America’s victory in the Revolutionary War benefited the many Presbyterians who supported the Patriot cause. John Witherspoon led the College of New Jersey, later to become Princeton University, until his death in 1794.
Presbyterians were instrumental in laying down the foundations of higher education in the new nation. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, worked with Rev. Dr. John King of Franklin County, Pennsylvania, to help organize Dickinson College, which was chartered in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It was the first college founded after the formation of the United States, six days after the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War in September 1783.
New Presbyterian schools such as Centre College in Kentucky and Davidson College in North Carolina helped to educate Americans as the nation grew.
The new nation now had to govern and determine its own future. Presbyterian Charles Thomson (1729-1824), Secretary of the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1781 and Secretary of the Assembled Congress from 1781 to 1788, signed this act of Congress stipulating that salaries for persons charged with maintaining the household of the “president of Congress” not exceed $8,000 per year. It also called for reduced salaries for various leaders, including the Secretary of Congress and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
Meanwhile, in the peace following the Revolutionary War, Presbyterians were forming a national church. Presbyterians organized the first General Assembly in the United States in 1789 in Philadelphia. Writing on behalf of the first General Assembly, moderator John Rodgers wrote of the “unfeigned pleasure” the assembly felt at the appointment of George Washington to the “first office” in the nation.
In a 1784 letter to Rodgers, Washington had expressed how he read with “great pleasure” Rodgers' Thanksgiving Sermon, The Divine Goodness Displayed, in the American Revolution.