Richard Bland: Virginia Statesman and Champion of Public Rights
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Who is Richard Bland?
Richard Bland II (1710-1776) was a Virginia statesman who lived in Prince George County in Jordanís Point. He was born in Williamsburg, graduated from the College of William and Mary, and established himself as a wealthy planter and a lawyer who served in the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1742-1775. In the years leading up to the American Revolution, he was a staunch supporter of the natural rights of citizens, criticizing several Royal Governors of Virginia for acting no better than the King of England. He was a well-known pamphleteer, but he was more moderate than some of his contemporaries, like Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson. Nevertheless, he was elected to both the First and Second Continental Congresses and supported the American Revolution when it broke out.
For more information, read this press release on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of his death.
Selected Bibliography of Resources about Richard Bland
Writings by Richard Bland
Pamphlets and letters by Richard Bland located at Swem Library at The College of William & Mary. Photocopies of these materials are available at Richard Bland College.
What did Richard Bland look like?
Surprisingly, for a long time, no known likeness of Richard Bland existed.
Marje Solenberger, former Director of Public Relations for the College and former member of the RBC Foundation Board of Directors, conducted an extensive search trying to locate an original portrait of Bland. A portrait of Bland and one of his wife were mutilated by British soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Charles Campbell, a Petersburg historian, reported seeing this mutilated portrait of Richard Bland at Jordan's Point. Supposedly, this portrait was destroyed or taken by a soldier during the Civil War.
In addition, according to a letter written by Mrs. William Taylor (Sallie Bland) in 1886, a portrait of Richard Bland was given by her grandfather, Dr. Theodore Bland, to the Historical Society of Virginia in Richmond, but during the Civil War, portraits at the Society were given to private citizens for safe keeping. Bland's portrait never reappeared after the War and is thought to have been destroyed during the evacuation of Richmond.
Luckily, a portrait of Richard Bland was discovered in an 1850 painting entitled "Patrick Henry Before the House of Burgesses May 30, 1765" by Peter Frederick Rothermel. Because another artist, Alfred Jones, made a 3 foot by 2 foot engraving of the Rothermel painting, and included with it a guide to identifying the figures, it was learned that Richard Bland is the seated figure in the lower left corner of the engraving (and therefore the painting). Of course, both of these were made over 80 years after Bland's death, so the question still remains as to whether or not it's his likeness. The Rothermel painting is now located at Red Hill Shrine, Patrick Henry's last home and burial place.
Back in 1974, the Bland family commissioned a painting be done of Richard Bland. So, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Richard Bland's death in 1994, Susan Griswold Brown, former Richard Bland College art professor painted this 4 x 5 foot painting, using as her model the Jones engraving. The Griswold portrait and the Jones engraving both currently hang in the Library.
In 2005, Dr. James McNeer, then president of Richard Bland College, met with Amanda Baird Schwartz, a direct descendant of Richard Bland. She and her family posed with the Brown portrait of Richard Bland. Miss Schwartz and her family reside in Los Angeles, California. They made a special trip to visit Richard Bland College on their way to Williamsburg.
Richard Bland Gravesite
The Bland Family cemetery is located at Jordan's Point in Prince George County. The property was first owned by Samuel Jordan in 1619, but it was acquired by Theodrick Bland in 1656. It was inherited by Richard Bland I in 1671 and Richard Bland II in 1720. The cemetery is now located just adjacent to the Waterside at Jordan Point condominium community. Directions to the cemetery are available online.
In addition to Richard Bland, this is a partial list of persons believed to be buried in the Bland Family cemetery.
Restoring the Gravesite
1960: When Richard Bland College opened, the gravesite was cleared.
1972: The local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) placed a marker on the site.
1985: Many volunteers both from the college and from the community again cleared the site, and an archaeological team excavated it. Many artifacts were found. Among those artifacts were a wine bottle with the seal of Richard Bland, belt buckles, buttons, game pieces, fishhooks, ceramics of European origin, and mathematical aids used by merchants. On October 26, 1985, a reconsecration of the Bland Family cemetery took place.
2005: On Sun., October 23, 2005 at 2:00 PM, the Frances Bland Randolph chapter of the DAR hosted a rededication of the gravesite marker (which was refurbished and moved to the entrance of the cemetery) and a dedication of the Virginia Historical Highway Marker honoring Richard Bland. The site was also designated as a "Literary Landmark" by the Friends of USA and Richard Bland College Library. Additional photographs are available online.
In addition, when the Waterside at Jordan Point condominium community was built, the J.A. Wood Corporation recognized the historical significance of the cemetery and took an active role in preserving it. They donated the labor and most of the materials for erecting a four foot high black ornamental aluminum fence at a cost of almost $15,000!
2011: On October 30, 2011 at 2:00 PM, the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center held a commemoration of the 235th anniversary of the death of Richard Bland. Download a copy of the program.