John Witherspoon

Founding Fathers Project


John Knox Witherspoon was born in Gifford, Scotland on February 5, 1723. Witherspoon went to college at the age of thirteen and got his Master of Arts from the University of Edinburgh in three years. At a church in Beith he became a Presbyterian Minister in 1743 and was awarded by the University of St. Andrews a Doctorate of Divinity. He married Elizabeth Montgomery while in Beith and they had five children together. Witherspoon came to America in 1768 with his family because he was offered the position of president of the College of New Jersey. In 1989 his wife Elizabeth died and three years later he married another woman, who he had two children with. Her name was Anne Marshall Dill. Witherspoon died on November of 1794 on his farm, "Tusculum".


"Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue."

– John Witherspoon

Importance to American History

John Witherspoon was very important to American history as well as education. As a Representative of New Jersey he voted in favor for the Resolution of Independence and for the Declaration of Independence. If he hadn't voted in favor of these, things could've been very different in America today. Britain could've still been in control of America. Witherspoon also taught many important people, such as James Madison and Aaron Burr. The education of a president is essential to running a country and so is the education of a vice president. He served on over one hundred congressional committees while running the College of New Jersey.