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Witherspoon, John

WITHERSPOON, JOHN

Presbyterian minister, president of Princeton University, N.J.; b. Yester, Scotland, Feb. 5, 1723; d. Princeton, Nov. 15, 1794. He was the son of a Presbyterian clergyman. Educated at Haddington Grammar School and the University of Edinburgh, he was ordained in 1754. Witherspoon resisted every effort to modify the doctrine and polity of his church, publishing Ecclesiastical Characteristics (1755) and Essay on the Doctrine of Justice (1756) to combat innovators. He accepted a call to be president of Princeton and came to the U.S. in 1768. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and served in the Continental Congress from 1776 to 1782. After the American Revolution, he succeeded in organizing the Presbyterian Church on a national basis and was the first moderator of its General Assembly.

Bibliography: Works, 4 v. (2d ed. rev. Philadelphia 1802). v. l. collins, President Witherspoon, 2 v. (Princeton 1925), with bibliog. l. h. butterfield, John Witherspoon Comes to America (Princeton 1953).

[r. k. mac master]

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