John Witherspoon Foundation John Witherspoon Foundation

Mission Statement

The John Witherspoon Foundation (JWF) embraces a twofold mission: to advance the legacy of John Witherspoon and to establish the relevance of his thought and writings to contemporary America. As the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence, Witherspoon combined diverse roles, actively demonstrating the grounds for compatibility among them. While interest in Witherspoon has increased in recent years, the JWF will be the first organization to focus in depth on the truly multidimensional nature of Witherspoon's life and work. The JWF seeks to reintroduce every dimension of Witherspoon's thought and writings into the public square, including subjects such as theology, moral philosophy, Scottish "common sense" realism, politics, education, economics, jurisprudence, natural philosophy (science), classical studies and rhetoric, among others. Furthermore, the JWF will explore the numerous potential applications of Witherspoon's life, teaching, and milieu to contemporary America.

The emphasis upon Witherspoon is timely, since a small but significant number of historians have recently concluded that Witherspoon was "probably the most influential teacher in the entire history of American higher education" (Wills, 1981; Bruce, 1998; Segrest, 2010). Although the graduating classes of Princeton (or the "College of New Jersey," as it was then called) totaled only 478 students during the 26 years of Witherspoon's tenure, those students included 37 future judges, 3 of whom were on the Supreme Court, 12 state governors, 10 cabinet officers, 9 delegates to the Constitutional Convention, one President of the United States (James Madison), one Vice President (Aaron Burr), 12 members of the Continental Congress, 28 U.S. Senators, 29 U.S. House representatives, 56 state legislators, 6 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 31 Revolutionary Army officers, and over 100 ministers. An additional 13 Princetonians who graduated during Witherspoon's presidency became college presidents themselves. In fact, more than 10 American colleges and academies were founded by men who took their degrees under Witherspoon. These former students disseminated Witherspoon's teachings throughout the nation, in their writings, classrooms, courtrooms and public oratory. (In fact, there are strong echoes of Witherspoon's teachings in Madison's description of human nature in the celebrated Federalist Papers.) As a result, Witherspoon helped to shape the nation's political and cultural identity in a manner that is extremely rare for a single individual.

The JWF seeks to recapture the beneficial social and political effects of Witherspoon's teachings by establishing their relevance to the challenges of today, rehearsing the lessons of the past for the trials of tomorrow. These goals will be accomplished by funding various centers and initiatives, with specific activities including but not limited to: 1.) providing internet and other multimedia resources; 2.) broadcasting videos of interviews with leading scholars or supplying other appropriate content; 3.) holding conferences (located in both seminaries and secular academic environments, as Witherspoon was both clergyman and activist); 4.) supporting publications by or about Witherspoon and related topics, including an edition of his complete works in a highly readable format at an affordable cost, to be made available both in print and on Kindle; 5.) providing seminars and classes open to students and/or the public; and 6.) offering practical support to up-and-coming scholars, institutions and charities in keeping with the broad outlines of Witherspoon's ideals and beliefs.

Even as Witherspoon's own role in the formation of the country demonstrated the salutary power and purpose of widely disseminated education, the JWF hopes that the activities listed above will likewise result in a better America with a brighter future.

"I entreat you in the most earnest manner to believe in Jesus Christ, for there is no salvation in any other [Acts 4:12] .... [I]f you are not reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, if you are not clothed with the spotless robes of His righteousness, you must forever perish."

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