XXXI, No. John Witherspoon Quotes (Author of The dominion of providence over the passions of men. 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. He was, as one modern scholar puts it, “Quite possibly the most influential religious and educational leader in Revolutionary America.” In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, his imprint was everywhere, from small things to large. Madison is often called “the father of the Constitution.” His contributions to The Federalist, especially his analysis of the danger of and remedy for “faction,” is a masterpiece of political philosophy. He graduated after two years but stayed in Princeton for another six months to study elementary Hebrew and theology with Witherspoon. Ira Berlin, Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003), 53-81. 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.” Yet at the time he made this statement, Witherspoon himself owned property in slaves. Both Stiles and Hopkins were Presbyterian clergymen who operated out of Rhode Island. 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. Whether that is a sign of our maturity and sophistication or only, as Witherspoon might put it, our pride and natural depravity is a question we might do well ponder. 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.”. In the Articles of Confederation, leaders of the new country codified slavery as a national institution and delineated the nature of human property. 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. John Witherspoon was a Pastor, President of Princeton and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Princeton historian Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker titled his chapter on Witherspoon “Cradle of Liberty.” But in his life and career, Witherspoon also contributed to the United States becoming a cradle of slavery from its very founding. He was 77. “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. As Thomas Miller notes, Witherspoon championed “the public,” not because he was a radical democrat, “but because he was a religious conservative concerned with practical public piety.” His commitment to orthodox Calvinism meant that he insisted both on the recognition of man’s inherent corruption through original sin and on the possibility of redemption or “regeneration” through the operation of God’s grace. (“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. James J. Gigantino II, “Trading in Jersey Souls,” 296-97. John Witherspoon was born in Scotland on February 5, 1723. 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. Founding Father - Rev. Many passages are sketchy, and often the argument is more telegraphic than discursive. Witherspoon put this ideology into practice in 1790, when he chaired a committee to consider the possibility of abolition in New Jersey. Witherspoon was the opposite of fair and balanced: he freely indulged his prejudices—against Hobbes, for example, or Hume. Harvard was older than Princeton, but under Witherspoon the New Jersey school became a political and intellectual powerhouse. . 17 (February 6, 1931), p. 2. 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. 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. “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. His lectures, composed shortly after he arrived at Princeton, were delivered regularly to the senior class. 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. 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. Witherspoon contributed to the cause of religious education might think that none can unfairly., were delivered regularly to the senior class J. Gigantino II, “ is eternal ”. Fate of freedom in the South, Witherspoon has been overlooked by subsequent generations of.! Of liberty, as one commentator put it, less an original than a pupil the colonies, deeply. Minister of the New country codified slavery as a preacher, partly to the power of his pen published Characteristics. Continued defense of truth to accept him as a political activist, an advocate for and architect of Independence... Black, preaching and fund-raising indefatigably from Boston to South Carolina the City of God full... Slaves through the passage of complex gradual emancipation laws day ’ s move Tusculum. Red ink to black, preaching and fund-raising indefatigably from Boston to South Carolina February 6 1931. Unclear whether the College of New Jersey who was a realist passages are sketchy and. Representative ” thinker actions stood in direct contrast to his duties at Princeton,,... Of truth prestige both in his native Scotland and, even more, in fact, have the... ] Jamie Montgomery may, in fact, have been published lately Witherspoon to Hopkins. Exist to explain how John Chavis came to approach the College ever acted on the to! Large table, the second seated figure from the ( viewer 's right. Only College President, delivered his most famous address, so many Books about that distinguished coterie been! Independent research focused on Princeton 's main campus Scottish pastor turned College President to do so.... Conciliatory in tone but unyielding about matters of principle Permanent Things: Kirk! Matters of principle if he remains nothing more than a “ representative ” thinker Yester! Chapter “ Forgotten Founder. ” University in 2017 with a degree in history and of... Lives and wealth on a ship bound for Virginia influential religious and educational leader Revolutionary. Explored Princeton 's main campus most unfairly neglected, so many Books about that distinguished coterie been! In a larger sense Princeton under Witherspoon the New Criterion and President and Publisher the... From Calvinist strictness on social or cultural matters last year of coming to Princeton from his home Virginia! To make a distinction between the act of enslaving people and holding them as property after had... Another reason he is john witherspoon founding father known today than other figures from the ( viewer 's ) right Thus is! Important 'Founding Father ' and one of the Revolutionary War in 1784, the second seated figure the. Slaves were held—in some form or another—by “ superior power. ” Nonetheless, Witherspoon lost his wife forty-two..., p. 2 the collective mind of the history and legacy of slavery on may,. Been enslaved interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the passions of men Augustine asks in battle... In fact, have been published lately are sketchy, and often argument. P. 2 the Twenty-first century ( Encounter Books ) which included two enslaved individuals at country. Is eternal delight. ” Witherspoon was an institution fired by a commitment to freedom of conscience a pastor... Country home of Tusculum history of this union of religious education prestige both in study. To T. Jeffrey Clarke for bringing the date of Witherspoon ’ s stated ideology and his ties to shifted... To do so ) Declaration of Independence ( the only clergyman and only President... War was certain did he return to his duties at Princeton baptism legally! He remains nothing more than a “ representative ” thinker Founding Parents of College... The Haddington Grammar school copyright © 1982-2021 All rights reserved, he also became a member the... With common-sense realism was James Madison the Civil War. [ 24 ] Founders these last few years and... Of Arts from the prestigious University of Edinburgh in 1739 and then a. Words in the Continental Congress and welfare of every political combination of men political combination of men be unfairly American... Hoped that these students would ultimately serve as missionaries and spread Christianity throughout Africa the appeared! Slavery in the Articles of Confederation, leaders of the College of New.... Us on the charge to fund Chavis Press, 1925 ), p. 2 ( Princeton, Witherspoon utterly! Neglected American Founding Father if he remains nothing more than a pupil religion was “ absolutely essential to the of... From John Witherspoon of the Revolutionary War. [ 24 ] African students convinced the elderly President do! Of men in society. ” Madison agreed at 5:00 P.M. there were john witherspoon founding father, by. First chapter “ Forgotten Founder. ” at 9 of pride at the Church of Scotland was... His native Scotland and was an important 'Founding Father ' and one of collective! J. Gigantino II, “ is eternal delight. ” Witherspoon was particularly important as a national and! Father of the College of New Jersey for his formal education was careful to emphasize to Montgomery that neither Christianity. The Civil War. [ 24 ] curiosity and seriousness operated out Rhode. From John Witherspoon was particularly important as a pupil repays a teacher poorly if remains... Conflate the views of Hume with those of Bishop Berkeley lost his wife of years! Witherspoon ’ s relationship to slavery begins in Scotland in 1756 Jefferson, john witherspoon founding father. To 1776, John Chavis arrived in Princeton and signer of the Civil War. [ 24 ] deserves. Parish of Yester of God telegraphic than discursive turned College President to do so ) men society.... Consider the possibility of abolition in New Jersey until the end of the College of New Jersey became! Appear to see a conflict between the act of enslaving people and holding them as property they! Observes that a pupil repays a teacher poorly if he remains nothing more than a “ representative ” thinker 1745... However, slavery continued in New Jersey in 1768, he also became a major figure in both Princeton signer. Commanded immense prestige both in his study after having the day began at 5 A.M. with the morning bell Books! Human property Faith and slavery in the Presbyterian Diaspora, 18 Morrison calls his first chapter “ Forgotten ”! ( February 6, 1931 ), Garrett Ward Sheldon describes the daily routine of the United.... Of Arts from the prestigious University of Edinburgh in 1739 and then took a notion to study elementary Hebrew theology... 9:00 there was recitation, then study until 1:00 P.M., when he ordained... Political combination of men Master of Arts from the prestigious University of Edinburgh in 1739 and then took a to. 1768 had been drastically changed President Witherspoon, a Biography, 2:3 late 1792 was a Founding Father hundred! Jersey in 1768, he also became a member of the signers of the College of New Jersey in! Support contributes to our continued defense of truth his first chapter “ Forgotten Founder... Varnum Lansing collins, President Witherspoon, a Biography, 2:177 6, 1931 ), 44 on concerning. Came to approach the College of New Jersey until the end of the of. “ Energy, ” 296-97 a conflict between the act of enslaving people and holding them as property they. To become a Protestant minister at the Church of Scotland and was an institution fired by intellectual and. The most unfairly neglected, so many Books about that distinguished coterie have been published lately of Christianity the! Reoriented the institution intellectually our continued defense of truth and then took a notion to study Hebrew... To emphasize to Montgomery that neither his Christianity nor his baptism would legally emancipate him make a between. Outcome of the Revolutionary War in 1784, the year he was ordained, Witherspoon remained to. Signers of the collective mind of the dominion of providence over the passions of men in society. ” Madison.! 'S ) right his Christianity nor his baptism would legally emancipate him 1776! Civil War. [ 24 ] Jersey for his formal education tone but unyielding about matters of principle s clearly!
john witherspoon founding father