James Blair (1656 - 1743) MP

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Birthplace: Edinborough, Scotland
Death: Died in Williamsburg, Va
Occupation: Rev
Managed by: Michael Legh Waddell
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About James Blair

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Blair_(Virginia)

Rev. James Blair was a Scottish born clergyman in the Church of England, best known as the founder and first president of the College of William and Mary. He was the uncle of U.S. Constitution signer John Blair.

James Blair D.D. (1656 – April 18, 1743) was a Scottish Episcopalian clergyman, missionary and educator, best known as the founder of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA.

Youth and education James Blair was born in Banffshire, Scotland as one of five children. His father, Robert Blair, was a clergyman. James Blair was educated at Marischal College, University of Aberdeen and the University of Edinburgh.

After completing his education, in 1679 he was ordained in the national Church of Scotland (known officially at this time as the Kirk of Scotland, see kirk). During the entire seventeenth century the Kirk had been experiencing passionate internal conflicts between Presbyterians and Episcopalians (see, for example, the Bishops' Wars). The Episcopalians were in the ascendancy during this period and the Church of Scotland was briefly aligned with the Church of England during the reign of Charles II of Scotland. Charles was a strong opponent of Presbyterianism and converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed.

In 1681, Blair, aligned with the Episcopalians, was deprived of his parish in Edinburgh due to the conflict within the Episcopalian movement between those supporting the Roman Catholic Church and those advocating a continued Protestant Episcopalian national church. Discouraged, Blair relocated to London later that year.

Missionary to the Virginia Colony

In London, 1685, he became ordained in the Church of England, and at the request of Henry Compton, the Bishop of London (responsible for the colonies), Blair traveled to the New World with a mission to "revive and reform the church in the Virginia Colony." [1]. His initial assignment was to serve as rector of the Parish of Henrico at Varina. He developed good relationships with prominent political familes, such as the Harrisons, whose daughter, Sarah Harrison, became his wife on June 2, 1687. He was also named Commissary in the Virginia Colony for the Bishop of London, making him the colony's highest-ranking religious leader.

The leaders of the Virginia Colony had long desired a school of higher education. An earlier attempt to establish a university at Henricus around 1618 had been promising, but failed after the Indian Massacre of 1622 wiped out the entire settlement, which was not rebuilt. With encouragement from the Colony's House of Burgesses and other prominent individuals, Blair prepared a plan, believed by some historians to be modeled after the earlier one from Henricus, and returned to England in 1691 to petition the monarchy for a new college.


College of William and Mary The trip to London proved successful. Blair was supported in his efforts by John Tillotson, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1693, a charter was granted for The College of William and Mary in Virginia, named to honor King William III of England and Queen Mary II of Great Britain, the reigning monarchs. Blair was made president of the new school for life.

After Blair returned to Virginia, the trustees of the new college bought a parcel of 330 acres from Thomas Ballard for the new school. The location chosen was at Middle Plantation, a high point on the Virginia Peninsula so named because its was equidistant from the James and York Rivers. Middle Plantation had served as a fortress during periodic conflicts with the Native Americans since its establishment in 1632.

The College was given a seat in the House of Burgesses. Financial income was to come by taxation of a penny per pound on tobacco exported from Maryland and Virginia to countries other than England, and from other similar sources, such as an export duty on furs and animal skins. The new school opened in temporary buildings in 1694. Properly called the "College Building," the first version of the Wren Building was built at Middle Plantation beginning on August 8, 1695 and occupied by 1700. Today, the Wren Building is the oldest academic structure in continuous use in America. (Incidentally, it is called the "Wren Building" because tradition has it that the building was designed by the famed English architect Sir Christopher Wren who had designed St. Paul's Cathedral in London. His actual involvement with the College Building completed in 1700 is disputed by some historians).

Capital of Virginia, Williamsburg

The State House at Jamestown burned again (for the third time) in 1698, and as it had in the past, the legislature again took up temporary quarters at Middle Plantation. On May 1, 1699, Blair and five students of the College of William and Mary appeared before the House of Burgesses (which was meeting nearby in temporary quarters) to suggest that they designate Middle Plantation (soon to renamed Williamsburg in honor of King William III), as the new capital of Virginia, and a month later, the legislators agreed.

Williamsburg served as the capital of Virginia for 81 years, until 1780, when the capital was moved to Richmond for security reasons at the outset of the American Revolution. Incidentally, primarily due to fire hazards in the Colonial era, the current building in Richmond, known as the Virginia State Capitol, is the eighth one.

Religious leadership, writing

James Blair served as a member and for a time, president of the Governor's Council in Virginia. As representative of the Bishop of London, Blair was in a position of great power and responsibility in the period in Virginia before the separation of church and state became a fundamental political concept in Virginia which was put into place after the American Revolution. Blair worked to improve the moral condition of the people while he also defended them against the tyranny of the royal governors. He had great influence in England, and reportedly was involved with the recall to England of 3 royal governors: Edmund Andros, Francis Nicholson, and Alexander Spotswood.

He was also the Rector of Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg from 1710 until his death. Dr. Blair organized the construction of the now-historic church building, which began in 1711. It was beautifully restored in the early 20th century under then-rector Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, a project which inspired Goodwin to advocate further restorations of other buildings, and seek sources of funding to do so, which led him to Colonial Williamsburg greatest benefactor, Standard Oil fortune heir John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his family.

In 1722, Blair published Our Savior's Divine Sermon on the Mount, a five-volume collection of his sermons from 1707 to 1721. With Henry Hartwell and Edward Chilton, Blair wrote The Present State of Virginia and the College, which was published in 1727.


De ath, burial at Jamestown James Blair died on April 18, 1743 at the age of 87, after a long career. Dr. Blair was buried next to his wife Sarah (née Harrison) Blair (who had died earlier in 1713) at Jamestown Island, where Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA), owns the original site of Jamestown, including the church and cemetery.

Heritage

During the Colonial period, Dr. Blair was instrumental in reviving and reforming the Church of England in Virginia.

Dr. Blair's contributions to education in Virginia are recognized not only at the College of William and Mary, where Blair Hall is named for him, but also in the naming of various schools, including James Blair Middle School in James City County, Virginia, (formerly James Blair High School) and James Blair Middle School in Norfolk, Virginia.

On the William and Mary campus in the city of Williamsburg, a large portrait of Dr. Blair is displayed in the Great Hall. Nearby, there is a statue of him prominently displayed.

In 2005, the Cypher Society of the College announced it was taking responsibility for a site restoration and beautification of the Blair graves at Jamestown Island in anticipation of Jamestown 2007, which will celebrate the settlement's 400th anniversary.

-------------------- James Blair D.D. (1656 – April 18, 1743) was a Scottish Episcopalian clergyman, missionary and educator, best known as the founder of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA.

Youth and education James Blair was born in Banffshire, Scotland as one of five children. His father, Robert Blair, was a clergyman. James Blair was educated at Marischal College, University of Aberdeen and the University of Edinburgh.

After completing his education, in 1679 he was ordained in the national Church of Scotland (known officially at this time as the Kirk of Scotland, see kirk). During the entire seventeenth century the Kirk had been experiencing passionate internal conflicts between Presbyterians and Episcopalians (see, for example, the Bishops' Wars). The Episcopalians were in the ascendancy during this period and the Church of Scotland was briefly aligned with the Church of England during the reign of Charles II of Scotland. Charles was a strong opponent of Presbyterianism and converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed.

In 1681, Blair, aligned with the Episcopalians, was deprived of his parish in Edinburgh due to the conflict within the Episcopalian movement between those supporting the Roman Catholic Church and those advocating a continued Protestant Episcopalian national church. Discouraged, Blair relocated to London later that year.

Missionary to the Virginia Colony In London, 1685, he became ordained in the Church of England, and at the request of Henry Compton, the Bishop of London (responsible for the colonies), Blair traveled to the New World with a mission to "revive and reform the church in the Virginia Colony." [1]. His initial assignment was to serve as rector of the Parish of Henrico at Varina. He developed good relationships with prominent political familes, such as the Harrisons, whose daughter, Sarah Harrison, became his wife on June 2, 1687. He was also named Commissary in the Virginia Colony for the Bishop of London, making him the colony's highest-ranking religious leader.

The leaders of the Virginia Colony had long desired a school of higher education. An earlier attempt to establish a university at Henricus around 1618 had been promising, but failed after the Indian Massacre of 1622 wiped out the entire settlement, which was not rebuilt. With encouragement from the Colony's House of Burgesses and other prominent individuals, Blair prepared a plan, believed by some historians to be modeled after the earlier one from Henricus, and returned to England in 1691 to petition the monarchy for a new college.

College of William and Mary The trip to London proved successful. Blair was supported in his efforts by John Tillotson, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1693, a charter was granted for The College of William and Mary in Virginia, named to honor King William III of England and Queen Mary II of Great Britain, the reigning monarchs. Blair was made president of the new school for life.

After Blair returned to Virginia, the trustees of the new college bought a parcel of 330 acres from Thomas Ballard for the new school. The location chosen was at Middle Plantation, a high point on the Virginia Peninsula so named because its was equidistant from the James and York Rivers. Middle Plantation had served as a fortress during periodic conflicts with the Native Americans since its establishment in 1632.

The College was given a seat in the House of Burgesses. Financial income was to come by taxation of a penny per pound on tobacco exported from Maryland and Virginia to countries other than England, and from other similar sources, such as an export duty on furs and animal skins. The new school opened in temporary buildings in 1694. Properly called the "College Building," the first version of the Wren Building was built at Middle Plantation beginning on August 8, 1695 and occupied by 1700. Today, the Wren Building is the oldest academic structure in continuous use in America. (Incidentally, it is called the "Wren Building" because tradition has it that the building was designed by the famed English architect Sir Christopher Wren who had designed St. Paul's Cathedral in London. His actual involvement with the College Building completed in 1700 is disputed by some historians).

Capital of Virginia, Williamsburg The State House at Jamestown burned again (for the third time) in 1698, and as it had in the past, the legislature again took up temporary quarters at Middle Plantation. On May 1, 1699, Blair and five students of the College of William and Mary appeared before the House of Burgesses (which was meeting nearby in temporary quarters) to suggest that they designate Middle Plantation (soon to renamed Williamsburg in honor of King William III), as the new capital of Virginia, and a month later, the legislators agreed.

Williamsburg served as the capital of Virginia for 81 years, until 1780, when the capital was moved to Richmond for security reasons at the outset of the American Revolution. Incidentally, primarily due to fire hazards in the Colonial era, the current building in Richmond, known as the Virginia State Capitol, is the eighth one.

Religious leadership, writing James Blair served as a member and for a time, president of the Governor's Council in Virginia. As representative of the Bishop of London, Blair was in a position of great power and responsibility in the period in Virginia before the separation of church and state became a fundamental political concept in Virginia which was put into place after the American Revolution. Blair worked to improve the moral condition of the people while he also defended them against the tyranny of the royal governors. He had great influence in England, and reportedly was involved with the recall to England of 3 royal governors: Edmund Andros, Francis Nicholson, and Alexander Spotswood.

He was also the Rector of Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg from 1710 until his death. Dr. Blair organized the construction of the now-historic church building, which began in 1711. It was beautifully restored in the early 20th century under then-rector Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, a project which inspired Goodwin to advocate further restorations of other buildings, and seek sources of funding to do so, which led him to Colonial Williamsburg greatest benefactor, Standard Oil fortune heir John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his family.

In 1722, Blair published Our Savior's Divine Sermon on the Mount, a five-volume collection of his sermons from 1707 to 1721. With Henry Hartwell and Edward Chilton, Blair wrote The Present State of Virginia and the College, which was published in 1727.

De ath, burial at Jamestown James Blair died on April 18, 1743 at the age of 87, after a long career. Dr. Blair was buried next to his wife Sarah (née Harrison) Blair (who had died earlier in 1713) at Jamestown Island, where Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA), owns the original site of Jamestown, including the church and cemetery.

Heritage During the Colonial period, Dr. Blair was instrumental in reviving and reforming the Church of England in Virginia.

Dr. Blair's contributions to education in Virginia are recognized not only at the College of William and Mary, where Blair Hall is named for him, but also in the naming of various schools, including James Blair Middle School in James City County, Virginia, (formerly James Blair High School) and James Blair Middle School in Norfolk, Virginia.

On the William and Mary campus in the city of Williamsburg, a large portrait of Dr. Blair is displayed in the Great Hall. Nearby, there is a statue of him prominently displayed.

In 2005, the Cypher Society of the College announced it was taking responsibility for a site restoration and beautification of the Blair graves at Jamestown Island in anticipation of Jamestown 2007, which will celebrate the settlement's 400th anniversary.

view all

Rev. James Blair's Timeline

1656
1656
Edinborough, Scotland
1687
April 28, 1687
Age 31
1743
April 18, 1743
Age 87
Williamsburg, Va
????
Jamestown, James City County, Virginia, United States