Educator and Reformer: Jonathan Blanchard


Jonathan Blanchard (1811-1892), social reformer, pastor, and college president, was deeply involved in the abolition movement. He served as American vice president of the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London. He also strongly opposed alcohol and urged Sabbath observance, as well as promoting the use of the Bible in state schools.

Born in Vermont, he came to know the Lord at a young age and graduated from Middlebury College. He later taught at Plattsburgh Academy, then attended Andover Theological Seminary and Lane Seminary. He became pastor of the Sixth Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, which grew by 500 members during his tenure. Blanchard helped establish the Cincinnati Observer and also the Herald & Presbyter.

As a young man, Blanchard married Mary Avery Bent. Eventually they would have 12 children; though one son died in 1858. In Cincinnati, the Blanchards' home was a stop on the Underground Railroad for slaves escaping from Kentucky over the Ohio River. He also spoke out for justice for Native Americans and advocated women's suffrage during his long and distinguished career.

Blanchard served as president of Knox College, Galesburg, Ill., from 1845-57, where he helped educate future pastors and grew in his commitment to social and political applications of the faith. In many areas, the views he espoused and the actions he took were thought of as radical positions in his day.

In 1860, he became the founding president of Wheaton (Ill.) College, where he remained 22 years, then was named president emeritus during his son Charles' tenure as president. Through his efforts, the college was brought out of debt, the campus greatly expanded, and its influence increased. Blanchard once wrote that he thought of Wheaton "as an arsenal' and drill camp' for the hosts of righteousness in the moral warfare of the world a means of training social activists." His influence on the school was substantial. There was a member of his family in the president's office until 1925 and the main campus building is called Blanchard Hall.

He later founded the Christian Cynosure, using his position as editor to promote reform. He strongly condemned secret societies, especially the Freemasons, whom he blamed for the Civil War. His activism in this regard became so great that he actually campaigned (unsuccessfully) for the presidency of the United States on the Anti-Masonic Party ticket in 1884.

While his political and social platform consumed much of his life, he was committed first and foremost to the work of the Lord. His legacy in Christian education and American life is a profound one.

Bernard R. DeRemer chronicled the lives of dozens of heroes of the faith in more than a decade of writing for Pulpit Helps Magazine. He continues to serve in this capacity as a volunteer contributor to Disciple. He lives in West Liberty, Ohio.

Who Was Who in Church History, by Elgin S. Moyer (1962).
Wikipedia, "Jonathan Blanchard". 

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