Rev. John Witherspoon (1723 - 1794)

by Ole Erekson, Engraver, c1876, Library of Congress
Posted at

Representing New Jersey at the Continental Congress

Born: February 5, 1723
Birthplace: Gifford, Scotland
Education: Master of Arts, University of Edinburgh; Doctorate of Divinity, University of St. Andrews. (Clergyman, Author, Educator)
Work: President of College of New Jersey, 1768-1792; Delegate to the Continental Congress, 1776-1782; Twice elected to State Legislature of New Jersey.
Died: November 15, 1794

John Witherspoon brought some impressive credentials and a measure of public acclaim with him when he joined the colonies in 1768, as president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton).

Born in 1723, he received the finest education available to a bright young gentleman of that era. John attended the preparatory school in Haddington Scotland. He proceeded to Edinburgh where he attained a Master of Arts, then to four years of divinity school. At this point he was twenty. In 1743 he became a Presbyterian Minister at a parish in Beith, where he married, authored three noted works on theology. He was later awarded a Doctorate of Divinity from the University of St. Andrews, in recognition of his theological skills. It was only through a protracted effort on the part of several eminent Americans, including Richard Stockton and Benjamin Rush, that the colonies were able to acquire his service. In colonial American, the best educated men were often found in the clergy. The College of New Jersey needed a first rate scholar to serve as its first president. Witherspoon was at first unable to accept the offer, due to his wife's great fear of crossing the sea. She later had second thoughts, and a visit from the charming Dr. Rush secured the deal. He emigrated to New Jersey in 1768.


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