BLAIR, JAMES: Virginia colonial Episcopal clergyman; b. in Scotland in 1656; d. at Williamsburg, Va. Apr. 18, 1743. He was graduated M.A. at Edinburgh in 1673; became a clergyman of the Episcopal Church of Scotland and was rector of Cranston in the diocese of Edinburgh. In the latter part of the reign of Charles II he went to England and was persuaded by Dr. Compton, bishop of London, to emigrate to Virginia, where he arrived in 1685; he was minister of Henrico parish till 1694, at Jamestown till 1710, and at Williamsburg the rest of his life. In 1689 he was appointed by the bishop of London commissary for Virginia, the highest church office in the colony, the duties of which were practically those of a bishop exclusive of ordination. After 1793 he was member of the colonial Council and for many years its president. He was a man of sterling character and great ability, and worked with persistent zeal and energy to promote the religious and material welfare of Virginia. He did much to elevate the character of the colonial clergy. With several of the governors he had bitter disputes and was influential in securing their removal. He was founder and first president of William and Mary College, for which he procured a charter in England in 1693, and which he made a success in spite of great difficulties and discouragements. He published four volumes containing 117 sermons on Our Savior's Divine Sermon on the Mount (London, 1722) and with Henry Hartwell and Edward Chilton prepared The Present State of Virginia and the College (London, 1727).
Bibliography: D. E. Motley, The Life of Commissary James Blair, in Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, series xix, no. 10, Baltimore, 1901; DNB, v, 161-162.