John Witherspoon was born in 1723 in Gifford, a small village near Edinburgh. He obtained a solid education in grammar school and later completed a divinity degree at the University of Edinburgh. In 1768 he decided to come to America after being offered a position as president of the College of New Jersey (today Princeton University).
Witherspoon had always hated the British, and he naturally supported the colonies in their struggle. Between 1774 and 1776 he represented his county at New Jersey's provincial assemblies. He also served on local committees of correspondence and was active in the movement that managed to remove and imprison the Royal Governor.
From 1776 until 1782, Witherspoon attended the Continental Congress. His work there focused mainly on matters dealing with military and foreign affairs. Later on, he was a participant in debates concerning the Articles of Confederation.
John Witherspoon died in 1794 at the age of sixty-eight. He was buried at Princeton Cemetery's Presidents' Lot.