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John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic Hardcover – June 15, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press; 1 edition (June 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0268034850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0268034856
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,965,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Jeffry Morrison's brief, excellent new book, John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic, both testifies to and partly redresses the neglect Witherspoon has suffered. Witherspoon was a formidable intellectual and political leader whose role in the affairs of colonial and early republican America deserves wider recognition."—The New Criterion

". . . Engaging and enthusiastic study of John Witherspoon . . . Morrison deserves much commendation for his efforts." —Perspectives on Politics

"It is strange but true that scholars have had to wait so long for an adequate study of John Witherspoon's place in the American founding, especially given the breadth of his involvement and his excellent reputation among the more famous statesmen of the period. Jeffry H. Morrison's book remedies this deficit and is likely to become the standard work on Witherspoon's political thought and career." —History: Journal of the Historical Association 

“John Witherspoon, a Scottish Presbyterian minister who came to America in 1768 to be president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), is the latest candidate for inclusion among the Founding Fathers. Jeffry H. Morrison argues that any one of Witherspoon’s three careers—pastor, college president, and politician—should have guaranteed him the ‘prominent and lasting place in American history that he has been denied.’” —The Washington Times

“Morrison's study goes a long way toward remedying the lack of attention paid to Witherspoon. His book is not a biography, although it does contain much biographical information, as much as a study of Witherspoon's thought, particularly his political thought.” —American Historical Review


From the Inside Flap

"I have been waiting a long time for such a book on John Witherspoon. This book is not only well-researched, but well-written. The story Morrison tells is quite wonderful." —Michael Novak, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research

"Dr. John Witherspoon is at once an exceptionally influential figure in early American history and a sadly neglected one. Professor Morrison's book fills this gap in American political history brilliantly. It is especially revealing of 18th-century views on the interrelationships between education, religion, and society. Morrison presents new insights into the early American understanding of balancing faith, government, and society. It will change our conceptions of this period and provide fresh perspectives on contemporary problems. Everyone interested in the American Founding era is indebted to Morrison for this illuminating book." —Garrett Ward Sheldon, University of Virginia's College at Wise

"At last we have a full and learned account, as the title states, of JOHN WITHERSPOON aND tHE FOUNDING oF THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC. Including discussion of Witherspoon's direct role in the crucial events of 1775-1790 as an advocate of independence and friend of the Constitution, as a contributor to early American religious and political thought, and most important, as a mentor to James Madison and other Princeton revolutionaries and nation-builders, Morrison reveals Witherspoon's high standing in American religious, educational, and political history. Madison remembered Witherspoon's injunction to his students to 'Lead useful Lives'; he provided an excellent role model." —Ralph Ketcham, Syracuse University

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By B. C. Richards on February 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Among the American Founding Fathers, it is unlikely that there is a man more influential and yet less well known and studied than Dr. John Witherspoon. Prof. Morrison seeks to help correct this neglect in this brief volume. Dr. John Witherspoon was a Scottish Presbyterian minister who came to America in the late 1760s to become the President of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), where he played an active and influential role in American politics, religion and education in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. He was the only minister to sign both the Declaration of Independence and to ratify the Constitution. He was probably Madison's most influential teacher, and, despite his staunch Christian orthodoxy, appears to have enjoyed universally high regard by the other founders, even those such as Franklin and Jefferson who had little use for Biblical Christianity. This book gives an excellent account of a number of interesting aspects of Witherspoon's life and thought.

Chapter 1 gives an overview of the importance of Witherspoon's career in America, including excerpts referring to him from the writings of many of his contemporaries on both sides of the Atlantic. It discusses the significance of his religious alignment, which was orthodox, Reformed, Biblical, Presbyterian Christianity, and how Witherspoon's stature in the colonies influenced the major role that Presbyterians played in the independence movement (King George III called the American Revolution the "Presbyterian rebellion").
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brian L. Hedrick on November 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Witherspoon was a unique blend of educator, clergyman, and founding father. There are not many good books on this neglected founding father, and this one is by no means exhaustive, but it does give a good, balanced overview of his role as the president of Princeton College and the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence, among other significant contributions to the founding of the United States of America. The list of his students at Princeton that went on to serve in government roles is staggering by itself, and secures his place in American History.

This book merely whets your appetite to know more about Witherspoon, but unfortunately, there are not many other sources to go deeper, so I recommend this great volume about a neglected founder that deserves more attention.
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By Movie Maven on April 30, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent biography of an historical figure who has not been adequately recognized for his contributions to this nation's development. If you have any interest in the political and religious philosophical roots of America, you should read Morrison's book. This is a well-researched, yet pleasurable book to read. It reveals Witherspoon to be a guiding beacon for many of the American Founders. If for no other reason, read this book to see the names and numbers of men that Witherspoon taught, mentored, and influenced in bot political and spiritual matters. Despite the fact that two statues of Witherspoon stand in the United States, Witherspoon should be better-known by the American people. I believe Morrison's book, over time, can remedy that shortcoming.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Williams on March 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I come to this book by way of personal invitation, in fact scan down to the review labelled:

A significant book on a neglected founder, February 4, 2006

Reviewer: Alex Morden (Tucson, AZ, USA)

it is his copy of the book that i have in hand. and if you haven't read his review, do it now. It is much more interesting and thorough than is mine.

The book is basically a historical monograph, written to professional historians, to convince them to research Witherspoon. The theme of the book is on the next to the last page: "Perhaps more than any other single founder, Witherspoon embodied all of the major intellectual and social elements behind the American founding. This was partly circumstantial: Witherspoon was literally peerless among his founding brothers when it came to combining religious, education, and politics, and seldom in American history have so many key vocations been joined in one man. Witherspoon therefore offers us a chance that is genuinely incomparable, to trace the outlines of the american mind at the foundating..." Essentially i feel like an outsider reading over someone's shoulder with this book, it is addressed to and engages with professional historians. However it is not so dry nor so uninteresting a book that many of us amateurs can not gain from reading what is a short introduction to both the American Revolutionary War themes and Witherspoon, but beware it is not an exciting historical novel set in the same period. *grin*

If you are looking to see if this book ought to be on your shelf, just read the first chapter, it is a read from front to back type of book. Mostly because he does not repeat himself and you'll miss something if you don't read it in this manner.
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