Posts Tagged ‘john witherspoon’

 

We all know the common names of the authors and signers of the Declaration of Independence.  Names such as Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington and of course Hancock are all synonymous with this historic document.  Not only did they craft the document that would announce to England that America was declaring independence but it meant that the signers committed treason. They were all subjects of Great Britain and they now declared to be independent and would no longer obey the laws of their home land.  In essence, they signed their own death warrants.

While some of the signers of the Declaration are etched in American history and later went on to create the Constitution of the United States, the majority of the fifty-six Declaration signers have been lost in history.  Each was unique but each had one commonality, they felt that a new nation was possible where men lived free and they would be allowed to pursue their dreams unencumbered by class standing.

One of the little known signers was John Witherspoon.  Witherspoon was a Scottish born Presbyterian minister.  He sailed to America to become president of the College of New Jersey; now Princeton.  He was influential in American education and was famous for intimidating both students and peers.

He was one of the early member of the Continental Congress and was a staunch supporter for independence.  When an individual stated that America was not yet ripe for independence, Witherspoon commented,  “In my judgment, sir, we are not only ripe, but rotting.”  During the Highlander uprising in Scotland he was captured and imprisoned thus his fervor for freedom from England was embellished in his psyche.  When the signing of the Declaration of Independence took place he was the only clergyman to ink the document.

Once war broke out Witherspoon experienced the horrors of treason and the sad reality of being a patriot.  His oldest son joined the continental army,  rose to major and was killed in the battle of Germantown.  Later that year his home was burned to the ground by the British soldiers. 

He continued to serve his new country following the end of the Revolutionary War.  Princeton had been badly damaged during the battle there.  He spent two years to help repair the damage.  Witherspoon also became a member of the New Jersey convention that was convened to ratify the constitution.

Several years after the end of the war in 1789 Witherspoon’s wife died.  She was the mother of ten Witherspoon children.  Witherspoon was then 66 years old.  Two years later at 68 Witherspoon married a 24-year old widow.  He died in 1794 but not before fathering two more children.

This is only one of the fifty-six signers of our Declaration of Independence and characterizes the character of the individuals that forged our country.