John Witherspoon (1723-1794) was a minister, collage president, and member of the Continental Congress.
Witherspoon was born in Gifford, Haddingtonshire, Scotland in February 1722. At the age of fourteen he attended the University of Edinburg, and when he was twenty-one he followed his fathers footsteps and became a minister.
Witherspoon wrote an acclaimed ecclesiastical series in January of 1757 and was installed as pastor in many large Scottish churches. In 1766, he declined his election to the presidency of the Princeton College in the American Colonies because his wife, Elizabeth Montgomery, was reluctant to leave Scotland. However, due to the influence of friends, the family decided to move to the Colonies to accept the job offer in August 1768.
He was inaugurated to the position of president of Princeton Collage in 1774, and contributed a significant amount of books to the universities library. One of Witherspoon's greatest contribution's during his tenure as president was his endeavor to unite the Presbyterian Church in America.
Winthrop's involvement in the political situation began during his time serving as president of Princeton, when he wrote numerous articles criticizing English rule in America. On June 22, 1776, after taking part as a member of the Provincial congress in the overthrow of the authority of the royal governor, William Franklin, Witherspoon was elected to represent New Jersey in the Continental congress.
He was a strong advocate of the Declaration of Independence and grew impatience as congress members debated the merits and of the document. Witherspoon voted affirmative for independence on July 2, 1776. Five months later the British burned his library to the ground.
In 1779, after more then six years and service in more then one-hundred committee's, Witherspoon voluntarily retired from his seat in the Continental Congress. He was persuaded to return to Congress in 1780, but at the close of 1782, he again retired from political life.