This week in Christian history: English Protestant leader martyred, the ‘Great Ejection’

John Witherspoon becomes president of Princeton – Aug. 17, 1768

John Witherspoon
A portrait of John Witherspoon (1722-1794), signer of the Declaration of Independence and Presbyterian clergyman. |

This week marks the anniversary of when John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister who signed the Declaration of Independence, became president of what is now Princeton University.

The staunch supporter of the American Revolution was sworn in as president of the distinguished academic institution at a small ceremony in Princeton’s Nassau Building.

“From the very start he emphasized that Christ would be the center of education at Princeton. He taught its strict Calvinist theology (and whatever other classes were needed). He added French, history, international law, philosophy and speech to the college curriculum,” wrote Dan Graves of

“Of the 478 graduates he trained, many rose to occupy high offices. This man who had learned to read at four and who was strong in Latin, Hebrew, and Greek at 13, proved a capable educator.”

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