Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright (bishop)

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This article is about the bishop. For other uses, see Jonathan Wainwright.

Appletons' Wainwright Jonathan Mayhew.jpg
Appletons' Wainwright Jonathan Mayhew signature.jpg

Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright I (February 24, 1792 – September 21, 1854) was an Episcopal bishop.


He was born in Liverpool, England, to Peter Wainwright and Elizabeth Mayhew. His father Peter, was a tobacconist who emigrated from England to Boston before the American Revolution. His mother was the daughter of Rev. Jonathan Mayhew of Boston. Peter and Elizabeth returned to England for the birth of their first son in 1791. They didn't return to Massachusetts until eleven years later. Jonathan's siblings include: Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright (1791-?); and Eliza Wainwright (1794-?) who married Walter Channing.

Jonathan graduated from Harvard College in 1812 where he was afterward tutor. He was ordered deacon in the Episcopal Church in Trinity Church, Boston, 13 April 1817, ordained priest in Christ Church, Hartford, Connecticut, 29 May 1818, and became rector of the latter. In November 1819, he moved to New York and became assistant minister in Trinity Church. He was made rector of Grace Church in 1821, and remained in that charge until 1834, when he became rector of Trinity Church, Boston. In 1837 he returned to Trinity Parish, New York, as assistant in charge of St. John's Chapel, which post he retained until he was elevated to the episcopate. He received the degree of D.D. from Union College in 1823, and from Harvard in 1835. The degree of D.C.L. was conferred upon him by Oxford University in 1852.

He was for many years secretary of the house of bishops, and was instrumental in the founding of New York University. He was considered one of the first pulpit orators of his day. He wielded great social influence, was a ripe scholar, and was a devoted lover of music, contributing toward its improvement in the churches of his denomination. He was secretary of the board of trustees of the General Theological Seminary in 1828-34, and a trustee or officer of many other institutions and societies.

In 1844 he engaged in a controversy with his friend George Potts, which grew out of an assertion that Rufus Choate made at a celebration of the New England society. The orator said that the Pilgrim fathers had founded a “state without a king and a church without a bishop.” At the dinner that followed, Wainwright, in responding to a sentiment, said in reply that “there is no church without a bishop.” The subsequent discussion with Potts, which was carried on in nineteen letters in the New York Commercial Advertiser, was published in pamphlet form in 1844.

He was consecrated as a provisional Bishop for the Dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America in 1852.


Besides the pamphlet mentioned above, he wrote:

  • Four Sermons on Religious Education (New York, 1829)
  • Lessons on the Church (1835)
  • Order of Family Prayer (1845)
  • Short Family Prayers (1850)
  • The Pathway and Abiding-Places of our Lord, illustrated in the Journal of a Tour through the Land of Promise (1851)
  • The Land of Bondage: being the Journal of a Tour in Egypt (1852)
  • Single sermons and papers in periodicals.
  • Book of Chants, adapted to services of the Episcopal church (1819)
  • Music of the Church (1828)
  • The Choir and Family Psalter, with William A. Muhlenberg (1851)
  • John Stark Ravenscroft, Sermons, edited with a memoir (2 vols., 1830)
  • Life of Bishop Heber, edited biography by Heber's widow (2 vols., 1830)





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