Frontispiece of 1841 edition of Collected Works
Charles Follen (September 6, 1796 – January 13, 1840) was a German poet and patriot, who later moved to the United States and became the first professor of German at Harvard University, a Unitarian minister, and a radical abolitionist.
Life in Europe
He was born Karl Theodor Christian Friedrich Follen at Romrod, in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, to Christoph Follen (1759–1833) and Rosine Follen (1766–1799). His father was a counselor-at-law and judge in Giessen, in Hesse-Darmstadt. His mother had retired to Romrod to avoid the French revolutionary troops that had occupied Gießen. He was the brother of August Ludwig Follen and Paul Follen, and the uncle of the biologist Karl Vogt.
He was educated at the preparatory
school at Giessen, where he distinguished himself for proficiency in
Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French, and Italian. At the age of seventeen, he
entered the University of Giessen to study theology. In 1814 he and his
brother August Ludwig went to
fight in the Napoleonic Wars as Hessian volunteers; however, a few weeks
after enlisting, his military career was cut short by an acute attack of
typhus fever, which seemed for a time to have completely destroyed his
memory. After his recovery he returned to the university and began
studying law, and in 1818 was awarded a doctorate in civil and
ecclesiastical law. He then established himself as Privatdocent of
civil law at Giessen, studying at the same time the practice of law in
his father's court. As a student, Follen joined the
Giessen Burschenschaft whose members were pledged to republican
ideals. Though he did not attend himself, Follen was a major
organizer of the first Wartburg festival of 1817.
Early in the fall of 1818, he undertook the cause of several hundred communities in Upper Hesse which desired to remonstrate against a government measure directed at the last remnant of their political independence, and drew up a petition to the grand duke on their behalf. It was printed and widely circulated and aroused public indignation to such a pitch that the obnoxious measure was repealed. However the opposition of the influential men whose plans were thereby thwarted precluded any thought of a career in Follen's home town, and he became a Privatdozent at the University of Jena in October 1818.
At Jena, he wrote political essays, poems, and patriotic songs. His essays and speeches advocated violence and tyrannicide in defense of freedom; this, and his friendship with Karl Ludwig Sand brought him under suspicion as an accomplice in Sand's 1819 assassination of the conservative diplomat and dramatist August von Kotzebue. Follen destroyed letters linking him with Sand. He was arrested, but finally acquitted due to lack of evidence. His dismissal from the university and continuing lack of opportunity prompted him to move to Paris. There he met Charles Comte, the son-in-law of Jean Baptiste Say and founder of the Censeur, a publication which he defended until he chose exile in Switzerland instead of imprisonment in France. He also became acquainted with Marquis de Lafayette, who was then planning his trip to the United States. Follen came under suspicion again after the political assassination of Charles Ferdinand, duc de Berry in 1820, and fled from France to Switzerland.
In Switzerland, he taught Latin and history for a while at the cantonal school of the Grisons at Coire. His lectures having given offence by their Unitarian tendency to some of the Calvinistic ministers of the district, he asked a dismissal and obtained it, with a testimonial to his ability, learning, and worth. He then became a lecturer on law and metaphysics at the University of Basel. At Basel, he made the acquaintance of the theologian Wilhelm de Wette and his stepson Karl Beck. Both Follen and Charles Comte were forced to leave Switzerland. In Follen's case, demands were made by the German governments for his surrender as a revolutionist. These were twice refused, but on their renewal a third time in a threatening form, Basel yielded, and a resolution was passed for Follen's arrest, and in 1824 he and Beck left Switzerland for the United States of America via Havre, France.
Life in the United States
Follen Community Church
Arriving at New York City in 1824, Follen anglicized his name to "Charles." Lafayette was then visiting the United States and sought to interest some people of influence in the two refugees, who had moved from New York City and settled in Philadelphia. Among those Lafayette contacted were Peter Stephen Du Ponceau, a prominent lawyer, and George Ticknor, a Harvard professor. Ticknor in turn interested George Bancroft.
With the help of these sympathetic people, the refugees established themselves in Massachusetts society. Beck quickly secured a position at Bancroft's Round Hill School in Northampton, Massachusetts, in February 1825. Follen continued to study the English language and law in Philadelphia, and in November 1825 took up an offer from Harvard University to be an instructor in German. In 1828 he became an instructor of ethics and ecclesiastical history at Harvard Divinity School, having in the meantime been admitted as a candidate for the ministry. In 1830 he was appointed professor of German literature at Harvard. He became friendly with the New England Transcendentalists, and helped introduce them to German Romantic thought. In 1828, he married Eliza Lee Cabot, the daughter of one of Boston's most prominent families.
Follen also gave demonstrations of the new discipline of gymnastics, made popular by “Father Jahn”. In 1826, at the request of a group in Boston, he established and equipped the first gymnasium there and became its superintendent. Follen resigned this position in 1827, and the responsibilities were taken over by Francis Lieber. With the assistance of Beck, Follen established the first college gymnasium in the United States at Harvard in 1826.
The Follens had a house built on the corner of Follen Street in Cambridge. Their family Christmas tree attracted the attention of the English writer Harriet Martineau during her long visit to the United States, and the Follens have been claimed by some as the first to introduce the German custom of decorated Christmas tree to the United States. (Although the claim is one of several competing claims for the introduction of the custom to the United States, they, together with Martineau, were certainly early and prominent popularizers of the custom.) His brother Paul Follen emigrated in 1834 to the United States, settling in Missouri.
In 1835, Charles Follen lost his professorship at Harvard due to his outspoken abolitionist beliefs and his conflict with University President Josiah Quincy's strict disciplinary measures for undergraduates. A close friend and associate of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, Follen's outspoken opposition to slavery had incurred the hostility and scorn of the public press. Like most of the early radical abolitionists, Follen at the beginning was censured by public opinion even in the locality which later became the centre of the abolition spirit. The good beginning that had been made in the study of the German language in New England was totally discontinued. The cause of German literature had still a friend in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who in 1838 began his lectures on Johann von Goethe's Faust.
Follen's friendship with the prominent Unitarian minister William Ellery Channing drew him to the Unitarian Church. He was ordained as a minister in 1836. He had been called to the pulpit of the Second Congregational Society in Lexington, Massachusetts (now Follen Church Society-Unitarian Universalist) in 1835, but the community was unable to pay him sufficiently to support his family. Follen took other employment; Ralph Waldo Emerson supplied the pulpit from 1836-1838 at the church. In 1838 Follen became the minister of his own congregation in New York City, now All Souls, but lost the position within the year due to conflicts over his radical anti-slavery views. He considered returning to Germany, but returned in 1839 to the congregation in East Lexington, Massachusetts. He had designed its unique octagonal building, for which ground was broken on July 4, 1839. Follen's octagonal building is still standing, and is the oldest church structure in Lexington. In his prayer at the groundbreaking for the building, Follen declared the mission of his church:
Memorial to Charles Follen in the churchyard
Follen broke off a lecture tour in New York and took the Steamship Lexington to Boston for the dedication of his new church. Follen died en route when his steamer caught fire and sank in a storm in the Long Island Sound. Due to Follen's abolitionist positions, his friends were unable to find any church in Boston willing to hold a memorial service on his behalf. Rev. Samuel J. May was finally able to hold a memorial service for Charles Follen in March 1840 at the Marlborough Chapel.
In 1841, Follen's widow Eliza, a well-known author in her own right, published a five-volume collection containing his sermons and lectures, his unfinished sketch of a work on psychology and a biography she wrote.
1. This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Follen, Carl". The American Cyclopædia. 1879.
2. Kuno Francke (1959). "Follen, Charles". Dictionary of American Biography. III, Part 2. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 491–2.
3. This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Fred Eugene Leonard (1923). A Guide to the History of Physical Education. Philadelphia and New York: Lea & Febiger. pp. 227–233, 235–238. http://www.archive.org/details/guidetohistoryof00leon.
4. Alan Barrie Spitzer (1971). Old hatreds and young hopes: the French Carbonari against the Bourbon Restoration. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 203 ff.. ISBN 9780674632202. http://books.google.com/books?id=Te07Ek6iHY0C&pg=PA203&lpg=PA203.
5. Charles Dunoyer And French Classical Liberalism
6. Feintuch, Burt; Watters, David H., eds. (2005). The Encyclopedia of New England. Yale University Press. p. 282.
7. "Follen, Charles Theodore Christian". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
8. Faust (1909), v. 2, pp. 216-217.
August Ludwig Follen
August (or, as he afterwards called himself, Adolf) Ludwig Follen (21 January 1794 - 26 December 1855) was a German poet.
He was born at Gießen, in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, to Christoph Follen (1759-1833) and Rosine Follen (1766-1799). His father was a counselor-at-law and judge.
In 1814 he and his brother, Charles Follen, fought in the Napoleonic Wars as Hessian volunteers. Before joining the volunteers, he had studied theology and philology at the University of Giessen. On his return, he studied law at University of Heidelberg for two years, and after leaving the university in 1817 edited the Elberfeld Allgemeine Zeitung. Suspected of political agitation and connection with some radical plots, in 1819 he was imprisoned for two years in Berlin.
When released in 1821, he went to Switzerland, where he later became a citizen of Zurich. He taught in the canton school at Aarau, farmed from 1847-1854 the estate of Liebenfels in Thurgau, and then retired to Bern, where he lived till his death.
Besides a number of minor poems, he wrote Harfengrüsse aus Deutschland und der Schweiz (1823) and Malegys und Vivian (1829), a knightly romance after the fashion of the romantic school. Of his many translations, mention may be made of the Homeric Hymns in collaboration with R. Schwenck (1814), Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered (1818) and Siegfrieds Tod from the Nibelungenlied (1842); he also collected and translated Latin hymns and sacred poetry (1819).
The Argument about Atheism in Zurich: (left to right) Arnold Ruge, A. L. Follen, Karl Heinzen, F. W. Schulz
In 1846 he published a brief collection of sonnets entitled An die gottlosen Nichtswüteriche (To the godless nothing maniacs). This was aimed at the liberal Hegelian philosophers Arnold Ruge and Karl Heinzen, and was the occasion of a literary duel between Follen and Ruge where Follen fronted for a belief in God and immortality. Follen's posthumous poem Tristans Eltern (1857) may also be mentioned, but his best-known work is a collection of German poetry entitled Bildersaal deutscher Dichtung (1827).
He was the brother of Charles Follen and Paul Follen, who both emigrated to the United States. Biologist Karl Vogt was his nephew.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Follen, August Ludwig". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Paul Follen (also Follenius; May 5, 1799 – October 3, 1844) was a German-American attorney and farmer, who had founded the Gießener Auswanderungsgesellschaft (Gießen Emigration Society).
He was born at Gießen, in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, to Christoph Follen (1759-1833) and Rosine Follen (1766–1799). His father was a counselor-at-law and judge. He was the brother of August Ludwig Follen and Charles Follen, and the uncle of the biologist Karl Vogt. During his studies at the University of Gießen he became friends with Friedrich Muench and in 1825 married his sister Maria.
Naturalist Gottfried Duden, a German attorney, settled on the north side of the Missouri River along Lake Creek in 1824. He was investigating the possibilities of settlement in the area by his countrymen. In 1827 he returned to Germany, which he felt was overpopulated. There he published Bericht über eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nordamerika's ("Report of a journey to the western states of North America") in 1829.
The description of the free life in the US motivated the Protestant minister Friedrich Münch and the attorney Paul Follen to found 1833 the Gießener Auswanderungsgesellschaft. Both had participated in the outlawed republican and democratic movements in Germany in the wake of the French July Revolution of 1832. As there was no immediate hope for success, they intended to establish a "new and free Germany in the great North American Republic" to serve as model for a future German republic.
Already in 1834 they led 500 German settlers into Missouri. They soon realised that the plan for a separate federal state would remain an Utopia. They settled in the German populated Dutzow in Warren County, Missouri not far from the former farm of Gottfried Duden.
Follen died in Dutzow. His son Dr. William Follenius (1829–1902) married Emilie, a daughter of his friend Friedrich Muench. His brother Karl had emigrated to the US already in 1824.
Carl Vogt (1817-1895)
Karl Vogt during his career.
Carl Christoph Vogt (5 July 1817 in Gießen, Grand Duchy of Hesse – 5 May 1895 in Geneva, Switzerland) was a German scientist who emigrated to Switzerland. Vogt published a number of notable works on zoology, geology and physiology. All his life he was engaged in politics, in the German Frankfurt Parliament of 1848-9 and later in Switzerland.
In 1847 he became professor of zoology at the University of Giessen, and in 1852 professor of geology and afterwards also of zoology at the University of Geneva. His earlier publications were on zoology. He dealt with the Amphibia (1839), Reptiles (1840), with Mollusca and Crustacea (1845) and more generally with the invertebrate fauna of the Mediterranean (1854). In 1842, during his time with Louis Agassiz in Neuchâtel, he discovered the mechanism of apoptosis, the programmed cell death, while studying the development of the tadpole of the midwife toad (Alytes obstetricians). Charles Darwin mentions Vogt's support for the theory of evolution in the introduction to his The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871).
Vogt was active in German politics and was a left-wing representative in the Frankfurt Parliament. Karl Marx scathingly replied to slanderous attacks by Karl Vogt in his book Herr Vogt (1860). Marx's defenders pointed to the fact that, years later (1871), records published after the fall of the Second Empire of Napoleon Bonaparte III indicated that Vogt had been secretly in the pay of the French Emperor.
Karl Vogt was a proponent of polygenist evolution, he rejected the monogenist beliefs of most Darwinists and instead he believed that each race had evolved off different types of ape. Vogt believed that the Negro was related to the ape. He believed the White race was a separate species to Negroes. In Chapter VII of his lectures of man (1864) he compared the Negro to the White race whom he described as “two extreme human types”. The difference between them, he claimed are greater than those between two species of ape; and this proves that Negroes are a separate species from the Whites.
Short biography and bibliography in the
Virtual Laboratory of the Max Planck Institute for the History of
Karl Ludwig Sand
Karl Ludwig Sand (Wunsiedel, then in Prussia, 5 October 1795 - Mannheim, 20 May 1820) was a German university student and member of a liberal Burschenschaft (student association). He was executed in 1820 for the murder of the conservative dramatist August von Kotzebue the previous year in Mannheim. As a result of his execution, Sand became a martyr in the eyes of many German nationalists seeking the creation of a united German national state.
Karl Ludwig Sand was born to Godfrey Christopher Sand and Dorthea Jane Wilheltmina Schapf on October 5, 1795. His siblings were George, Fritz, Caroline and Julia.
Students marching towards the Wartburg, of which Sand was one.
In 1804 he attended the Lateinschule (Latin school) in Wunsiedel and in 1810 he moved on to the grammar school (Gymnasium) in Hof, living with the school's rector, Georg Heinrich Saalfrank, a friend of Sand's Enlightened Protestant family. Following the closure of the Hof Gymnasium on the institution of Montgelas's Reforms, Sand followed his teacher to the Neues Gymnasium (New Grammar School) in Regensburg, completing his studies in September 1814. In November 1814 Sand matriculated at the University of Tũbingen.
In 1815, Sand volunteered under Major von Falkenhausen, participating in the Battle of Waterloo in June and in Paris by July. He returned from the war disillusioned with its results and fell into a deep depression. In 1816, while at the University of Erlangen, Sand formed Burschenschaft Teutonia with his friend Dittmar, meeting at castle ruins near Erlangen which they had named Ruttli. They built a meeting house for their group of 80 students. Sand's depression was further intensified by the destruction of Ruttli by the competing political group the Landmannschaft and the drowning death of Dittmar in 1817. Starting in 1817 he studied at the University of Jena, attending the lectures of Jakob Friedrich Fries, Heinrich Luden and Lorenz Oken and joining further Burschenschaften. Sand was among the nationalist students who gathered at the 1817 Wartburg festival, in which Kotzebue's History of the German Empires was one of the books ceremoniously burned.
Murder of August von Kotzebue
Illustration of Sand's attack on Kotzebue.
Sand already contemplated the murder of August von Kotzebue in a diary entry of 5 May 1818. He called him a "traitor to the nation" and a "deceiver of the people" and characterized him as an enemy of the Burschenschaft.
On the morning of 23 March 1819 Sand, using the pseudonym Henry, visited Kotzebue in his Mannheim house. Refused entry to the house and told to return in the afternoon, Sand returned just before five o'clock. Having exchanged just a few words with Kotzebue, Sand produced a dagger and with the words "Here, you traitor to the fatherland!" and stabbed him repeatedly in the chest. Surprised by Kotzebue's four-year-old son witnessing the event from the nursery, Sand lost his wits and stabbed himself. Leaving the house, he handed a servant a piece of writing he had prepared ("Death to August von Kotzebue"), and stabbed himself again in the street. His suicide attempt failed, and he was taken to hospital.
The Mannheim Hofgericht (court of law) sentenced Sand to death on 5 May 1820. He was executed by beheading. Sand was beheaded by Franz Wilhelm Widmann, who was the executing official at the time.
The execution of Karl Ludwig Sand.
His grave in Mannheim
Sand's murder of Kotzebue was a catalyst for government restrictions on liberal and German nationalist thought. On September 20, 1819, Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich called a meeting of representatives from across the German Confederation to create the Carlsbad Decrees which outlawed the Burschenshaften and put limits on freedom of the press and the rights of members of such organizations, banning them from public office, teaching or studying at universities.
Alexandre Dumas, père wrote about Sand's life and published excerpts from his journals and letters in Karl Ludwig Sand, part of Celebrated Crimes. Prior to writing his story, Dumas visited Widmann's son in Mannheim in 1838 to gather information about Sand's character. Alexander Pushkin also memorialized Sand in his poem about assassins entitled "Kinzhal" (The Dagger). In Germany three films have been made concerning the events of Karl Sand's life: Karl Sand in 1964, Sand in 1971, and Die Unbedingten in 2009.
Charles Ferdinand, Duke of
Charles Ferdinand of Artois, Duke of Berry (Charles Ferdinand d'Artois, fils de France, duc de Berry; 24 January 1778 – 14 February 1820) was the younger son of the future king, Charles X of France, and his wife, Princess Maria Theresa of Savoy. His maternal grandparents were Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia and Maria Antonietta of Spain. She was the youngest daughter of Philip V of Spain and Elisabeth Farnese.
He was born at Versailles. As a son of a fils de France not being heir apparent, he was only himself a petit-fils de France, and that is how he was known in emigration. However, during the Restoration, he was given the higher rank of a fils de France (used in his marriage contract, his death certificate, etc.).
Since he was already dead when his father became king, he always had "d'Artois" as his surname.
At the French Revolution he left France with his father, then comte d'Artois, and served in the émigré army of his cousin, Louis Joseph, Prince of Condé, from 1792 to 1797. He afterwards joined the Russian army, and in 1801 took up his residence in England, where he remained for thirteen years. During that time he had a relationship with an Englishwoman, Amy Brown Freeman, by whom he had two daughters whom he only recognized on his deathbed: Charlotte Marie Augustine de Bourbon comtesse d'Issoudun (13 July 1808- 13 July 1886), by marriage in 1823 to Ferdinand de Faucigny-Lucinge, princesse de Lucinge, and Louise Marie Charlotte de Bourbon comtesse de Vierzon (29 December 1809- 26 December 1891), by marriage in 1827 to Charles de Charette, baronne de la Contrie.
In 1814, the duke set out for France. His frank, open manners gained him some favor with his countrymen, and Louis XVIII named him commander-in-chief of the army at Paris on the return of Napoleon from Elba. He was, however, unable to retain the loyalty of his troops, and retired to Ghent during the Hundred Days war. In 1816 he married Princess Maria Carolina Ferdinanda Luisa of Naples and Sicily (1798–1870), oldest daughter of the Duke of Calabria (heir to the Neapolitan throne), following negotiations with the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily by the French ambassador, the Count (later Duke of Blacas) of Blacas.
Three children were born before the duke's death: the last and only surviving one, Louise d'Artois, born in 1819, later married Charles III of Parma.
On 13 February 1820 the Duke of Berry was stabbed and mortally wounded, when leaving the opera house in Paris with his wife, by a saddler named Louis Pierre Louvel. He died on 14 February. Seven months after his death, the duchess gave birth to a son, Henri, who received the title of duc de Bordeaux, but who is better known in history as the comte de Chambord.
The Duchess of Berry was compelled to follow Charles X to Holyrood after July 1830, but it was with the resolution of returning speedily and making an attempt to secure the throne for her son. From Britain she went to Italy, and in April 1832 she landed near Marseille, but, receiving no support, was compelled to make her way towards the loyal districts of Vendée and Brittany. Her followers, however, were defeated, and, after remaining concealed for five months in a house in Nantes, she was betrayed to the government and imprisoned in the castle of Blaye.
Here she gave birth to a daughter, the fruit of a secret marriage contracted with an Italian nobleman, Count Ettore Lucchesi-Palli (1805–1834). The announcement of this marriage at once deprived the duchess of the sympathies of her supporters. She was no longer an object of fear to the French government, who released her in June 1833. She set sail for Sicily, and, joining her husband, lived in retirement from that time until her death, at Brunnsee in Austria, in April 1870.
1. It has been claimed that he married her, but that is highly unlikely and in any case was never proven: see Christophe Brun, Descendance inédite du duc de Berry: documents et commentaires, Paris 1998.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
17th United States Secretary of the Navy
Bancroft's bookplate and signature. "Eis phaos" is Greek for "Towards the Light"
George Bancroft (October 3, 1800 – January 17, 1891) was an American historian and statesman who was prominent in promoting secondary education both in his home state and at the national level. During his tenure as U.S. Secretary of the Navy, he established the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1845. Among his best-known writings is the magisterial series, History of the United States, from the Discovery of the American Continent.
Early life and education
His family had been in Massachusetts Bay since 1632, and his father, Aaron Bancroft, was distinguished as a revolutionary soldier, a leading Unitarian clergyman and author of a popular life of George Washington. Bancroft was born in Worcester, and began his education at Phillips Exeter Academy and entered Harvard College at thirteen years of age. At age 17, he graduated from Harvard and went to study in Germany. Abroad, he studied at Heidelberg, Göttingen and Berlin. At Göttingen he studied Plato with Arnold Heeren; history with Heeren and Gottlieb Jakob Planck; Arabic, Hebrew, New Testament Greek and scripture interpretation with Albert Eichhorn; natural science with Johann Friedrich Blumenbach; German literature with Georg Friedrich Benecke; French and Italian literature with Artaud and Bunsen; and classics with Georg Ludolf Dissen. In 1820, he received his doctorate from the University of Göttingen.
Bancroft capped off his education with a European tour, in the course of which he sought out almost every distinguished man in the world of letters, science and art, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Lord Byron, Barthold Georg Niebuhr, Christian Charles Josias Bunsen, Friedrich Karl von Savigny, Varnhagen von Ense, Victor Cousin, Benjamin Constant and Alessandro Manzoni.
Career in education and literature
Bancroft's father had devoted his son to the work of the ministry. While the young man delivered several sermons shortly after his return from Europe in 1822 which produced a favorable impression, the love of literature proved the stronger attachment.
His first position was that of tutor of Greek at Harvard. Instinctively a humanist, Bancroft had little patience with the narrow curriculum of Harvard in his day and the rather pedantic spirit with which classical studies were pursued there. Moreover, he had brought from Europe a new manner, imbued with ardent Romanticism and this he wore without ease in the formal, self-satisfied and prim provincial society of New England; the young man's European air was subjected to ridicule, but his politics were sympathetic to Jacksonian democracy.
A little volume of poetry, translations and original pieces, published in 1823 gave its author no fame. As time passed, and custom created familiarity, his style, personal and literary, was seen to be the outward symbol of a firm resolve to preserve a philosophic calm, and of an enormous underlying energy which spent itself in labor. He found the conversational atmosphere of Cambridge uncongenial, and with Joseph Cogswell he established the Round Hill School at Northampton, Massachusetts. This was the first serious effort made in the United States to elevate secondary education to the plane on which it belonged.
In spite of the exacting and severe routine of the Round Hill School, Bancroft contributed frequently to the North American Review and to Walsh's American Quarterly; he also made a translation of Heeren's work on The Politics of Ancient Greece. In 1826 he published an oration in which he advocated universal suffrage and the foundation of the state on the power of the whole people. In 1830, without his knowledge, he was elected to the Massachusetts legislature, but refused to take his seat, and the next year he declined a nomination, though certain to have been elected, for the state senate.
In 1834 appeared the first volume of the History of the United States, which would appear over the next four decades (1834–74) and established his reputation. In 1835, he moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, where he completed the second volume of his history. The year of his move, he also drafted an address to the people of Massachusetts at the request of the Young Men's Democratic Convention.
His first wife was Sarah Dwight, of a rich family in Springfield, Massachusetts; they married in 1827 but she died in 1837. His second wife was Mrs. Elizabeth Davis Bliss, a widow with two children to add to his two sons; she bore him a daughter.
Bancroft, having trained in the leading German universities, was an accomplished scholar, whose magisterial History of the United States, from the Discovery of the American Continent covered the new nation in depth down to 1789. Bancroft was imbued with the spirit of Romanticism, emphasizing the emergence of nationalism and republican values, and rooting on every page for the Patriots. His masterwork started appearing in 1834, and he constantly revised it in numerous editions. Along with John Gorham Palfrey (1796-1881), he wrote the most comprehensive history of colonial America. Billias argues Bancroft played on four recurring themes to explain how America developed its unique values: providence, progress, patria, and pan-democracy. "Providence" meant that destiny depended more on God than on human will. The idea of "progress" indicated that through continuous reform a better society was possible. "Patria" (love of country) was deserved because America's spreading influence would bring liberty and freedom to more and more of the world. "Pan-democracy" meant the nation-state was central to the drama, not specific heroes or villains.
Vitzthum argues that Bancroft was the historian as artist and philosopher. He used past events to exemplify his moral vision, based on his Unitarian faith in progress. The history of America exemplified the gradual unfolding of God's purpose for mankind -- the development of religious and political liberty. The tone of moral certainty made his volumes popular, in combination with their grand artistic sweep, intensity, and coherence.
Bancroft was an indefatigable researcher who had a thorough command of the sources, but his rotund romantic style and enthusiastic patriotism annoyed later generations of scientific historians, who did not assign his books to students. Furthermore, scholars of the "Imperial School" after 1890 took a much more favorable view of the benign intentions of the British Empire than he did.
Career in politics
Bancroft in 1846
His entry into politics came in 1837 with his appointment by Martin Van Buren as Collector of Customs of the Port of Boston. In this position, two of Bancroft's appointees were Orestes Brownson and Nathaniel Hawthorne. In 1844, he was the Democratic candidate for the governorship of Massachusetts, but he was defeated. In 1845, in recognition for his support at the previous Democratic convention, he entered Polk's cabinet as Secretary of the Navy, serving until 1846, when for a month he was acting Secretary of War.
During his short period in the cabinet, he established the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, gave the orders which led to the occupation of California, and sent Zachary Taylor into the contested land between Texas and Mexico. He also continued his pleadings for the annexation of Texas as extending "the area of freedom," and, though a Democrat, opposed slavery.
The Naval Academy was devised and completely set at work by Bancroft alone, who received for the purpose all the appropriations for which he asked. Congress had never been willing to establish a naval academy. Bancroft studied the law to ascertain the powers of the Secretary of the Navy, and found that he could order the place where midshipmen should wait for orders. He could also direct the instructors to give lessons to them at sea, and by law they had power to follow them to the place of their common residence on shore. With a close economy, the appropriation of the year for the naval service met the expense, and the secretary of war ceded an abandoned military post to the navy.
So when Congress came together they found the midshipmen that were not at sea comfortably housed at Annapolis, protected from the dangers of idleness and city life, and busy at a regular course of study. Seeing what had been done, Congress accepted the school, which was in full operation, and granted money for the repairs of the buildings. Bancroft introduced some new professors of great merit into the corps of instructors, and he suggested a method by which promotion should depend, not on age alone, but also on experience and capacity; but this scheme was never fully developed or applied. Bancroft was also influential in obtaining additional appropriations for the United States Naval Observatory.
He likewise made himself the authority on the Oregon boundary dispute, with the result that in 1846 he was sent as minister plenipotentiary to London, where he lived in constant companionship with the historian Macaulay and the poet Hallam. With the election of Zachary Taylor his post was not renewed; on his return to the United states in 1849 he withdrew from public life, residing in New York and writing history. While in New York, Bancroft acted as a founding member of the American Geographical Society and served as the society's first president for nearly three years (Feb. 21, 1852—Dec. 7, 1854).
George Bancroft in his office (c. 1889)
In April 1864, at Bancroft's request, President Lincoln wrote out what would become the fourth of five known manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address. Mr. Bancroft planned to include this copy in "Autograph Leaves of Our Country's Authors," which he planned to sell at a Soldiers' and Sailors' Sanitary Fair in Baltimore.
Bancroft was elected an Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1863. In 1866, He was chosen by Congress to deliver the special eulogy on Lincoln; and in 1867 he was appointed minister to Berlin, where he remained until his resignation in 1874. Then he lived in Washington, D.C., summering at Rose Cliff, Newport, Rhode Island.
His latest official achievements are considered the greatest. In the San Juan arbitration he displayed great versatility and skill, winning his case before the emperor with brilliant ease. The naturalization treaties, named the "Bancroft treaties" in his honor, which he negotiated successively with Prussia and the other north German states were the first international recognition of the right of expatriation, a principle since incorporated in the law of nations.
His minor publications include:
Among his other speeches and addresses may be mentioned a lecture on “The Culture, the Support, and the Object of Art in a Republic,” in the course of the New York Historical Society in 1852; and one on “The Office, Appropriate Culture, and Duty of the Mechanic.”
Bancroft contributed a biography of Jonathan Edwards to the American Cyclopædia.
Namesakes and Monuments
The United States Navy has named several ships USS Bancroft, as well as the fleet ballistic missile submarine USS George Bancroft (SBN-643), after Bancroft, and the mid-19th century United States Coast Survey schooner USCS Bancroft also was named for him. The dormitory at the United States Naval Academy, Bancroft Hall, is named after him as well. Bancroft is one of 23 famous names on the $1 Educational currency note of 1896.
The name of Bancroft is found atop one of several marble pillars in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the United States Library of Congress in Washington, DC. It is believed this is attributed to George Bancroft.
In and around Worcester, Massachusetts, Bancroft's birthplace, many streets, businesses and monuments bear his name:
1. He served as president of the American Unitarian Association from 1825 to 1836.
2. Harvey Wish, The American Historian: A Social-intellectual History of the Writing of the American Past (1960) ch 5 online
3. See for online editions
4. George Athan Billias, "George Bancroft: Master Historian," Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, Oct 2001, 111#2 pp 507-528
5. Richard C. Vitzthum, "Theme and Method in Bancroft's "History of the United States," New England Quarterly, Sept 1968, 41#3 pp 362-380 in JSTOR
6. Vitzthum, "Theme and Method in Bancroft's "History of the United States," p 362
7. N. H. Dawes, and F. T. Nichols, "Revaluing George Bancroft," New England Quarterly, 6#2 (1933), pp. 278-293 in JSTOR
8. Michael Kraus, "George Bancroft 1834-1934," New England Quarterly, 7#4 (1934), pp. 662-686 in JSTOR
9. Wright, John Kirtland 'The Years of Henry Grinnell', Geography in the Making: The American Geographical Society 1851-1951 (1952) p. 17-18. — George Grady Press
10. "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. http://www.amacad.org/publications/BookofMembers/ChapterB.pdf. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
11. "United States Bank Notes". 2009-12-27. http://www.tomchao.com/na/na43.html.
12. "United States Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building". 2010-01-18. http://www.loc.gov/loc/walls/jeff1.html.