This essay considers how American Enlightenment moralists and Evangelical religious revivalists responded to “Jacobinism” at the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton University, from 1800 through 1817. At this time, disruptive student activities exemplified alleged American “Jacobin” conspiracies against civil society. The American response to “Jacobins” brought out tensions between two different competing intellectual currents at the College of New Jersey: a revival of Christian religious principles led by Princeton trustee Reverend Ashbel Green and, in contrast, the expansion of Samuel Stanhope Smith's system of moral education during his tenure as college president from 1795 through 1812. As a moralist, Smith appealed to Scottish Common Sense philosophy in teaching the instinctive “rules of duty” as a way to correct unrestrained “passions” and moderate “Jacobin” radicalism. In doing so, Smith developed a moral quasi-relativism as an original feature of his moral philosophy and contribution to American Enlightenment intellectual culture. Green and like-minded religious revivalists saw Princeton student uprisings as Smith's failure to properly address irreligion. This essay shows the ways in which “Jacobinism” and then the emerging age of religious revivalism, known as the Second Great Awakening, arrived at the cost of Smith's “Didactic Enlightenment” at Princeton.
Bibliographical noteI would like to thank Thomas Ahnert, Michael Ratnapalan, Robert Beachy, Martin Wagner, Paul Tonks, the journal's anonymous reviewers, and the journal's coeditor Charles Capper for their thoughtful and generous comments in preparation of this article.
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- School of Divinity, History & Philosophy, History - Senior Lecturer
- School of Divinity, History & Philosophy, Centre for Early Modern Studies
- School of Divinity, History & Philosophy, Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHPSTM)
- School of Divinity, History & Philosophy, RIISS (Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies)