Jeffry H. Morrison, John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic
Who now remembers John Witherspoon? Despite his many achievements—a celebrated pastor, president of Princeton, tutor to James Madison and other founders, and the sole cleric to sign the Declaration of Independence—Witherspoon has all but fallen through the memory hole of American history. And yet during his lifetime he was a giant figure in at least three areas in colonial and newly independent America: politics, religion, and education. His career has much to teach us about what we think we know about the founding generation. . . .
In his private library at Piety Hill, Russell Kirk devoted a large bookcase to the works of those he called “philosophical historians.” Kirk placed on those shelves the books of Arnold Toynbee, Christopher Dawson, Herbert Butterfield, John Lukacs, and others whose work fused mastery of historical fact with a philosophical approach to the past. These scholars did not compose “philosophies of history,” rather they understood that history is the memory of civilizations and its interpretation is an attempt to plumb the mysteries of the human condition. . . .