Minister of the Gospel
and Statesman

Woodrow Wilson, President of the of the United States, delivered a speech at the unveiling of John Witherspoon’s statue in the nation’s capital. As former President of Princeton, what was his evaluation of Witherspoon?

Following is President Woodrow Wilson’s speech:

“America was most willing to receive this redoubtable champion of an orthodox people, because he had established in Scotland a fame as a writer and a preacher which bespoke in him something more than a minister of the Gospel – bespoke in him the qualities of the statesman, of the man whose gift it is to lead, no matter what the sphere of leadership may be which he attempts.
When he came to America he reorganized the course of study and revivified the whole administration of the College of New Jersey at Princeton, but he did more, as had been expected. It was only eight years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, affairs were gathering for a very significant period of history. He was almost immediately sent to the Legislature of New Jersey, the Colonial Assembly, and he was presently sent to the convention which framed the first Constitution of the state. Just before the signing of the Declaration of Independence he was made a delegate to the Continental Congress, and added his voice to those counsels which brought about the promulgation of that great epoch-making document.
Then more important still, he, more assiduously than any other member, continued to lend his counsel throughout the Revolutionary War; and no man in it represented so consistently as he did the wise counsel which was necessary to sustain that difficult and sometimes discouraging contest. He, more than any other man in the Continental Congress, urged the maintenance of such measures as Washington felt to be indispensable for the support of his armies and the success of the cause.
It was as if Washington himself spoke in council for the things which Washington in the field needed, when John Witherspoon stood upon his feet in the Continental Congress…. 1

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Wilson, Woodrow. Dedication Speech at the unveiling of John Witherspoon’s statue. Original documentation. Architect of the Capitol. Washington, D.C.

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