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James Manning (October 22, 1738July 29, 1791) was an Americanmarker Baptist minister and educator from Providencemarker, Rhode Islandmarker best known for being the first president of Brown Universitymarker and one of its most involved founders. He was born in Elizabethtownmarker, New Jerseymarker. At the age of 18 he attended the Hopewell Academy under the direction of Rev. Isaac Eaton in preparation for his religious studies. In 1762, he graduated from the College of New Jerseymarker, which later became Princeton Universitymarker. He married Margaret Stites in that year and a few weeks after the marriage he was publicly ordained.

Brown University Presidency

Along with Stephen Hopkins, Samuel Ward, John Brown, Nicholas Brown, Sr., Moses Brown and Ezra Stiles, Manning was one of the founders of the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantationsmarker (now Brown Universitymarker) during the British colonial period. The university charter was drafted by Stiles with the help of James Manning, and it invoked the authority of King George III. Manning served as Brown's first president from 1765 to 1791 in conjunction with Stephen Hopkins as Brown's first chancellor.

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 Collegemarker, The Reverend William Smith was serving as the first Provost of the College of Philadelphiamarker (predecessor of today's University of Pennsylvaniamarker), The Reverend Samuel Finley was serving as President of the College of New Jerseymarker (predecessor of today's Princeton Universitymarker), and The Reverend Thomas Clap was serving as the first President of Yale College. Dartmouth Collegemarker and Cornell Universitymarker had not yet been established.

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 Hanovermarker, Germanymarker in 1612.[110135]

In February 1786, prominent Virginian Robert Carter III of the Nomony Hall plantation in Virginiamarker, wrote to President Manning regarding his two sons George and John Tasker Carter who were to be enrolled at the college and board with Manning that: “they to be Sent from Boston immediately upon their Arrival there to your College in Providence. I beg leave to appoint you their Foster Father intimating that my desire is that both my Said Sons shd. be active Characters in Life ....”[110136]

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.[110137]

American Revolutionary Period

In 1774, Dr. Manning reportedly presented an argument in favor of religious freedom in an address at Carpenter's Hallmarker to leading figures from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other colonies:[110138]

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.

In the course of the American Revolution, Manning was serving as president of Brown in 1780 when French troops under the command of the Comte de Rochambeau, who led troops sent by King Louis XVI of France, landed in Newportmarker, Rhode Islandmarker to aid American troops under the command of General George Washington in the American Revolutionary War. These allied troops were based in Rhode Island for a year before they embarked on a 600-mile (970 km) march in 1781 from Rhode Island to Virginiamarker, where they fought and defeated British forces sent by King George III of the United Kingdom on the Yorktown, Virginiamarker 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.[110139]

Civic Leadership for Rhode Island in Congress

In 1786, the Rhode Island General Assembly unanimously elected James Manning to serve as its delegate in the 8th Congress of the Confederation.

In A History of the Baptists, President Manning is reported to have played an inspirational role in persuading the Massachusettsmarker ratifying convention to adopt the United States Constitution:[110140]

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."

Baptist Ministry

While serving as president of Brown, Manning also served as minister at the First Baptist Church in Americamarker for the period of July 1771 through April 1791.[110141]

Brown University's Encyclopedia Brunoniana offers a more detailed biography of Manning[110142]



  1. Guild, Reuben Aldridge. The Life and Times of James Manning and the Early History of Brown University. Boston: Gould & Lincoln, 1864.

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