Monday, June 26, 2017

Historical Beginning of William and Mary College #virginiapioneersnet #genealogy

Dr. James Blair and William and Mary College

William and MaryA Scotch ecclesiastic by the name of Dr. James Blair, Commissioner of the Established Church and member of the Council whose dream it was to erect a college raised a fairly large sum in promised subscriptions before sailing to England where he collected more. Tillotson, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Stillingfleet, Bishop of Worcester, helped him in this endeavor. Also, the King and Queen inclined a favorable ear, and, though he met with opposition in certain quarters, Blair at last obtained a Charter for the erection of a college in Virginia which would be sustained by taxation. Thus, he sailed to Virginia with the charter in hand and a plan to construct "a seminary of ministers of the gospel where youths may be piously educated in good letters and manners; a certain place of universal study, or perpetual college of divinity, philosophy, languages and other good arts and sciences." Virginians were anxious to educate their sons, therefore, the Assembly of Virginia, for the benefit of the college, taxed raw and tanned hides, dressed buckskin, skins of doe and elk, muskrat and raccoon. The construction of the new seat of learning was begun at Williamsburg. When it was completed and opened to students, it was named William and Mary College. Its name and record shine fair in old Virginia. Colonial worthies in goodly number were educated at William and Mary, as were later revolutionary soldiers and statesmen, and men of name and fame in the United States. Three American Presidents, viz: Jefferson, Monroe, and Tyler were trained there, as well as Marshall, the Chief Justice, four signers of the Declaration of Independence, and many another man of mark. In the year 1704, just over a decade since Dr. Blair had obtained the charter for his College, the erratic and able Governor of Virginia, Francis Nicholson, was recalled. For all that he was a wild talker, he had on the whole done well for Virginia. He was, as far as is known, the first person actually to propose a federation or union of all those English-speaking political divisions, royal provinces, dominions, palatinates, or what not, that had been hewed away from the vast original Virginia. He did what he could to forward the movement for education and the fortunes of the William and Mary College. But he is quoted as having on one occasion informed the body of the people that "the gentlemen imposed upon them." Again, he is said to have remarked of the servant population that they had all been kidnapped and had a lawful action against their masters. "Sir," he stated to President Blair, who would have given him advice from the Bishop of London, "Sir, I know how to govern Virginia and Maryland better than all the bishops in England! If I had not hampered them in Maryland and kept them under, I should never have been able to govern them!" To which Blair had to say, "Sir, if I know anything of Virginia, they are a good-natured, tractable people as any in the world, and you may do anything with them by way of civility, but you will never be able to manage them in that way you speak of, by hampering and keeping them under!" *

* William and Mary College Quarterly, vol. I, p. 66. 

County and Probate Records to Help you Find your Virginia Ancestors

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