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A Divinity Chair was mentioned in William & Mary's Royal Charter.

From Godson, et al. The College of William & Mary: A History (1993): "The twin emphasis on the study of divinity and the general education in arts and sciences of the youth of the colony met both the objectives of the Virginia social elite for improving the education of their sons and those of the clergy for strengthening the Church of England in the colony. Secular and religious purposes were joined in the new institution from its very beginning. The reference to educating and proselytizing Native Americans was, of course, a response to the Boyle bequest." p. 13

1776: "Jefferson intended to cease instruction in divinity, although he proposed to retain the second divinity chair, often referred to as the chair in Oriental languages, as part of expanded instruction in languages. He provided explicitly that the Visitors were not to be restrained in any way by "the royal prerogative, or the laws of the kingdom of England" or by the "canons or constitution of the English Church, as enjoined" in the College charter." p. 131

December 4, 1779: The Board of Visitors "met and adopted a new statute that attempted both to solve the financial problem and also to reorganize the faculty and the course of instruction in a way that would realize at least some of the objectives of Jefferson and others. Both for lack of funds and of any source of authority that would replace the old royal charter, the Visitors did not attempt to add new professorships..." The divinity chairs and the master of the Grammar School post were eliminated with the Visitors creating new professorships in anatomy and medicine, modern languages, and law and police. "[T]hey made a gesture to the rising force of religious dissent in state politics by abandoning the divinity school." p. 133-134

There was the recurrent belief in the antebellum period among some that a connection with the Episcopal church would be advantageous to the College. Classes were taught by a professor in approximately 1820-1821, but they were always small and eventually the idea was abandoned in 1823 when an Episcopal seminary was established in Alexandria p. 213-214

--lack of funds and interest


  • The College of William & Mary : a history, Susan H. Godson, et al, Williamsburg, Va. : King and Queen Press, Society of the Alumni, College of William & Mary in Virginia, c1993. Reference collection, Swem stacks, Archives books: Call number: LD6051 .W52 C65 1993


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A note about the contents of this site

This website contains the best available information from known sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information in this website is not complete, and it changes as we continue to research and uncover new sources.