Monday, July 21, 2014

Rev. James Blair

Tomb of Rev. James Blair at Jamestown, Virginia
In 1690 Rev. James Blair, who had been in the colony for five years, was appointed the first Commissary in Jamestown. He first settled in Henrico County but later on became the incumbent of the pulpit at Jamestown.  Blair was born in Scotland . His annual salary was one hundred pounds sterling which was paid out of the fund of the quit-rents, but was paid irregularly. However, Rev. Blair failed to invest the position of Commissary with any real power or influence. The Bishop of London acknowledged that the people of Virginia were disposed to condemn and slight his representative's authority, therefore, the Commissary should continue to occupy a seat in the Council as a means of securing for him a higher degree of popular consideration and respect. The Bishop referred to Blair as being "a discreet man who would give no offense".  Rev. Blair was involved in what was discribed as violent contention with Governor Nicholson on the subjet of a claim made by Blair that the Governor was the mouthpiece, not only of the King but also of the Bishop of London in the Colony. The claim was based on a statute passed about 1643 at a time when there could be no representative in Virginia (save the Governor) at the head of the diocese.  Blair also interferred in several cases of moral offenses, such as the incestuous marriage which came within the ecvclesiastical jurisdiction of the ordinary courts. On this issue, he was rebuked and the cases were referred to the courts for prosecution. Blair defended the colonists against the tyranny of the royal governors and had a play in the recall of three of them, viz: Edmund Andros, Francis Nicholson and Alexander Spotswood.  He also served as the Rector of Bruton Parish in Williamsburg from 1710 until he died. It was Dr. Blair who organized the construction of the church building, beginning in 1711. In 1722 he published Our Savior's Divine Sermon on the Mount, which was a collection of five volumes of his sermans from 1707 to 1721.  He was also the author of The Present State of Virginia and the College, published in 1727.  Blair died April 18, 1743 at the age of 87 and his body was taken to Jamestown where he was buried next to his wife Sarah (nee Harrison) Blair who had died in 1713 on the Jamestown Island.
 Sources: Letter of Bishop of London to Sir Philip Meadows, B. T. Va., 1698, vol. vi. p. 339; Memorial of Virginia Clergy (ca 1693), Lambeth Palace, Cod. Mis. No. 954.

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