Baird, Robert D.D., an eminent Presbyterian minister and philanthropist, was born in Fayette Co., Penn., October 6, 1798. After academical training at Uniontown, he entered Washington College, and passed thence to Jefferson College, where he graduated in 1818. After spending a year as a teacher in Bellefonte, where he was a frequent newspaper contributor, he entered the theological seminary at Princeton, where he studied for three years, officiating one year as tutor in the college. In 1822 he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New Brunswick, and in the same year took charge of an academy in Princeton, which position he held for five years. In 1828 he was ordained to the work of the Gospel ministry. In 1827 he entered upon the great field of all his subsequent labors — "the extension of Protestantism and the evangelization of the world, in connection with the great religious and benevolent societies." He took a leading part in the movement made by the New Jersey Bible Society to supply every destitute family in New Jersey with the Scriptures. This plan was carried into execution successfully. Next, as agent of the New Jersey Missionary Society, Dr. Baird did much to lay the foundation of public education in that state, and originated the first system of common schools established in the state, which, with few modifications, still remains in force. In 1829 he became agent of the American Sunday-school Union, and for five years he held meetings all over the country, doing much to advance the influence of the society, and adding largely to its funds. In 1835 Dr. Baird went to Europe, and resided in Paris and Geneva, with the exception of a few months, for the next eight years. His primary object was to ascertain what the American churches could do to revive the Protestant faith where it had lost its vitality, and to convert the Roman Catholics. Among the results of his labors was the formation of the Foreign Evangelical Society, since merged into the American and Foreign Christian Union, of which he was one of the founders. In the Scandinavian countries, in Russia and in Germany, he met with extraordinary success in giving an impulse to the temperance reform. His exertions in behalf of the Bible and Tract Societies were confined to no single country of Europe, while his intercessions for the persecuted were put forth alike in Protestant Sweden and in Roman Catholic France. The recent translation and publication of the Sacred Scriptures in the modern Russ, under the auspices of the imperial government, are believed to have been greatly attributable to Dr. Baird's strenuous personal efforts. To the cause of Protestantism, of temperance, and of education, Dr. Baird was enthusiastically devoted. Possessed of a fine personal appearance, an amiable disposition, and rare affability of manner, an accomplished linguist, and a man of broad information, Dr. Baird had a large personal acquaintance among the great and good men of America and Europe. He was admitted to interviews and discussions with all the monarchs that rule the destinies of the Old World. His thorough honesty and sincerity, his pure religious character, and his unbounded charity, stamped him as a man who could give counsel to kings, and who had access by right to every source of influence and power. In 1843 he returned to America, continuing to be corresponding secretary of the Foreign Evangelical Society and of the American and Foreign Christian Union (with slight interruption, and making several visits to Europe) to the time of his death, March 15, 1863.
This brief sketch suffices to show Dr. Baird as an indefatigable laborer. His sympathies were eminently catholic, and his activities were cosmopolitan. His name, and even his person, were known to all Protestant branches of the church throughout the United States and Europe. Amid his incessant missionary labors and travels he found time also for a large literary activity. Besides numerous reports for the benevolent societies with which he was connected, and many contributions to newspapers, magazines, and reviews, he wrote A View of the Valley of the Mississippi (Phila. 1832, 12mo);
Memoir of Anna Jane Linnard (Phila. 1835, 18mo); Memoir of the Rev. Joseph Sanford (Phila. 1836, 12mo); Histoire des Societes de Temperance des Etats-Unis d'Amerique (Paris, 1836, 12mo; translated into German, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Russ, and Swedish — the latter translation by order of Bernadotte); L' Union de l'Eglise et de l'Etat dans la Nouvelle Angleterre (Paris, 1837, 18mo); Visit to Northern Europe (N. Y. 1841, 2 vols. 12mo); Religion in America (Glasgow and Edinburgh, 1842, 8vo; translated into German, Dutch, French, Swedish, etc.; revised ed. N. Y. 1844; enlarged and rewritten, N. Y. 1856); Protestantism in Italy (Boston, 1845, 12mo); 2d. ed. 1847); Christian Retrospect and Register (N. Y. 1851, 12mo, in part). — See Life of Dr. Baird, by his son, Prof. H. M. Baird (N. Y. 1866); Allibone, Dict. of Authtors, 1:142; Princeton Review, 1843, p. 489; Christian Intelligencer (newspaper); Wilson, Presb. Almanac, 1864; Sprague, Sermon on Dr. Baird (Albany, 1863).