Rev. John Witherspoon, D.D., L.L.D.

Signer of the Declaration of Independence
and President of College of New Jersey, Princeton

1723 Born February 5th, in Gifford, East Lothian, Scotland
Graduated from the University of St. Andrews,
Scotland – A.M. and Bachelor of Divinity degrees
1739 Graduated from the University of Edinburgh – A.M.
1740 Studied Divinity at the University of Edinburgh
Briefly imprisoned for opposing the Roman
Catholic Jacobite rising (1745-1746)
1768-94 President of the College of New-Jersey (Princeton)
1768 Member of the Colonial Assembly, New Jersey
1776 Delegate from New Jersey to the Continental Congress
1776 Signed the Declaration of Independence
Guided the Councils of Congress in “Old Nassau”
Library – temporary Capital – June 26th – Nov. 4th
1794 Died November 15th at Princeton, New Jersey.


As delegate from New Jersey to the Continental Congress, John Witherspoon is accredited with having given a riveting speech to Congress. What was it about this speech that galvanized the delegates to sign the Declaration of Independence?

Witherspoon’s famed speech is hereunder excerpted:

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, a nick of time we now perceive before us. To hesitate is to consent to slavery. That noble instrument on your table, which insures immortality to its authors, should be subscribed this very morning by every pen in this House. For my part, of property I have some, of reputation more. That reputation is staked upon the issue of this contest, that property pledged, and although these gray hairs must soon descend into the sepulcher, I had infinitely rather they should descend thither by the hands of the public executioner than desert at this crisis the sacred cause of my Country.”1

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Inscribed upon the base of John Witherspoon’s statue in the nation’s capital.

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