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Witherspoon, John 1722-

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 young Witherspoon 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.

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