Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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BLAIR, James, educator, born in Scotland in 1656; died in Williamsburg, Virginia, 1 August 1743. He was educated in Scotland, and became a clergyman of the Episcopal Church; but, discouraged by the situation of that establishment in his native country, he resigned his preferment and removed to England in the latter part of the reign of Charles II. There his talents brought him to the notice of Compton, bishop of London, who prevailed upon him in 1685 to go as a missionary to Virginia. Here, in 1689, he gained by his ability the office of commissary, the highest ecclesiastical post in the province, by virtue of which he had a seat in the colonial council, presided at ecclesiastical trials, and had, in general, the powers of a bishop. Perceiving that the province was greatly in need of a seminary, he resolved to establish one, and began by taking up a subscription, which amounted to £2,500. In 1691 he was sent by the colonial assembly to England to secure the patronage of the king and queen, and on 14 February 1692, obtained the charter of William and Mary College, and was named as its first president. He did not formally enter upon the duties of his office until 1729, although he watched carefully over the interests of the institution. The College was not at first successful, as the wealthy planters still sent their sons to England for education, and in 1705 the College building was destroyed by fire. Mr. Blair was opposed in his plans by the royal governors and even by the clergy, and, had it not been for his energy, the enterprise would probably have been given up. tie was for some time president of the colonial council, and rector of Williamsburg. In 1727 he, assisted in compiling "The State of His Majesty's Colony in Virginia," and in 1722 published "Our Saviour's Divine Sermon on the Mount Explained and Recommended in divers Sermons and Discourses" (4 vols., 8vo); republished with a commendatory preface by Dr. Waterland (1740).
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