Signer of the Declaration of Independence
; born in Gifford, Scotland
, Feb. 5, 1722; was a lineal descendant of John Knox
Educated at the University of Edinburgh
, he was licensed to preach at twenty-one.
When the Young Pretender
landed in England
marched at the head of a corps of militia to join him. He was taken prisoner at Falkirk
, and remained in Donne Castle until the battle of Culloden
While settled at Paisley
he was called (1767) to the presidency of the College of New Jersey, at Princeton
, and was inaugurated in August, 1768.
He had already written and published several works, and had acquired a fine reputation for scholarship.
Under his administration the college flourished, financially and otherwise.
He was not only president, but was Professor
of Divinity; also pastor of the Presbyterian church at Princeton
At the beginning of the Revolution the college was for a time broken up, when President Witherspoon
assisted in the patriotic political movements.
He also assisted in framing a State constitution for New Jersey
, and went as a delegate to Congress in time to advocate and sign the Declaration of Independence
For six years he was a punctual attendant of Congress, serving faithfully on important committees.
He was a member of the secret committee and of the board of war.
In Congress he opposed the repeated issues of paper money, and he wrote and published much on the topics of the time.
In 1783 he went to England
to collect funds for the college.
He died near Princeton, N. J.
, Sept. 15, 1794.