- Series 6: John Witherspoon Records
Series 6: John Witherspoon Records
4 boxes (2 partial)
This collection is stored at Mudd Manuscript Library.
Requests will be delivered to Princeton University Archives, MUDD Reading Room
Collection Creator: Princeton University. Office of the
Extent: 4 boxes (2 partial)
Materials generated by the office of the president are closed for 40 years from
the date of their creation. Some records relating to personnel or students are
closed for longer periods of time.
John Witherspoon arrived in America from Scotland in 1768 having been
persuaded by the trustees and then medical student Benjamin Rush to assume
the presidency of the College of New Jersey. After declining initially,
Witherspoon, a graduate of the University of Edinburgh, became one of the
most popular and influential presidents in Princeton University's history.
Witherspoon served not only Princeton, but also the nascent United States as
a member of the Continental Congress. During Witherspoon's tenure the
College weathered the turmoil caused by the American Revolution: Nassau Hall
sustained heavy damage, enrollment declined, and finances were precarious.
In the wake of this conflict, Witherspoon's preaching tours increased
enrollment, particularly from the southern United States, and he broadened
the curriculum by his emphasis on English grammar and composition. He also
obtained needed instruments of instruction such as books for the library and
apparatus for scientific study (such as the Rittenhouse Orrery). Witherspoon
advocated a well-rounded clergy, emphasizing the liberal education of
students, rather than just religious instruction. It was his aspiration to
produce men who would not only make exceptional clerics, but also
outstanding statesmen. Witherspoon instructed many students who became
notable for their contributions to state and federal government, including
James Madison, Aaron Burr, Jr., William Smith Livingston, Andrew
Kirkpatrick, and Ashbel Green. Part of Witherspoon's popularity and
influence with both students and politicians derived from his ability to
discuss the merits of contesting views, while using reason to reach an
This series is arranged topically and contains biographical, genealogical,
and post- mortem documents, as well as information about Witherspoon's years
at the College of New Jersey, including original letters. Information
concerning Witherspoon possessions donated to the College and Tusculum, his
home one mile north of the College, is also present, as are business papers,
including an account of repairs completed at the College, trustee accounts,
and receipts. This series contains several pamphlets and sermons referencing
Witherspoon, as well as Varnum Lansing Collins's notes for his book, President Witherspoon: A Biography. There are a
significant number of images in this series, including portraits,
photographs of cameos and statues, and views of Tusculum and St. George's
Church in Paisley, Scotland, the town where Witherspoon ministered prior to
coming to Princeton.
Series 6: John Witherspoon Records; 1772-1996; Office of the President Records : Jonathan Dickinson
to Harold W. Dodds Subgroup, Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.