People

John Witherspoon

Signatory of the American Declaration of Independence, President of the College of New Jersey.

Witherspoon plaque

Background

Born in 1723 in Gifford, East Lothian, John Witherspoon studied at The University of Edinburgh where he gained his Master of Arts degree.

He later studied for a doctorate at St. Andrews, before becoming a minister at a church in Beith, in Ayrshire.

Witherspoon in America

Following the death of the previous president, the College of New Jersey (later to become Princeton) elected Witherspoon as their new president in 1767.

After some consideration, he travelled to America with his wife and their five children, along with 300 books for the college library.

Arriving in August 1768, Witherspoon went on to reform the college, increasing the numbers of both students and the subjects that they were able to study.

Witherspoon was a strong supporter of America and American Independence. He was a signatory of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

He died at his farm near Princeton in November 1794.

The plaque

Witherspoon's plaque is located at the main entrance of the north facade of New College.

 

In honour of Reverend John Witherspoo

1723-1794

Signatory, American Declaration of Independence, President, College of New Jersey (Princeton), graduate of the University