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John Witherspoon


Educator. Statesman. Signer of Declaration of Independence

In the decade preceding the outbreak of the American Revolution, John Witherspoon, a Scottish-born clergyman, stirred the colonies with his writing and his oratory. ■ From his arrival in the American colonies as a young man, he became a great enthusiast for America. Later he was to become one of the most outspoken champions of American separation from his homeland. Witherspoon was the only clergyman to sign the declaration of Independence. ■ He was born at Gifford and received his education and degrees in classics and theology at the University of Edinburgh. Soon after being ordained, he became embroiled in ecclesiastical controversies. Differences with authorities in the Presbyterian church caused him to leave Scotland for America. He also was attracted by an offer to become president of Princeton University. ■ Witherspoon became the first moderator of the American Presbyterian General Assembly. However, he became more distinguished as a university president, educator, and statesman than as a clergyman. ■ By sermon, debate, pamphlet and essay, he revealed himself to be a keen dialectician, effective satirist, and a convincing speaker. ■ His sharp attacks on the authoritarianism of the British crown had a profound effect on the movement toward independence. The scope of his writing can be judged by the fact that nine volumes of his works were published after his death in 1794. ■ Witherspoon also was respected for his knowledge and writing in economics and finance. During and following the Revolutionary War, he served as a member of the Continental Congress.


Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546