723, [Feb. 5, 1722, old style], Gifford, East Lothian, Scot.—died Nov. 15, 1794, Tusculum, N.J., U.S.), Scottish-American Presbyterian minister and president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University); he was the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. Within two years, Witherspoon had turned the red ink to black, preaching and fund-raising indefatigably from Boston to South Carolina. Witherspoon held intermittent positions in Congress from 1773 to 1776, then from 1780 to 1781. John Witherspoon was not only a Founding Father, but in roles as preacher and professor he taught and influenced of the great men of the Founding era. At 5:00 P.M. there were prayers, followed by supper at 7:00 P.M. and bed at 9. Both Stiles and Hopkins were Presbyterian clergymen who operated out of Rhode Island. Faction, Madison said in Federalist 10, was “sown in the nature of man”: avarice and arrogance were simply inseparable coefficients of the natural corruption man was heir to. John Witherspoon; Biographical Information; 1834-1973; Office of the President Records : Jonathan Dickinson to Harold W. Dodds Subgroup, Box 2, Folder 13-14; Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. Collins, President Witherspoon, A Biography, 2:177. He was an important 'Founding Father' and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. —John Adams on John Witherspoon, 1774. Who is the most unfairly neglected American Founding Father? No wonder Morrison calls his first chapter “Forgotten Founder.”. Source: Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805, 2 vols, Foreword by Ellis Sandoz (2nd ed. But this is hardly surprising. Two years later, much to the consternation of his neighbors in Princeton, he married Anne Dill, a twenty-four-year-old widow, with whom he had two daughters. The pair corresponded often on issues concerning the Presbytery. He then went on to become a Protestant minister at the Church of Scotland and was an avid supporter of republicanism. As Jack Scott, the editor of a modern edition of Witherspoon’s Lectures on Moral Philosophy, noted, what began as a theological debate evolved into a “broad-gauged, thoroughly secular protest movement.” The role of Witherspoon and his brand of Presbyterian Calvinism in that protest movement cannot be overstated. A delicate though studious youth, he tested out of the curriculum for the first two years and entered the college as in effect a junior. John’s father was the son of the Presbyterian Scot, Rev. But Jack Scott was right when he observed that no teacher was “so influential in shaping [Madison’s] thought as Witherspoon.” The influence was evident everywhere, from Madison’s rhetorical style to the substance of his political thought. Born a slave in Virginia, Montgomery was sent by his master to Beith as a carpenter’s apprentice sometime around 1750. John Knox Witherspoon (1723-1794)—clergyman, educator, and founding father—served as Princeton’s sixth president from 1768 until his death in 1794. See John Witherspoon to Henry Remsen, letter dated 14 December 1779, reprinted in “Sugar, Tea, Silk Paid College Bills in 1779, Princeton Alumni Weekly, Vol. John Witherspoon, an actor-comedian who for decades made audiences laugh in television shows and films, including the hit Friday franchise, died suddenly at his home today. Ambition, Madison wrote in one of The Federalist’s most famous passages, “must be made to counteract ambition.”, Man’s redeemable nature makes self-government possible, but lingering depravity makes checks and balances a prudent indemnity. David decided not to enter the ministry like his father but instead read law and became a member of the bar in New Bern. Witherspoon transformed Princeton (the college was often called by the name of its town even before its rebaptism) from a creaky clerical institution into a vibrant bastion of Scotch empiricism and Presbyterian fervor. For them, he said, religion will be perfected only “when we shall have driven away the whole common people … and captivated the hearts of the gentry to a love of our solitary temples.”. Amen.”, Ecclesiastical Characteristics was a sensation, quickly plowing through five editions and earning its still-unknown author the abiding enmity of elite opinion. This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 24 Number 10, on page 4 Copyright © 2021 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com https://newcriterion.com/issues/2006/6/the-forgotten-founder-john-witherspoon. The great irony that attends Witherspoon’s rejection of Hutcheson and other secular pillars of the Scottish Enlightenment is the fact that his own work owes an immense amount to them. The day began at 5 A.M. with the morning bell. William Harrison Taylor, ed., Faith and Slavery in the Presbyterian Diaspora (Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 2016), 18. The fact that today his work goes unread and the name “Witherspoon” is more broadly associated with his direct descendant, the actress Reese Witherspoon, tells us something about the fragility of fame. JOHN WITHERSPOON was born February 5, 1722 in Gifford, Haddingtonshire, Scotland. In September 1792, the trustees of the college discussed the possibility of John Chavis, a “free black man of Virginia,” receiving funds for an education at Princeton. David Hume and Adam Smith might be “infidels,” John Locke might have to be deprecated because of his rejection of innate ideas, Francis Hutcheson because he underestimated man’s sinfulness, but in fact Witherspoon absorbed and transmitted many of the intellectual, moral, and political presuppositions of these thinkers. As early as 1774, in an essay called “Thoughts on American Liberty,” he wrote that “We are firmly determined never to submit to, and do deliberately prefer war with all its horrors and even extermination itself, to slavery riveted upon us and our posterity.” He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, the only clergyman among that group of fifty-six. John Witherspoon and Jack Scott, An Annotated Edition of Lectures on Moral Philosophy (Newark : London: University of Delaware Press ; Associated University Presses, 1982), 125. Jeffry Morrison’s brief, excellent new book, John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic,[1] both testifies to and partly redresses the neglect Witherspoon has suffered. He later testified to his belief that “by being baptized he would become free,” sparking debate within Scottish legal and religious communities regarding the morality of slavery.[8]. John Witherspoon of the College of New Jersey who was a founding father and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Learn how your support contributes to our continued defense of truth. John Witherspoon's statue on Princeton's main campus. “In fine,” Witherspoon writes in a section called the “Athenian Creed,” “I believe in the divinity of Lord S[haftesbury], the saintship of Marcus A[urelius], the perspicacity and sublimity of A[ristotle], and the perpetual duration of Mr. H[utcheson]’s works, notwithstanding their present tendency to oblivion. Yet this argument highlights a disconnect between Witherspoon’s stated ideology and his lived reality. John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic, by [9] In Witherspoon’s new home, however, enslaved people lived and worked on large plantations, country estates, small farms, and even urban businesses to produce the lucrative goods the international market demanded. Enjoy the best John Witherspoon Quotes at BrainyQuote. It was Witherspoon, for example, who is thought to have introduced the Latin term “campus” to describe the grounds of a college. Jeffry H. Morrison offers readers the first comprehensive look at the political thought and career of John Witherspoon—a Scottish Presbyterian minister and one of America’s most influential and overlooked founding fathers. 2 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1925), 167. At first, the forty-five-year-old Witherspoon declined the post: his wife had no wish to uproot herself and their five children to decamp to a half-savage land thousands of miles from home. More to the point, Witherspoon’s Lectures on Moral Philosophy introduced a generation of Princetonians to some leading Enlightenment themes, refracted through the prism of Calvinist anthropology. Harvard was older than Princeton, but under Witherspoon the New Jersey school became a political and intellectual powerhouse. [2] Slavery would not be prohibited in England until 1772 and throughout the British Empire until 1833, but even when Montgomery lived in Beith fewer than one hundred individuals were held as slaves in all of Scotland. John Witherspoon (1723-1794), Princeton’s sixth president and founding father of the United States, had a complex relationship to slavery. So highly did Rush esteem the fiery cleric that (so it is said) he proposed to his future wife partly because of her enthusiasm for Witherspoon. 3 (2010): 282. [23] The committee report recommended that the state take no action on the issue of abolition—claiming that slavery as an institution was already dying out in New Jersey and would not last beyond twenty-eight years. In 1773, the eighteen-year-old Hamilton, bursting with ambition, presented himself to Witherspoon and asked to be admitted to the college and be allowed to advance “with as much rapidity as his exertions would enable him to.” Witherspoon was deeply impressed by the young man, but wrote denying his request because it was “contrary to the usage of the college.” Hamilton, for his part, was impressed by Witherspoon. Only when the outcome of the war was certain did he return to his duties at Princeton. Hi.s wife had died five (“Wherever there is an interest and power to do wrong,” Madison wrote to Jefferson, “wrong will generally be done.”), But if there is a “a degree of depravity in mankind” (Federalist 55), so, too, “there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence.” Yet the way to nurture that esteem and confidence is not to rely upon the goodness of men (that, as Witherspoon put it, would be “folly”): “Enlightened statesmen,” Madison observed, “will not always be at the helm.” Rather, one should rely on man’s energy, his ambition and self-interest. Within a year of coming to Princeton, Witherspoon had utterly reoriented the institution intellectually. Witherspoon justified this as a means of preparing Chavis “for better enjoyment of freedom,” even as two enslaved people lived and worked beside Chavis at Tusculum. Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1790 (1821), 44. John Witherspoon PRINCETON; 1776 John Witherspoon (1723–1794). Alluding pointedly to Shaftesbury’s Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1711)—a specimen example of the sort of aestheticizing moral philosophy that Witherspoon rejected—Ecclesiastical Characteristics baldly satirized the capture of religious understanding by the forces of polite sentiment. And Madison certainly went beyond, or at least altered while absorbing, Witherspoon’s teaching. Preaching at Princeton, the Scottish pastor turned college president, delivered his most famous address. Theological skeptics and even atheists there were aplenty in late eighteenth-century America. Ranging widely over ethics, epistemology, theology, and political theory, they form an eclectic digest that begins by considering individual virtue before moving on to ponder the common good, a tried and true format familiar since Aristotle. A good Scot, Witherspoon was blessed with keen fiscal intelligence. As the historian James H. Smylie put it, “Without preaching a sermon and yet relying upon his theological orientation, Madison translated the views of Witherspoon and the nature of man into a political instrument.”. James J. Gigantino II, “Trading in Jersey Souls: New Jersey and the Interstate Slave Trade,” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 77, no. Even after that, however, slavery continued in New Jersey until the end of the Civil War.[24]. Benjamin Rush spoke for many when, a few years after Witherspoon died, he eulogized him as “a man of great and luminous mind” and predicted that “his work will probably preserve his name to the end of time.” He radiated what his contemporaries called “presence”: a personal dignity and charisma that transcended ideological differences and commanded respect. It was also an institution fired by a commitment to freedom of conscience. Nietzsche observes that a pupil repays a teacher poorly if he remains nothing more than a pupil. A fugitive slave worked on the Princeton campus. Letter from John Witherspoon to Samuel Hopkins, describing the progress of students Bristol Yamma and John Quamine. James J. Gigantino II, “Trading in Jersey Souls,” 296-97. Quotations by John Witherspoon, American Actor, Born January 27, 1942. In fact, the Presbyterian Church settled this matter in 1741, decreeing that “baptism simply freed slaves from the bondage of sin and Satan,” but did not free them from their physical bondage. Witherspoon was particularly important as a political activist, an advocate for and architect of American independence. But for every Jefferson who re-wrote the Bible excising every mention of miracles, there was a platoon of men like Madison who wrote commentaries on the Bible. Witherspoon was an active member of the Continental Congress and was the only clergyman both to sign the Declaration of Independence and to ratify the … Princeton, the only Presbyterian institution in the colonies, was deeply implicated in the rebellion. His father was the minister of the parish of Yester. The one significant influence in this tradition came from an unsurprising source: a Presbyterian pastor named John Witherspoon. In July 1776, when the question of succession was hotly debated and one delegate argued that the country was not yet “ripe” for independence, Witherspoon shot back: “In my judgement the country is not only ripe for the measure, but in danger of becoming rotten for the want of it.”. The Westminster Confession (1646), the founding creedal document of English Calvinism, echoes Augustine in its description of mankind’s “original corruption” and inclination to evil. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington—whom have I left out? John Witherspoon : a Scots Presbyterian minister, president of Princeton, and teacher of James Madison, Witherspoon was elected to serve … In the first Genealogy of the Witherspoon Family (in America) by his grandson, Robert Witherspoon (1728-1788) states "My Grandfather and Grandmother wer born in Scotland about the year 1670; they were cousins and both of one Sir Name, his name was John and hers was Janet; they lived in their younger years in, or near, Glasgow at a place called Begardie; were … As a reader of our efforts, you have stood with us on the front lines in the battle for culture. John Witherspoon Quotes (Author of The dominion of providence over the passions of men. Sovereignty, Nationalism, and the Fate of Freedom in the Twenty-first Century (Encounter Books). Witherspoon embraced the concepts of Scottish common sense realism, and while president of the College of New Jersey , became an influential figure in the development of the United States' national character. At bottom, he says, it is “a perverse kind of exaltation” in which one seeks to “abandon the basis on which the mind should be firmly fixed” and seeks instead to become self-created, to be like God. Ultimately, the committee’s vote against immediate abolition allowed slavery to continue in New Jersey largely undisturbed until 1804, when the state finally passed a gradual emancipation law. Princeton almost got Alexander Hamilton, too. John Witherspoon (February 5, 1723 – November 15, 1794) was a minister, college president, and member of the Continental Congress. “Your talents have been in some measure buried,” he wrote Witherspoon, “but at Princeton they will be called into action, and the evening of your life will be much more effulgent than your brightest meridian days have been.” Eventually, Elizabeth Witherspoon relented, and in 1768 the seven Witherspoons made the journey to America, never to return. This piece of homely political wisdom is not just consonant with, it is a direct product of Madison’s Calvinist background, a background that was formed and articulated in large part by Witherspoon’s teaching. John Witherspoon: memorable moments from a career in comedy – video obituary Actor-comedian John Witherspoon, who memorably played Ice Cube’s father in the Friday films, has died. [18] However, he also contributed to the founding of the United States by helping to draft the Articles of Confederation in 1777. He commanded immense prestige both in his native Scotland and, even more, in America. John Witherspoon is pictured in the background facing the large table, the second seated figure from the (viewer's) right. Witherspoon’s relationship to slavery shifted when he accepted a position as president of the College of New Jersey in 1768. The story of John Witherspoon and his relationship to slavery begins in Scotland in 1756. In one of his essays on language, he coined the term “Americanism.” According to Thomas Miller, who edited an edition of Witherspoon’s selected works in 1990, his Lectures on Eloquence count as the first treatise on rhetoric in America. In debates over Article XI, Witherspoon sided with Southern states and adamantly opposed the taxation of slaves, foreshadowing the conflict that would lead to the “Three-Fifths Compromise” at the Constitutional Convention ten years later. But John Witherspoon was a formidable intellectual and political leader whose role in the affairs of colonial and early republican America deserves wider recognition. One of the early beneficiaries of this union of religious seriousness with common-sense realism was James Madison. In particular, his lecture “On Politics” considered the institution of slavery on a moral, not practical, level for the first time. 1778-1796; 1778-1796; Board of Trustees Records, Volume 1B; Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. His Essay on Money as a Medium of Commerce, with Remarks on the Advantages and Disadvantages of Paper Admitted into General Circulation (1786) was not only a warning against adulterating the money supply but also an early brief for free market policies. [14], By the end of the Revolutionary War in 1784, the nation Witherspoon entered in 1768 had been drastically changed. One of his signal contributions at Princeton was to have steered the institution away from the misty if perfervid idealism of Jonathan Edwards, who had presided over the college a few years before. But in a larger sense Princeton under Witherspoon was an institution fired by intellectual curiosity and seriousness. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998). But during his lifetime Witherspoon enjoyed a very high reputation not only as a clergyman but also as a public intellectual and man of affairs. [26] At the time of his death, three of Witherspoon’s children lived and prospered in Southern states—at the heart of slavery in the young nation. Almost continuously from 1776 to 1782 he was a member of the Continental Congress. Fyodor Dostoevsky: philosopher of freedom, https://newcriterion.com/issues/2006/6/the-forgotten-founder-john-witherspoon, Permanent Things: Russell Kirk’s centenary. Witherspoon believed that religion was “absolutely essential to the existence and welfare of every political combination of men in society.” Madison agreed. John Witherspoon taught a large group of the Founding Fathers, his college; Princeton, proscribed the dominant view in America; Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Penn, and every other institution of higher learning, including the country at large, believed in the same views. Witherspoon was, as one commentator put it, less an original than a “representative” thinker. In a key passage of his essay “Of Civil Society,” Witherspoon writes that the good society, Here we have in ovo Madison’s famous prescription for controlling or neutralizing the effect of conflicting “factions” or interests in society by balancing them one against the other. In the South, Witherspoon’s family and descendants built their lives and wealth on a foundation of slavery. In 1774, while serving as president, John Witherspoon privately tutored two free African men—Bristol Yamma and John Quamine—at the request of fellow ministers and educators Ezra Stiles and Samuel Hopkins. Both of their congregations welcomed African-American members, enslaved and free. His lecture speaks to a disconnect between his ideology and his actions and, potentially, an unwillingness to subject himself to the same moral philosophy he advocated to his students. [Thus it is that] the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights. And in 1779, when Witherspoon moved from the President’s House on campus into the newly completed country home he called “Tusculum,” he purchased two enslaved people to help him farm the 500-acre estate.[11]. “A regimen,” Sheldon wryly remarks, “I’m sure similar to that conducted by Princeton students today.” But it wasn’t so much discipline that distinguished Princeton: it was intellectual sophistication. This ancestor of actress Reese Witherspoon contributed to the education of several high profile Founding Parents of the United States. by John Eidsmoe O n November 15, 1794. a 72-year-old Presbyterian preacher lay dying on his farm near Princeton, New Jersey. John Witherspoon’s ideology of slavery—as seen in his actions as a Revolutionary-era statesman and professor of moral philosophy—both reflected and shaped New Jersey’s gradualism. Witherspoon never intended to publish his lectures. The next hour was reserved for study, followed by breakfast. Witherspoon made clear his disapproval of the slave trade, calling it “unlawful to make inroads upon others, unprovoked, and take away their liberty by no better right than superior power.”[21] Yet at the time he made this statement, Witherspoon himself owned property in slaves. . “A satire that does not bite,” Witherspoon observed, “is good for nothing.” In Witherspoon’s view, the Moderates cut the heart out of religion. Inspired by revolutionary ideals of liberty and equality, some white Americans in northern states willingly sought to extend freedom to enslaved people. For her senior thesis, she explored Princeton's sixth President, John Knox Witherspoon, and his ties to slavery. In 1745, the year he was ordained, Witherspoon anonymously published Ecclesiastical Characteristics, or the Arcana of Church Polity. Apparently Montgomery’s legal status did not trouble Witherspoon, and the minister offered him the same religious instruction available to his white congregants. Lesa Redmond graduated from Princeton University in 2017 with a degree in History and a certificate in African American studies. There are some deep confusions, as when Witherspoon seems to conflate the views of Hume with those of Bishop Berkeley. Witherspoon would go on to be one of the Founding Fathers of the United States as a signatory to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Like John Witherspoon. A sermon, preached at Princeton, on the 17th of May, 1776.... To which is added, An address to the natives of Scotland, residing in America. He was 77. Her independent research focused on Princeton University's connection to slavery. After migrating to New Jersey in 1768, he also became a major figure in both Princeton and United States history. It is unlikely that Witherspoon considered Jamie Montgomery, John Quamine, Bristol Yamma, or John Chavis on the same level as his horses. 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