Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Witherspoon, John (1723-1794) to James Madison

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also request a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00496.255 Author/Creator: Witherspoon, John (1723-1794) Place Written: New Jersey Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 1 October 1787 Pagination: 1 p. ; 22.7 x 18.2 cm.

Summary of Content: Recipient is James Madison, who was awarded this degree in 1787. Madison's name is faded. Witherspoon informs the recipient, a College of New Jersey [Princeton] alumni, that he has been awarded the Degree of Doctor of Laws. Written from "Tusculum near Princeton," Witherspoon's home.

Background Information: Witherspoon was born in Scotland, where he received a Doctorate of Divinity. He emigrated to the United States in 1768, where he became President of the College of New Jersey (later ...Princeton), and later served on the Continental Congress. James Madison received a Doctor of Laws honoris causa in 1787 from the College of New Jersey. Madison was also a Princeton alumni, and a friend of Witherspoon, however, the recipient's name appears to be too faded to determine if this letter was written to Madison.See More

People: Witherspoon, John, 1723-1794
Madison, James, 1751-1836

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: PresidentLawEducation

Sub Era: Creating a New Government

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources