Samuel Davies

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Samuel Davies (1723-1761), Presbyterian minister and educator, was born in New Castle County, Delaware. Davies was raised in the Presbyterian church, educated at Samuel Blair’s Presbyterian academy in Pennsylvania and was expected to become a Presbyterian minister. Thus it was no surprise when in 1746 he was licensed to preach. Moving to Virginia, Davies became known as an advocate of civil liberties for his dissenting, i.e. non-Anglican, religious views. He famously argued that the Toleration Act of 1689 applied to the colonies as well as the British homeland, thus securing the right for dissenters to evangelize and establish their own churches. Davies’s preaching can be described as revivalistic Calvinism for its stress upon the desperate condition of sinners and ability of divine graciousness to rescue sinners from sin. In later years Davies traveled to England and Scotland where he preached and raised funds for the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, where he would become President in 1758. Davies’s educational efforts extended beyond the College of New Jersey to slaves and Native Americans, and he is largely remembered as an intellectual leader in addition to being a model preacher.

For further reading see G.W. Pilcher, Samuel Davies: Apostle of Dissent in Colonial Virginia (Tennessee, 1971). 

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