Archibald Alexander

This article is about an American theologian. For other uses, see Archibald Alexander (disambiguation).
Archibald Alexander
4th President of Hampden–Sydney College
In office
May 31, 1797[1]  November 13, 1806[2]
Preceded by Drury Lacy (Acting)
Succeeded by William S. Reid (Acting)
1st Principal of Princeton Theological Seminary
In office
August 12, 1812  October 22, 1851
Personal details
Born (1772-04-17)April 17, 1772
South River, Rockbridge, Virginia
Died October 22, 1851(1851-10-22)
Spouse(s) Janetta Waddel
Children Dr. James Waddel Alexander
William Cowper Alexander
Dr. Joseph Addison Alexander
Alma mater A.B. Washington & Lee
D.D. Princeton University
Religion Presbyterian

Archibald Alexander (April 17, 1772 – October 22, 1851)[3] was an American Presbyterian theologian and professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary. He served for 9 years as the President of Hampden–Sydney College in Virginia and for 39 years as Princeton Theological Seminary's first professor from 1812 to 1851.


Alexander was born at South River, Rockbridge County, Virginia, and raised under the tuition and ministry of Presbyterian minister William Graham (1745–1799), a man who had been trained in theology by John Witherspoon. His grandfather, of Scottish descent, came from Ireland to Pennsylvania in 1736, and after a residence of two years removed to Virginia. William, father of Archibald, was a farmer and trader. At the age of ten Archibald was sent to the academy of William Graham at Timber Ridge meetinghouse (since developed into Washington and Lee University), at Lexington. At the age of seventeen he became a tutor in the family of General John Posey, of The Wilderness, twelve miles west of Fredericksburg, but after a few months resumed his studies with his former teacher. At this time a remarkable movement, still spoken of as "the great revival," influenced his mind and he turned his attention to the study of divinity. He was licensed to preach October 1, 1791, ordained by the presbytery of Hanover 9 June 1794, and for seven years was an itinerant pastor in Charlotte and Prince Edward counties.

By the time he was 21 Alexander was a preacher of the Presbyterian Church. He was appointed the president of Hampden–Sydney College,[4] where he served from 1797 to 1806 and from there he was called to the Third Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. The Princeton Theological Seminary was established at Princeton, New Jersey in 1812 and Alexander was appointed its first professor, inaugurated on August 12, 1812. In 1824, he helped to found the Chi Phi Society along with Robert Baird and Charles Hodge. in 1843, he returned to Washington College to deliver an alumni address, which was one of his many publications.

Samuel Miller became the second professor at the seminary and for 37 years Alexander and Miller were considered together as pillars of the Presbyterian Church in maintaining its doctrines. Charles Hodge, a famous student and successor of Alexander, named his son Archibald Alexander Hodge after his mentor.


On April 5, 1802, Alexander married Janetta Waddel, the daughter of a Presbyterian preacher, James Waddel (1739–1805), whose eloquence was described in William Wirt's Letters of a British Spy (1803).[5]

His eldest son, James Waddel Alexander (1804–1859) was a Princeton graduate and Presbyterian minister. He wrote the life of his father, and edited his posthumous works. His second son, William Cowper Alexander (1806–1874) served as president of the New Jersey State Senate and as the first president of the Equitable Life Assurance Society. His third son was Joseph Addison Alexander (1809–1860), a biblical scholar.

His grandson, William C. Alexander (1848–1937), was an executive with the Equitable Life Assurance Society, author, and founder of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. His great-grandson, James Waddell Alexander II (1888–1971), was a noted mathematician and topologist.

His nephew, William Alexander Caruthers (1802–1846), was an American novelist.[6]

Archival Collections

Archibald Alexander

The Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has a collection of Archibald Alexander’s personal papers dating from 1819 to 1851 including outgoing correspondence, manuscript articles and lecture notes.[7]




  1. Morrison, Alfred J. (1912). The College of Hampden–Sidney, Calendar of Board Minutes 1776-1876. Richmond, VA: Hermitage Press. p. 47. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
  2. Morrison, Alfred J. (1912). The College of Hampden–Sidney, Calendar of Board Minutes 1776-1876. Richmond, VA: Hermitage Press. p. 61. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
  3. Carey, Patrick W.; Joseph T. Lienhard (2000). Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 978-0-313-03344-5.
  4. Benedetto, Robert (2010). Historical Dictionary of the Reformed Churches (2nd ed.). Blue Ridge Summit, PA: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 6–7. ISBN 978-0-8108-7023-9.
  5.  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Alexander, Archibald". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  6. Hurt, M., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. William Alexander Caruthers (1802–1846). (2014, February 6). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from
  7. Archibald Alexander’s personal papers dating from 1819 to 1851


External links

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Archibald Alexander
Academic offices
Preceded by
Drury Lacy
President of Hampden–Sydney College
Succeeded by
William S. Reid
New institution Principal of The Theological Seminary at Princeton, New Jersey
Succeeded by
Charles Hodge
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/12/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.