Jonathan Blanchard (abolitionist)

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Jonathan Blanchard
Jonathan Blanchard.png
Born January 19, 1811
Rockingham, Vermont, U.S.
Died May 14, 1892
Wheaton, Illinois, U.S.
Nationality American
Education Middlebury College
Lane Seminary
Occupation Abolitionist, College President, Editor
Spouse(s) Mary Avery Bent
Children Jonathan Edwards, Mary Avery, William Walter, Catherine Lucretia, Charles Albert, Williston, Nora Emily, Sonora Caroline, Julia Waters, Cyrus Louis, and Geraldine Cecilia
Parents Polly (Lovell) and Jonathan Blanchard, Sr.

Jonathan Blanchard (January 19, 1811 – May 14, 1892) was an American pastor, educator, social reformer, and abolitionist. Born in Vermont, Blanchard attended Middlebury College before accepting a teaching position in New York. In 1834, he left to study at Andover Theological Seminary, but departed in 1836 after the college rejected agents from the American Anti-Slavery Society. Blanchard joined the group as one of Theodore Dwight Weld's "seventy" and preached in favor of abolition in southern Pennsylvania.

Blanchard graduated from Lane Seminary in 1838 and was soon ordained to preach at Sixth Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. There, he helped publish abolitionist newspaper The Philanthropist and represented Ohio at the 1843 World Anti-Slavery Convention. In 1845, he was named president of Knox College in Illinois, but was forced out thirteen years later. Blanchard is credited with the founding of Wheaton College in 1860, where he presided until 1882. Following the Civil War, Blanchard focused on fighting secret societies through his National Christian Association. He was a leader in the resurrected Anti-Masonic party and once campaigned for its Presidential nomination. Along with his son Charles Albert, who succeeded him as Wheaton College president, he is the namesake of the college's Blanchard Hall.


Early life[edit]

Jonathan Blanchard was born near Rockingham, Vermont on January 19, 1811. He was the eleventh of fifteen children born to Polly (Lovell) and Jonathan Blanchard, Sr. After preparatory studies at Chester Academy in Chester, Vermont, the younger Blanchard attended Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont.[1] Upon graduation he was named preceptor of Plattsburg Academy in Plattsburg, New York, but found the work dissatisfying.[2] In 1834, Blanchard enrolled at the Andover Theological Seminary in Andover, Massachusetts. While there, the school denounced the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) and demanded that students reject abolitionist views. Blanchard left the school in 1836 to join the society, which assigned him to preach in southern Pennsylvania as one of Theodore Dwight Weld's "seventy".[3] Blanchard was stoned in the streets by citizens in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1837. Nonetheless, he was considered one of the most effective agents of the AASS and is credited with converting Thaddeus Stevens to the abolitionist cause.[4]

The next year, Blanchard moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to attend Lane Seminary, where he graduated in 1838. He was ordained in that city to preach at Sixth Presbyterian Church, a New School congregation. The church provided Blanchard with an opportunity to spread abolitionist ideals without eschewing mainstream Christianity.[3] Calvin Ellis Stowe and Lyman Beecher attended Blanchard's ordination; Blanchard's wife was a close friend of Beecher's daughter Harriet.[2] Blanchard assisted with the publication of abolitionist newspaper The Philanthropist.[4] He represented the Ohio State Anti-Slavery Society as a delegate to the 1843 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England and was elected its American vice president. In 1845, Blanchard debated the morality of slavery with fellow Presbyterian minister Nathan Lewis Rice, which was transcribed and published.[1]

College presidencies[edit]

Later in 1845, he accepted the presidency of Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. The school had recently been opened by anti-slavery social reformers who sought a Christian utopia.[3] When Senator Stephen A. Douglas assisted with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Blanchard harshly criticized him in a newspaper article. He would do the same after Douglas' support for the Kansas–Nebraska Act. The two met in Knoxville, Illinois on October 13, 1854 to publicly debate the issues. In 1855, Blanchard went on a lecture circuit of Kentucky with fellow abolitionists Cassius Marcellus Clay and John Gregg Fee.[1]

Blanchard was forced out of Knox College over his abolitionist and Presbyterian beliefs in 1858. He lectured in the region for the next two years. In 1860, Blanchard was named president of the Illinois Institute, a small college in Wheaton, Illinois founded a few years earlier by Wesleyans. When Warren L. Wheaton donated his farmland to the college later that year, Blanchard renamed the school after him and it became known as Wheaton College.[5][6] Under Blanchard's leadership, the school was remodeled after Oberlin College, a school that was open to all students and that taught both a classic curriculum and radical social ideals. Blanchard would allow African-American students at Wheaton College to board in his house. His anti-Masonry views prohibited the founding of fraternities or sororities on campus.[7] Blanchard believed that morality and Christian beliefs were innately experienced by man; this put him in line with most Scottish Common Sense Realists.[5] Blanchard saw Wheaton College "as an 'arsenal' and 'drill camp' for the hosts of righteousness in the moral warfare of the world . . . a means of training social activists . . . ."[8] In 1861, Jonathan Blanchard organized College Church in Wheaton. The church first met on the campus of Wheaton College as "The First Church of Christ in Wheaton." Blanchard wanted the church to be known for its opposition to slavery, secret societies, and alcohol use.[9]

Blanchard Hall, Wheaton College

After the Civil War[edit]

After the Civil War, during which the slaves were liberated, Blanchard turned his attention to fighting secret societies like the Freemasons. He co-founded the National Christian Association (NCA) in 1868 and edited its newspaper, the Christian Cynosure, until his death.[5] In 1872, the NCA reorganized the Anti-Masonic Party, which had been dormant since its merge with the Whig Party in 1840.[1] The platform of the anti-Masonic Party was very brief, and espoused Christianity, temperance, the abolition of secret societies, and a direct vote for President and Vice-President of the United States instead of an electoral college.[10] In 1884, Blanchard unsuccessfully sought the candidacy of the American Prohibition Party, the successor of the Anti-Masonic Party, for President of the United States.[1] Jonathan Blanchard's son, Charles A. Blanchard, succeeded him as college president in 1882 and served Wheaton in that capacity until his death in 1925.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Blanchard married Mary Avery Bent on September 19, 1838. Bent left her family home of Middlebury, Vermont in 1835 for Pennsylvania, where she became principal of the Girls' High School in Harrisburg. She met Blanchard in that city when he was with the AASS. They had twelve children: Jonathan Edwards (died an infant), Mary Avery, William Walter (died an infant), Catherine Lucretia, Charles Albert, Williston (died a child), Nora Emily, Sonora Caroline, Julia Waters, Cyrus Louis, and Geraldine Cecilia.[11] Blanchard died in Wheaton on May 14, 1892 and was buried in Wheaton Cemetery. Wheaton's most recognizable and oldest building is Blanchard Hall, a limestone tower built as the Central College Building in 1853 and, subsequently, named in honor of the college's first two presidents.

Other activism[edit]

Of New England Congregationalist stock, Blanchard had a clear vision for evangelical cooperation in gospel work and social reform. He named the church he cultivated on the campus of Wheaton College "The First Church of Christ in Wheaton." Blanchard insisted that the church go on public record with its opposition to slavery and secret societies and its support for temperance.[12] It was said that, on almost every conceivable political or social issue, Jonathan Blanchard was a radical.

He was a driving force behind, and the first president of, the National Christian Association, which appeared in the early 1860s, and he worked closely with Charles. G. Finney in opposition to the "insidious influence of [secret] societies." Blanchard and the NCA were determined to, "through tracts, lectures and sermons, introduce those embroiled with orders, both Christian and non, to the freedom promised by Jesus Christ, who performed His ministry not secretly but openly."[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e Finkelman, Paul, ed. (2006). Encyclopedia of African American History: 1619-1895 II. New York City: Oxford University Press USA. p. 196–197. ISBN 978-0195167771. 
  2. ^ a b Malone, David B. (1997). Rodriguez, Junius P., ed. The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery. ABC-CLIO. p. 90. ISBN 978-0874368857. 
  3. ^ a b c McKivigan, John R., ed. (1999). Abolitionism and American Religion. History of the American Abolitionist Movement. Routledge. pp. 262–263. ISBN 978-0815331063. 
  4. ^ a b Muelder, Owen W. (2011). Theodore Dwight Weld and the American Anti-Slavery Society. McFarland. p. 72. ISBN 978-0786463961. 
  5. ^ a b c Shook, John R., ed. (2012). Dictionary of Early American Philosophers. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 115–116. ISBN 978-1843711827. 
  6. ^ a b "About us - History". Wheaton College, Archived from the original on 2007-08-27. Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  7. ^ Hughes, Richard T.; Adrian, William B., eds. (1997). Models for Christian Higher Education: Strategies for Survival and Success. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans. p. 264. ISBN 978-0802841216. 
  8. ^ "The decade of the 1890s". Wheaton College faces a new century, Wheaton College, Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  9. ^ "Our History". Retrieved 2010-02-04. 
  10. ^ "The Anti-Masonic Convention". The Daily News (September 14, 1882) (reprinted in "New as History," The Buffalonian (1996-2001)), Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  11. ^ Bent, Allen Herbert (1900). The Bent Family in America. Boston, MA: David Clapp & Son. pp. 78–79. 
  12. ^ "Our History". College Church, Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  13. ^ "National Christian Association - Intro". Archives & Special Collections, Wheaton College, Retrieved 2007-09-07. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Kilby, Clyde S., Minority of One: the Biography of Jonathan Blanchard (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959).
  • Maas, David E., "Jonathan Blanchard." In Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, edited by Timothy Larsen. Leicester, England: Intervarsity Press, 2003.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
New institution President of Wheaton College
Succeeded by
Charles A. Blanchard