Biography and History

Born in Hanover, New Jersey, on July 6, 1762, Ashbel Green was the son of the Reverend Jacob Green, minister of the Presbyterian congregation in Hanover. Taught at home by his father, Green adopted many of his father’s religious and political convictions. Green credited his father with adequately preparing him for college. He entered the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) as a member of the Class of 1783 during that class’s junior year. He graduated as valedictorian and delivered the valedictory oration. After graduation, Green spent two years as a tutor at the college followed by a year and a half as the chair of the Mathematics and Natural Philosophy department. While working at the college, Green was also studying theology with Professor John Witherspoon with the goal of becoming a minister in mind. Green would also marry his first wife, Elizabeth Stockton, while at the College of New Jersey. Elizabeth was the daughter of prominent Princetonian Robert Stockton. They had three children together – Robert Stockton, Jacob, and James Sprout.

Green was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in February 1786. He was ordained and installed minister at Philadelphia’s Second Presbyterian Church in May of 1787, where he remained until 1812. While a minister in Philadelphia, Green’s stature began to grow. He became a member of the Presbyterian General Assembly, later serving as its Stated Clerk from 1790 to 1803. He achieved national prominence when he was elected chaplain to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1792, where he served until the end of President Washington’s second term in 1800. He was a member of the committee which planned the Theological Seminary at Princeton and maintained a close relationship with the institution until his death.

Green was elected president of the College of New Jersey in August 1812, succeeding Samuel Stanhope Smith (1751-1819). Unhappy with the direction the previous administration had taken the college, Green sought to reestablish order and discipline and the importance of religious education. The campus underwent a modest religious revival not long after he took office. Frequent student riots had plagued the college during President Smith’s tenure, prompting Green to implement a firm code of discipline. Though student discontent persisted, Green was successful in increasing enrollment during his tenure. He resigned in September of 1822, prompted by the trustees’ attempts to push his son Jacob out of his professorship. Green also cited illness and age as contributing factors. After leaving Princeton, Green returned to Philadelphia to edit the Christian Advocate and continue his career as an influential theologian.

Green’s first wife died in January of 1807. In October 1809, Green married Christina Anderson, daughter of Colonel Alexander Anderson. Ashbel and Christina had one child, Ashbel, Jr. Christina passed away in 1814. In 1815 he married a third time to Mary McCulloh, who died in 1817. Green lived to age 86, passing away on May 19, 1848, in Philadelphia.

Source: From the finding aid for C0257