Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Monday, September 3, 2012

John Blair, Jr.

                    John Blair, Jr. was a "famous legal scholar" who preferred "to work behind the scenes" rather than participating in "the tumult of state politics."  He believed strongly that there should be a "permanent union of the newly independent states," and he supported this idea at the Constitutional Convention where he became one of the signers.  He was "one of the best-trained jurists of his day."  Although he contributed much as a Founding Father and as an attendee at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, his greatest contributions came later while serving as a judge on the Virginia court of appeals and in the U.S. Supreme Court.  He "influenced the interpretation of the Constitution" in numerous important decisions.  Blair was praised by his contemporaries for his "personal strengths" such as "gentleness and benevolence" as well as for "his ability to penetrate immediately to the heart of a legal career."

                    Blair was born in 1732 in Williamsburg, Virginia, into "a prominent Virginia family."  His father, John Blair, was acting Royal governor as well as served on the McDonalds Council.  His granduncle was James Blair, the founder and first president of the College of William and Mary.

                    John Blair attended William and Mary, graduating with an A.B. in 1754.  He went to London in 1755 to study law at the Middle Temple.  Upon his return back to America, he immediately became active in politics.  When the French and Indian War ended, he was elected to the House of Burgesses (1766-70) where he represented the College of William and Mary.  He later became the clerk of the upper house of the colonial legislature known as the Royal Governor's Council (1770-75).

                    Blair was at first a "moderate" Patriot, and he "opposed Patrick Henry's extremist resolutions in protest of the Stamp Act."  Blair's views were altered when Parliament dissolved the House of Burgesses.  He fought against "a series of Parliamentary taxes on the colonies" by joining George Washington and others (1770 and 1774) in drafting "nonimportation agreements."  These agreements contained pledges to "cease importing British goods until the taxes were repealed."  When Parliament passed the Intolerable Acts in 1774, Blair joined others calling for a Continental Congress; he also joined in a pledge to support the people of Boston when they were enduring "economic hardship" caused by acts of Parliament.

                    John Blair became active in the Virginia government at the beginning of the American Revolution.  He attended the convention that framed the constitution of Virginia (1776) and served on several committees.  He was a member of the committee that drafted Virginia's Declaration of Rights and its "plan of government."  He was part of Governor Patrick Henry's major advisory group known as the Privy Council (1776-1778). 

                    He was appointed by the legislature to a position on the general court in 1778 and soon became the chief justice.  In 1780 he was elected to serve on the high court of chancery where he worked with George Wythe; Blair and Wythe later served together in the Constitutional Convention.  Blair was 55 years old during the Constitutional Convention.  He attended the Convention faithfully but never spoke or even served on a committee there.  He was a "staunch ally" of James Madison and usually agreed with the position of other Virginia delegates.  He was active in his commonwealth to encourage his fellow Virginians to ratify the new Constitution.

Blair was automatically a member of Virginia's first court of appeals because of his court positions.  He was recognized as a great jurist by the Virginia legislature who appointed him to succeed Thomas Jefferson on a committee charged with revising the laws of Virginia.

                    President George Washington appointed Blair to the United States Supreme Court on September 24, 1789.  The United States Senate confirmed his appointment on September 26, 1789.  He was commissioned on September 30, 1789, and resigned on October 25, 1795.

                    Blair was a Freemason and was named Grand Master of Freemasons in Virginia.  He was honored by Blair Street in Madison, Wisconsin, being named after him.  Blair's wife (born Jean Balfour) died in 1792.  There are two dates for his death - August 31, 1800, and September 12, 1800.  He died in Williamsburg at age 68 and was buried in the Bruton Parish Church graveyard.

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