John Witherspoon, a signer of the American Declaration of Independence, born in the parish of Yester, Haddingtonshire, Scotland, Feb. 5, 1722, died near Princeton, N. J., Sept. 15, 1794. He was educated at the university of Edinburgh, was licensed to preach in his 21st year, and in 1745 was ordained minister of the parish of Beith in the west of Scotland. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Falkirk, but was released after two weeks' confinement. In 1753 he published anonymously "Ecclesiastical Characteristics, or the Arcana of Church Policy," followed by "A Serious Apology for the Characteristics," in which he avowed himself the author of the work he defended. In 1756 he published an "Essay on Justification," and next year a " Serious Inquiry into the Nature and Effects of the Stage." In 1757 he was installed as pastor of the Low. church in Paisley. In 1764 he published three volumes of "Essays on Important Subjects." Hebecame president of the college of New Jersey in 1768, and also professor of divinity and pastor of the church in Princeton. In 1776 he was a member of the provincial congress of New Jersey, and of the continental congress at Philadelphia, where he was one of the most influential advocates of the declaration of independence.
He represented New Jersey in congress for six years, and drew up many of the important state papers of that period. He spent his last years on his farm about two miles from Princeton. For some time previous to his death he was totally blind. Editions of his entire works have been published in 4 vols. 8vo. (New York, 1800-'l) and 9 vols. 12mo (Edinburgh, 1804). A colossal statue of Dr. Witherspoon was unveiled in Fairmount park, Philadelphia, in May, 1876.