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William Meade Papers

Identifier: Mss. 74 M46

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Scope and Contents

Correspondence, 1807-1861, of the Right Reverend William Meade who was a minister of the Protestant Episcopal Church and third Bishop of the Church in Virginia. The early correspondence pertains to his studies at Princeton and his decision to enter the ministry. Subsequent correspondence deals with religious controversy, particularly after his election as Assistant Bishop of Virginia in 1829. The discipline of clergy and laity and disagreement over doctrinal issues form an important part of the collection as well as his referral to his concern for the religious instruction of slaves. Among his correspondents were Richard Channing Moore, William Rollinson Whittingham and J. H. Wingfield.


  • Creation: 1807-1861

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from the Curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Biographical / Historical

William Meade (1789-1862) was born on 11 November 1789 in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of Colonel Richard Kidder Meade, an aide on General George Washington's staff during the Revolution, and Mary Fitzhugh Grymes. He attended a private school, Carter Hall, in Virginia and then entered the junior class at the College of New Jersey [Princeton University] in 1806. He graduated in 1808 and was valedictorian of his class.

Meade studied for the ministry of the Episcopal church under the Reverend Walter Dulaney Addison, the evangelical rector of St. John Parish, Maryland. Before his ordination, Meade married Mary Nelson in 1810. They had three sons before her death in 1817. In 1820, he married Thomasia Nelson; they had no children. (See Recollections of Two Beloved Wives by Meade).

Meade was ordained deacon in the Protestant Episcopal Church by Bishop James Madison of Virginia on 24 February 1811. He was ordained priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church by Bishop Claggett of Maryland several years later on 29 January 1818. In 1814, he became the minister for Frederick County, and in 1821 he became the rector of Christ Church, Winchester. With the help of Bishop Moore and William Holland Wilmer, they founded the Protestant Episcopal Seminary in Virginia in Alexandria in 1823. Meade was an opponent of slavery and was one of the charter members who met in Washington, D.C., in December 1816 to organize the American Society for the Colonizing the Free People of Color in the United States.

On 29 May 1829 Meade was elected assistant bishop of Virginia on the first ballot and was consecrated on 19 August 1829. He served in this capacity until 12 November 1841, when Bishop Moore died and he became the third bishop of Virginia. He served in that position until his death.

Meade was strongly opposed to secession, but when Virginia left the Union he supported it. After the North-South split of the church, the first preliminary meeting of the dioceses in the Confederate States met in Montgomery, Alabama, 3-6 July 1861, and the second meeting was in Columbia, South Carolina, 16-24 October 1861. As senior bishop, Meade presided over the Convention in South Carolina where they drew up the constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States.

Meade died on 14 March 1862, in Virginia.


2.834 Linear Feet



Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased in July 1974 from Doris Harris of California

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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository