John Witherspoon may have trained more influential early American leaders than any other individual, for of the students that he personally instructed, one became a U. S. President,one a Vice-President, three became Supreme Court Justices, 13 were governors, and at least 20 became senators and 30 more became congressmen – not to mention several presidential cabinet members as well. 16 Dr. Witherspoon may rightly be called the educational father of many Founding Fathers.
Witherspoon personally instructed students:
[H]e is the best friend to American liberty who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind. Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple [hesitate] not to call him an enemy to his country.
Dr. Witherspoon understood that which was universally accepted by all knowledgeable individuals: government was merely a reflection of its citizens; if Americans became profane and immoral, their government would also become profane and immoral; and history has demonstrated conclusively that such governments do not survive. Consequently, it was simple logic that any true friend of America
Prominent American educators routinely equipped students with a Biblical foundation as part of academic instruction. In fact, so committed were they to inculcating these principles in all citizens Famous Princeton alumnus Elias Boudinot (a President of Congress and a framer of the Bill of Rights in the first Congress) was one of many national leaders who endorsed this same truth when he declared: “If the moral character of a people once degenerates, their political character must soon follow.” Signer of the Declaration Samuel Adams agreed: “Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.”
Bill of Rights framer Fisher Ames echoed: “Our liberty depends on . . . orals and religion, whose authority reigns in the heart – and on the influence all these produce on public opinion before that opinion governs rulers.”
Signer of the Declaration Charles Carroll similarly pronounced: “Without morals, a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure . . . are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.” And President George Washington asserted: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness.
Numerous other leaders and statesmen were equally adamant in proclaiming the principle that it was religion and morality, not constitutions and laws, that were the true foundation of successful American government that they even pioneered new educational venues, founding some of the first schools for women and for black Americans – something unprecedented at that time in world history.
For example, John Witherspoon personally trained a number of black American students at Princeton, 24 including John Chavis, 25 who went on to become a famous preacher and educator in North Carolina. And Francis Hopkinson and Benjamin Franklin (signers of the Declaration) were also instrumental in the early development of African American education, 26 helping found a series of schools that trained African American students both in academics and in the principles of Christianity. Furthermore, Benjamin Rush (also a signer of the Declaration) not only promoted African American education 28 but also helped open education for women and was closely involved with the first American school to educate women. 29 These Founding Fathers (and many others) pioneered for ll children – regardless of race or gender an education based on the inculcation of Biblical principles.