FACT CHECK: Did James Madison Say, ‘Cursed Be All That Learning That Is Contrary To The Cross Of Christ’?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

A post shared on Facebook claims that statesman James Madison said, “Cursed be all that learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”

Verdict: False

Madison did not author this quote. It may be a paraphrase of a statement by Presbyterian minister John Witherspoon.

Fact Check:

Madison, who served as the country’s fourth president from 1809 to 1817, was one of the foremost framers of the Constitution.

His writings give little indication as to his views on religious doctrine, leading to scholarly debate about his religious convictions. According to some historians, Madison was a Deist, rather than a conventional Christian as the misattributed quote would suggest.

Though he persistently advocated for religious freedom, Madison did not author the quote attributed to him in the Facebook post. The statement appears nowhere in his collected works. “It certainly doesn’t sound like anything Madison would say, and indeed sounds like something he would staunchly disavow,” Terence Ball, professor emeritus and Madison expert at Arizona State University, told The Daily Caller.

The quote may be a paraphrase of a similar statement: “Accursed be all that learning which sets itself in opposition to the cross of Christ!” This statement was made in a sermon by Witherspoon, the one-time president of the College of New Jersey, which would later become Princeton University.

Madison himself attended the college from 1769 to 1771, studying under Witherspoon. A handful of years later, Witherspoon became the only clergyman to sign of the Declaration of Independence.

The quote has also been attributed to Jonathan Dickinson, the College of New Jersey’s first president. However, we couldn’t locate any source contemporary to Dickinson crediting him with the quote. Historian Bryan Lebeau told the Caller that he could find no record of Dickinson making this statement.

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Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
Follow Trevor on Twitter Have a fact check suggestion?  Send ideas to [email protected].

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