“On the morning of our national birth day, the fourth of July, 1776, when the Declaration of American Independence was made—when the Committee, previously appointed to draft that instrument, made their report through their Chairman, THOMAS JEFFERSON—and by whom it was read, the House paused—hesitated. That instrument, they saw, cut them off even from the mercy of Great Britain. They saw with prophetic vision all the horrors of a sanguinary war— carnage and desolation passed in swift review before them. They saw the prospect of having riveted still more closely upon their already chafed and bleeding limbs the chains of slavery. The House seemed to waver—silence, deep and solemn silence, reigned throughout the hall of the spacious Capitol. Every countenance indicated that deep meditation was at work; and the solemn resolutions were calling for double energy. At this fearful crisis, when the very destiny of the country seemed to be suspended upon the action of a moment, the silence, the painful silence was broken. An aged patriarch arose—a venerable and stately form, his head white with the frosts of many years. He cast on the assembly a look of inexpressible interest and unconquerable determination; while on his visage the hue of age was lost as burning patriotism fired his check. 'There is,' said he, 'a tide in the affairs of men, a nick of time. We perceive it now before us. That noble instrument upon your table, which ensures immortality to its author, should be subscribed this very morning, by every pen in the house. He who will not respond to...curry into effect its provisions, is unworthy the name of a freeman. Although these gray hairs must descend into the sepulchre, I would infinitely rather they should descend thither by the hand of the public executioner, than desert at this crisis the sacred cause of my country.' The patriarch sat down, and forthwith the Declaration was signed by every member present.
Who was that venerable patriarch? It was JOHN Witherspoon, of New Jersey, a distinguished Minister of the Presbyterian Church, a lineal descendant of JOHN KNOX, the great Scotch Reformer."