4TH JULY – Happy Independence Day from Exclusive Scottish Visits
Of the fifty-six Signers of the Declaration of Independence, there are nine who can claim a connection to Scottish origin. And of these nine, two were actually born in Scotland. Firstly, James Wilson (1742-1798), who was born in St. Andrews. He was a Delegate to Congress from Pennsylvania in 1776, Member of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The second was the Rev. John Witherspoon (1722-94). Born in Gifford, south of Edinburgh and that is who I focus on in this short video.
John Witherspoon was the eldest child of the Reverend James Alexander Witherspoon and Anne Walker. He attended the University of Edinburgh in 1739 and went on to study divinity. He was a minister to the Laigh Kirk in Paisley from 1758 (where this video is shot) and in 1768 was called to be President of the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University. He said he had “become an American the moment he landed.”
Witherspoon embraced the concepts of Scottish common-sense realism, and while president of the College of New Jersey (1768–1794; now Princeton University), became an influential figure in the development of the United States’ national character. Politically active, Witherspoon was a delegate from New Jersey to the Second Continental Congress and a signatory to the July 4, 1776, Declaration of Independence. He was the only active clergyman and the only college president to sign the Declaration. Later, he signed the Articles of Confederation and supported ratification of the Constitution. In 1789 he was convening moderator of the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.