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John Witherspoon - Signer Of The Declaration


If your cause is just, you may look with confidence to the Lord, and intreat him to plead it as his own. You are all my witnesses, that this is the first time of my introducing any political subject into the pulpit. At this season, however, it is not only lawful but necessary, and I willingly embrace the opportunity of declaring my opinion without any hesitation, that the cause in which America is now in arms, is the cause of justice, of liberty, and of human nature.... There is not a single instance in history, in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire. If therefore we yield up our temporal property, we at the same time deliver the conscience into bondage.  John Witherspoon May 1776 - The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men

Those who wish well to the State ought to choose to places of trust men of inward principle, justified by exemplary conversation....[And t]he people in general ought to have regard to the moral character of those whom they invest with authority either in the legislative, executive, or judicial branches.  John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. IV, pp. 266, 277.

On the part of America, there was not the most distant thought of subverting the government or of hurting the interest of the people of Great Britain; but of defending their own privileges from unjust encroachment; there was not the least desire of withdrawing their allegiance from the common sovereign [King George III] till it became absolutely necessary -- and indeed, it was his own choice.  John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. IX, p. 250, "The Druid," Number III.

WITHERSPOON, John, a Delegate from New Jersey; born in Gifford, Haddingtonshire, Scotland, February 5, 1723; completed preparatory studies; was graduated from Edinburgh University in 1739; studied theology at Edinburgh; was licensed in 1743 and ordained minister of the parish of Beith in 1745; was the author of various religious pamphlets; installed pastor at Paisley June 16, 1757; moderator of the synod of Glasgow and Ayr in 1758; became president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1768; member of the committee on correspondence from Somerset County July 28, 1775; member of the Provincial Congress of New Jersey from June 10 to June 22, 1776; Member of the Continental Congress from 1776-1782; a signer of the Declaration of Independence; member of the secret committee of the Congress on the conduct of the war and member of the board of war in 1778; member of the State council in 1780; drafted the instructions of June 1781 to the American peace commissioners; served in the State general assembly in 1783 and 1789; member of the State ratification convention in 1787; after the war returned to Princeton, where he continued his duties as president; died on his farm near Princeton, N.J., Biography, Biographical Directory of the united States Congress  ~ November 15, 1794; interment in the Princeton Cemetery, Princeton, N.J.

To the Pilgrim Fathers, making their constitutions in New England in the seventeenth century, these rights had a Christian origin. The consciousness of the rights of person really has its origin in the conception of man and of natural law established by centuries of Christian philosophy.  Jacques Maritain, The Rights of Man and Natural Law (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1943) p. 81

The American Declaration of Independence, however marked by the influence of Locke and natural religion, adhered more closely to the original Christian character of human rights. Jacques Maritain, The Rights of Man and Natural Law (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1943) pp. 79-80.



Last updated: Aug, 2010
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