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Samuel Henley

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  • Born 1745 in England
  • Ordained a priest in the Church of England
  • Recruited to come to Virginia to teach at William & Mary
  • Died 1815

British-born professor left England in 1769

Samuel Henley was a British-born professor of moral philosophy at the College of William & Mary from 1770-1775. He was teaching near Cambridge in 1769 when Dr. Burton, an old friend of Lord Botetourt's who had been commissioned to "ransack the universities" in search of faculty for William and Mary, recruited him for the post. Henley was then ordained a priest in the Church of England, and sent with the bishop of London's blessing to instruct the youth of Virginia in rhetoric, logic, ethics, and literature. He received 60 pounds from the Bishop for his traveling expenses.

Befriended influential men of Williamsburg

Once in Williamsburg, Henley won the friendship of men such as George Wythe, Peyton Randolph, and Thomas Jefferson. He was highly respected and admired by students St. George Tucker, James Madison, Edmund Randolph, James Monroe, and Thomas Jefferson's younger brother, Randolph Jefferson.

Outspoken man of opinions

Henley seemed always to have an opinion and rarely an entirely conventional one. His sermons reveal him to have been a man of liberal and enlightened views, but they were not universally popular, and Henley developed enemies as well as friends. Robert Carter Nicholas was among those who had grave doubts about Henley's orthodoxy. Nicholas was responsible for Henley's failure to become the rector of Bruton Parish Church, even though he was the most likely candidate.

Returned to England prior to the Revolution

Henley returned to England in May 1775, because of the widening rift between England and Virginia. Once he returned to England, he served many years as an instructor at the Harrow School. He also married and raised a family. He died in 1815 at the age of 70.

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