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James Manning (minister)

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Title: James Manning (minister)  
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Subject: Jonathan Maxcy, First Baptist Church in America, Brown University, History of Brown University, College of Brown University
Collection: 1738 Births, 1791 Deaths, 18Th-Century Baptist Ministers, 18Th-Century Christian Clergy, American Educators, American University and College Presidents, Baptist Ministers from the United States, Clergy in the American Revolution, Continental Congressmen from Rhode Island, Patriots in the American Revolution, People of Colonial New Jersey, People of Colonial Rhode Island, Presidents of Brown University, Princeton University Alumni, Rhode Island in the American Revolution, University and College Founders
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

James Manning (minister)

James Manning
1st President of Brown University
In office
Succeeded by Jonathan Maxcy
Delegate to the Continental Congress for Rhode Island & Providence Plantations
In office
Personal details
Born (1738-10-22)October 22, 1738
Elizabethtown, New Jersey, British America
Died July 29, 1791(1791-07-29) (aged 52)
Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
Resting place North Burial Ground
Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Margaret Stites
Alma mater The College of New Jersey
Profession University president
Religion Baptist

James Manning (October 22, 1738 – July 29, 1791) was an American Baptist minister, educator and legislator from Providence, Rhode Island best known for being the first president of Brown University and one of its most involved founders. He was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. At the age of 18, he attended the Hopewell Academy in Hopewell, New Jersey under the direction of Reverend Isaac Eaton in preparation for his religious studies. In 1762, he graduated from the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton University. At Princeton, Manning studied under president Samuel Finley who served under a board of trustees that declared, "Our idea is to send into the World good Scholars and useful members of Society." One of the 130 graduates Finley sent out during his five-year presidency was, notably, the Rev. James Manning.[1] He married Margaret Stites in the year of his graduation from Princeton and a few weeks after the marriage he was publicly ordained by the Scotch Plains, New Jersey Baptist Church.[2]


  • Brown University Presidency 1
  • American Revolutionary Period 2
  • Civic Leadership for Rhode Island in Congress 3
  • Baptist Ministry 4
  • The President James Manning Medal 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Brown University Presidency

In 1764, Manning was sent by the Philadelphia Baptist Association to found a college in Rhode Island, the cradle of American Baptists. Along with former Chief Justice of the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Stephen Hopkins, Samuel Ward, John Brown, Nicholas Brown, Sr., Moses Brown, the Reverend Isaac Backus, the Reverend Samuel Stillman, and the Reverend Hezekiah Smith, Manning was one of the founders of the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (now Brown University) during the British colonial period. The university charter was first drafted by later Yale College president and pastor of the Second Congregational Church in Newport Ezra Stiles, who attempted to give the Congregationalists control of the college. In prior decades, the Congregationalists had long dominated the oversight of Harvard College and Yale College. When the Baptists saw what Stiles had done, the draft was withdrawn and rewritten to give the Baptists control of the new college. As punishment, the Congregationalist seats on the board of trustees were reduced to fewer than those granted to the Anglicans. Stiles was bitter and refused to accept a seat even when it was offered to him. Manning served as Brown's first president from 1765 to 1791. He first ran the university at his parsonage and the Baptist meeting house in Warren, Rhode Island. The University moved to Providence in 1770 and during his tenure built its first buildings on college hill, with the help of the Brown family.[3]

Built in 1770, University Hall is the oldest building on Brown's campus, one of the oldest academic buildings in the United States and was the heart of the university during President Manning's tenure.

Reverend Manning gave the library of the College its first book, Valentin Schindler's Lexicon Pentaglotton Hebraicum, Chaldaicum, Syriacum, Talmudico-Rabbinicum & Arabicum, which was printed in Hanover, Germany in 1612.[4]

In February 1786, prominent Virginian

Academic offices
Preceded by
President of Brown University
Succeeded by
Jonathan Maxcy
  • James Manning at Find a Grave
  • Biographic Sketch at U.S. Congress website
  • Encyclopedia Brunoniana
  • Brown University's John Hay Library
  • Brown University President's Office
  • Brown University Charter
  • History of the Baptists by Armitage
  • A History of the Baptists
  • Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America
  • Meeting House History

External links

  1. ^ A Princeton Companion
  2. ^ Guild, Reuben Aldridge. The Life and Times of James Manning and the Early History of Brown University. Boston: Gould & Lincoln, 1864.
  3. ^ Among the schools that would centuries later create the Ivy League, when Reverend Manning assumed the Brown presidency, The Reverend Myles Cooper was serving as President of King's College (predecessor of today's Columbia University), The Reverend Edward Holyoke was serving as President of Harvard College, The Reverend William Smith was serving as the first Provost of the College of Philadelphia (predecessor of today's University of Pennsylvania), The Reverend Samuel Finley was serving as President of the College of New Jersey (predecessor of today's Princeton University), and The Reverend Thomas Clap was serving as the first President of Yale College. Dartmouth College and Cornell University had not yet been established.
  4. ^ "The History of Special Collections at Brown University: Colonial Period". 2007-07-26. Retrieved 2012-06-06. 
  5. ^ a b c "Encyclopedia Brunoniana | Manning, James". Retrieved 2012-06-06. 
  6. ^ Sam Hughey. "History of the Baptists, Thomas Armitage". The Reformed Reader. Retrieved 2012-06-06. 
  7. ^ "05-137 (March to Yorktown)". Retrieved 2012-06-06. 
  8. ^ "Proposed Amendments to the Articles of Confederation". 1980-01-01. Retrieved 2012-06-06. 
  9. ^ "CHAPTER XXI-The Origin of the American Baptist Churches". Retrieved 2012-06-06. 
  10. ^ "James MANNING —". Retrieved 2012-06-06. 
  11. ^ "Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life". 2011-04-08. Retrieved 2012-06-06. 


The President James Manning Medal is awarded to a [graduating senior] whose pursuit of excellence in the study and practice of religion is exemplary. This award is given in honor of Brown's first president, who exemplified the synthesis of intellectual precision and spiritual engagement. The academic study of religion enables students to become critical thinkers and move beyond personal piety into responsible leadership achieving a balance between the particularity of respective faith traditions and a sense of community and global responsibility." :[11]

The Brown University Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life annually awards a medal in honor of Manning to a member of the graduating class based upon the award description described in the nomination form:

The President James Manning Medal

Brown University's Encyclopedia Brunoniana offers a more detailed biography of Manning[5]

While serving as president of Brown, Manning was first the minister of the Baptist church in Warren, and then moved to become the minister of the First Baptist Church in America in Providence for the period of July 1771 through April 1791. Like the college, in 1774-1775, Manning led the church in building. Its present building was dedicated to "publick worship" and for "holding commencement in" 1775.[10] Manning's nephew Stephen Gano became pastor in 1792.

First Baptist Church in America edifice built during Manning's ministry

Baptist Ministry

When the Constitution of the United States was presented to the States for ratification it was doubtful whether it would pass. Massachusetts and Virginia were the pivotal States. Massachusetts was evenly divided and it was only through the labors of Manning, Stillman and Backus that the Constitution was adopted by that State. The majority was nineteen votes. There were 187 yeas and 168 nays on the last day of the session, and "before the final question was taken, Governor Hancock, the president, invited Dr. Manning to close the solemn invocation with prayer. The prayer was one of lofty patriotism and every heart was filled with reverence."[9]

In A History of the Baptists, President Manning is reported to have played an inspirational role in persuading the Massachusetts ratifying convention to adopt the United States Constitution:

In 1786, the Rhode Island General Assembly unanimously elected James Manning to serve as its delegate in the 7th Congress of the Confederation. In that role, he served on the Grand Committee, which proposed fundamental amendments to the Articles of Confederation.[8] Manning served in Congress along with future President James Monroe and future United States Senator and Governor of South Carolina Charles Pinckney.

Civic Leadership for Rhode Island in Congress

In the course of the Yorktown, Virginia peninsula in the Siege of Yorktown and the Battle of the Chesapeake. During the year of preparation in Rhode Island and under the tenure of James Manning, the Brown campus was turned into an encampment site for soldiers, and the College Edifice at Brown (later renamed University Hall) was converted into a military hospital.[7]

It has been said by a celebrated writer in politics, that but two things are worth contending for--Religion and Liberty. For the latter we are at present nobly exerting ourselves through all this extensive continent; and surely no one whose bosom feels the patriotic glow in behalf of civil liberty can remain torpid to the more ennobling flame of RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.[6]

In 1774, Dr. Manning reportedly presented an argument in favor of religious freedom in an address at Philadelphia's Carpenter's Hall to leading figures from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other colonies:

National Park Service map of the W3R Route

American Revolutionary Period

Manning presided over Brown's first commencement in 1769, at which time seven students received the degree of Bachelor of Arts and 21 honorary degrees were conferred. During his tenure, 165 men earned degrees from the college including 43 clergymen, 29 lawyers, 19 physicians, 19 teachers, 12 judges, 12 business men, 6 professors, 6 congressmen, 2 college presidents, 2 United States ministers, 1 United States consul, 1 governor, and 1 librarian.[5]


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