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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WADDEL, James, preacher, born in Newry, Ireland, in July, 1739; died in Louisa county, Virginia, 17 September, 1805. His parents emigrated to this country in the son's infancy, settling in southwestern Pennsylvania. James was educated at Nottingham, under Reverend Samuel Finley, became an assistant teacher in Reverend Robert Smith's academy in Pequea, Lancaster County, afterward emigrated to Virginia, and, under the influence of Samuel Davies, decided to study for the ministry. He was licensed to preach in 1761, the next year became pastor of Presbyterian churches in the northern neck of Virginia, removed to the Tinkling Spring church, Augusta county, in 1775, also preached in Staunton, and in 1785 settled on an estate in Louisa county, where he supplied vacant pulpits and was principal of a classical school. He became blind about 1787, but continued his labors without interruption, writing as well as preaching with great industry, and was known as "the blind preacher." Before his death he ordered that all his manuscripts be burned, so that his eloquence has become a matter of tradition. The best idea of him as a pulpit orator is to be gathered from the sketch of Dr. Waddel as the blind preacher in William Wirt's "British Spy." This was written in 1803, when Dr. Waddel was old and infirm. It has been questioned how far the author gave himself the license of fiction in his description, but Dr. Waddel's biographer, Dr. James W. Alexander, says: " Mr. Wirt stated to me that, so far from adding colors to the picture of Dr. Waddel's eloquence, he had fallen below the truth. In person he was tall and erect, his mien was unusually dignified, and his manners graceful and eloquent. Under his preaching, audiences were irresistibly and simultaneously moved, like the wind-shaken forest." James Madison, who had been his pupil, said: " He has spoiled me for all other preaching," and Patrick Henry classed him with Samuel Davies as one of the two greatest orators he had ever heard. Dickinson gave him the degree of D. D. in 1792. One of his daughters married the Reverend Archibald Alexander. See a "Memoir" of him by the Reverend James W. Alexander, in the "Watchman of the South" (1846).
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