Early life and legal career
Greenleaf's family traces its ancestry back to Edmund Greenleaf, who lived in Ipswich, Suffolk in England before emigrating and settling in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The Greenleaf family flourished in this part of Massachusetts for almost 150 years prior to Simon's birth in 1783. Simon's father Moses Greenleaf married Lydia Parsons, daughter of Rev. Jonathan Parsons of Newburyport. Their son Moses Greenleaf (1777–1834), Simon's older brother, became a distinguished surveyor and map-maker in Maine.
In 179(?), Simon's parents moved to New Gloucester in Maine, leaving him in Newburyport under the care of his grandfather Jonathan Greenleaf. There Simon was educated at the Latin school and studied the Greco-Roman classics. When he turned 16 years old, he rejoined his parents in New Gloucester. In 1801 he joined the law office of Ezekiel Whitman (the later Chief Justice of Maine) and in 1806 was admitted to the Cumberland County bar as a legal practitioner. On September 18, 1806 he married Hannah Kingman.
He then opened a legal practice at Standish, but six months later relocated to Gray, where he practised for twelve years, and in 1818 removed to Portland. Greenleaf's political preferences were aligned with the Federalist Party, and in 1816 he was an unsuccessful candidate for that party in Cumberland County for the Senate. He was reporter of the Supreme Court of Maine from 1820 to 1832, and published nine volumes of Reports of Cases in the Supreme Court of Maine (1820–1832).
In 1833, Greenleaf was named to the Royall professorship, and in 1846 succeeded Judge Joseph Story as Dane professor of law at Harvard University. Greenleaf contributed extensively to the development of Harvard Law School, including expansion of the Harvard Law Library. He was retained as chief counsel by the Warren Bridge group in the US Supreme Court case Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge 36 U.S. 420 (1837), where the case laid down the rule that public contracts must be construed in favor of states.
In 1848, Greenleaf retired from his active duties, and became professor emeritus. After being for many years president of the Massachusetts Bible Society, he died at Cambridge. Greenleaf's well-known work, a Treatise on the Law of Evidence, is considered a classic of American jurisprudence. Greenleaf prepared the original constitution of the Colony of Liberia.
Contributions to Christian Apologetics
Greenleaf is an important figure in the development of that Christian school of thought known as legal or juridical apologetics. This school of thought is typified by legally trained scholars applying the canons of proof and argument to the defense of Christian belief. Greenleaf's Testimony of the Evangelists set the model for many subsequent works by legal apologists. He is distinguished as one who applied the canons of the ancient document rule to establish the authenticity of the gospel accounts, as well as cross-examination principles in assessing the testimony of those who bore witness to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. His style of reasoning is reflected in the apologetic works by John Warwick Montgomery, Josh McDowell, and Ross Clifford.
Greenleaf's principal work of legal scholarship is a Treatise on the Law of Evidence (3 vols., 1842–1853), and which remained a standard textbook in American law throughout the Nineteenth century. He also published A Full Collection of Cases Overruled, Denied, Doubted, or Limited in their Application, taken from American and English Reports (1821). He prepared and published Reports of Cases Argued and Determined by the Supreme Judicial Court of the State of Maine in nine volumes (1820–1832). He revised for the American courts William Cruise's Digest of Laws respecting Real Property (3 vols., 1849–1850). Greenleaf was also the author of A Brief Inquiry into the Origin and Principles of Free Masonry (1820), and wrote a memoir of the life of his colleague Joseph Story - A Discourse Commemorative of the Life and Character of the Hon. Joseph Story (1845).
Simon Greenleaf School of Law
In 1980 a law school opened in Anaheim, California that was named in his honor, The Simon Greenleaf School of Law. This school was founded by the Evangelical theologian-lawyer John Warwick Montgomery. From 1980-88 the law school published a journal named The Simon Greenleaf Law Review. In 1997 the law school became part of Trinity International University.
- Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the Evangelists Examined by The Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice, reprint of the 1874 edition, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984). ISBN 0-8010-3803-0
- Simon Greenleaf, "The Testimony of the Evangelists," reprinted from the 1903 edition as an appendix in John Warwick Montgomery, The Law Above The Law, (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1975), pp. 91–140 & 149-163. ISBN 0-87123-329-0
- Christian Apologetics
- Arguments for the Existence of God
- Jesus Christ
- Testimony of the Evangelist
- The Case for Christ
- 36 U.S. 420 (1837) Full text of Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge
- Judgment (2001) at the Internet Movie Database
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Greenleaf, Simon". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- "Professor Simon Greenleaf" in Ross Clifford, Leading Lawyers ' Case for the Resurrection, (Edmonton: Canadian Institute for Law, theology and Public Policy, 1996), pp. 41–55 ISBN 1-896363-02-4
- John Warwick Montgomery, "Simon Greenleaf," Eternity magazine, November 1986, p. 21.
- "Simon Greenleaf," in Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. 4, Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds. New York: Charles Scribners, pp 583–584.
- Summary of Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge from OYEZ
|Wikisource has the text of an 1879 American Cyclopædia article about Simon Greenleaf.|
- Simon Greenleaf's Testimony of the Evangelists
- Philip Johnson, "Juridical Apologists 1600-2000 AD: A Bio-Bibliographical Essay," Global Journal of Classical Theology, 3/1 (2002).
- "Finding aid for Simon Greenleaf, Papers, 1792-1853.". Harvard Law School Library.