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George Bancroft


In office
March 11, 1845 – September 9, 1846
Preceded by John Y. Mason
Succeeded by John Y. Mason

Born October 3, 1800(1800-10-03)
Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died January 17, 1891 (aged 90)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Sarah Dwight
Elizabeth Davis Bliss
Alma mater Harvard University
University of Göttingen
Profession Politician, writer and historian
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.

Contents

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[1] 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, New Testament Greek with Albert Eichhorn and natural science with Johann Friedrich Blumenbach. In 1820, he received his doctorate from the University of Göttingen.

Bancroft capped off his education with European tour, in the course of which he sought out almost every distinguished man in the world of letters, science and art; among others, Goethe, Humboldt, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Byron, Niebuhr, Bunsen, Savigny, Cousin, Constant and Manzoni.

Bancroft's father had devoted his son to the work of the ministry; but the young man's first experiments at preaching, shortly after his return from Europe in 1822, were unsatisfactory.

Career in education and literature

His first position was that of tutor 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 a friend 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 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. The work covers the period from the discovery of the continent to the conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1782. His other great work is The History of the Formation of the Constitution of the United States (1882). His writing is clear and vigorous, and his facts generally accurate, but he is a good deal of a partisan.

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.

Career in politics

George Bancroft in his office (c. 1889)

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 this 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.

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.

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.

In 1866, Bancroft 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.

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.[2]

In and around Worcester, Massachusetts, Bancroft's birthplace, many streets, businesses and monuments bear his name:

Published Works

  • Bancroft, George. History of the United States of America, from the discovery of the American continent. (Boston: Little, Brown, and company, numerous editions in 8 or 10 volumes 1854-78). online edition

Notes

  1. ^ He served as president of the American Unitarian Association from 1825 to 1836.
  2. ^ "United States Bank Notes". 2009-12-27. http://www.tomchao.com/na/na43.html.  

References

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
John Y. Mason
United States Secretary of the Navy
1845–1846
Succeeded by
John Y. Mason
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Louis McLane
U.S. Minister to Britain
1846 – 1849
Succeeded by
Abbott Lawrence
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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another.

George Bancroft (1800-10-031891-01-17) was an American historian and diplomat, best known for his History of the United States.

Contents

Sourced

A History of the United States (1834-74)

Quotations are cited from the 1876 Little, Brown edition.

  • The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another.
    • Vol. 1, ch. 10, p. 365
  • Avarice is the vice of declining years.
    • Vol. 1, ch. 13, p. 484
  • Institutions may crumble and governments fall, but it is only that they may renew a better youth, and mount upwards like the eagle.
    • Vol. 3, ch. 1, p. 8

Literary and Historical Miscellanies (1855)

Quotations are cited from the 1st edition (New York: Harper, 1855).

  • Ennui is the desire of activity without the fit means of gratifying the desire.
    • "Ennui" (1830), p. 48
  • Truth is not exciting enough to those who depend on the characters and lives of their neighbors for all their amusement; and if a story is told of more than common interest, ennui is sure to have its joy in adding embellishments. If hours did not hang heavy, what would become of scandal?
    • "Ennui", p. 64
  • By common consent grey hairs are a crown of glory; the only object of respect that can never excite envy.
    • "The Ruling Passion in Death" (1833), p. 75
  • The best government rests on the people and not on the few, on persons and not on property, on the free development of public opinion and not on authority.
    • "The Office of the People in Art, Government and Religion" (1835), p. 421
  • Sedition is bred in the lap of luxury and its chosen emissaries are the beggared spendthrift and the impoverished libertine.
    • "The Office of the People in Art, Government and Religion", p. 424
  • The exact measure of the progress of civilization is the degree in which the intelligence of the common mind has prevailed over wealth and brute force.
    • "The Office of the People in Art, Government and Religion", pp. 426-7
  • The prejudices of ignorance are more easily removed than the prejudices of interest; the first are blindly adopted; the second wilfully preferred.
    • "The Office of the People in Art, Government and Religion", p. 430
  • Beauty itself is but the sensible image of the Infinite.
    • "The Necessity, the Reality, and the Promise of the Progress of the Human Race" (1854), p. 489
  • It is when the hour of conflict is over, that history comes to a right understanding of the strife, and is ready to exclaim, "Lo! God is here, and we knew it not."
    • "The Necessity, the Reality, and the Promise of the Progress of the Human Race", p. 491

External links

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GEORGE BANCROFT (1800-1891), American historian and statesman, was born in Worcester, Mass., on the 3rd of October 1800. His family had been in America since 1632, and his father, Aaron Bancroft, was distinguished as a revolutionary soldier, clergyman and author. The son was educated at Phillips Academy, Exeter, at Harvard University, at Heidelberg, Göttingen and Berlin. At Göttingen he studied Plato with Heeren, New Testament Greek with Eichhorn and natural science with Blumenbach. His heart was in the work of Heeren, easily the greatest of historical critics then living, and the forerunner of the modern school; it was from this master that Bancroft caught his enthusiasm for minute pains-taking erudition. He concluded his years of preparation by a European tour, in the course of which he received kind attention from almost every distinguished man in the world of letters, science and art; among others, from Goethe, Humboldt, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Byron, Niebuhr, Bunsen, Savigny, Cousin, Constant and Manzoni. Bancroft's father was a Unitarian, and he had devoted his son to the work of the ministry; but the young man's first experiments at preaching, shortly after his return from Europe in 1822, were unsatisfactory, the theological teaching of the time having substituted criticism and literature for faith. His first position was that of tutor in Harvard. Instinctively a humanist, he had little patience with the narrow curriculum of Harvard in his day and the rather pedantic spirit with which classical studies were there pursued. Moreover, he had brought from Europe a new manner, full of the affections of ardent youth, and this he wore without ease in a society highly satisfied with itself; the young knight-errant was therefore subjected to considerable ridicule.

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 labour, "ohne Hast, aber auch ohne Rast." He found the conventional atmosphere of Cambridge uncongenial, and with a friend he established the Round Hill school at Northampton, Mass. This was the first serious effort made in the United States to elevate secondary education to the plane on which it belonged.

Although born into aWhig family, yet Bancroft's studies carried him irresistibly into the Democratic party. While a teacher in his own school he was elected to the state legislature as a Democrat, but under pressure from the family of his first wife, who were ardent Whigs, he refused to serve. In 1331 he likewise declined the nomination of the Massachusetts Democrats for secretary of state. By this time he was influential in the councils of his party, and President Van Buren appointed him collector of the port of Boston, a position which he filled with success. Two of his appointees were Orestes Brownson and Nathaniel Hawthorne. In 1844 he was the Democratic candidate for the governorship, but he was defeated. In 1845 he entered Polk's cabinet as secretary of the navy, serving until 1846, when for a month he was acting secretary of war. During this short period in the cabinet he established the naval academy at Annapolis, gave the orders which led to the occupation of California, and sent Zachary Taylor into the debatable 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, took high moral ground as to slavery; he likewise made himself the authority on the North-Western Boundary question. In 1846 he was sent as minister to London, where he lived in constant companionship with Macaulay and Hallam. On his return in 1849 he withdrew from public life, residing in New York. 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. Thenceforward he lived in Washington and Newport, dying at Washington on the 17th of January 1891. His latest official achievements were 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 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.

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 1834 appeared the first volume of the History of the United States. The second followed in 1837, and others as the exigencies of public life permitted Supplementary to the first volume was an article published by him in the North American Review for 1835 on "The Documentary History of the Revolution." This article not merely brought the new method to the notice of the reading public, but revealed to it the wealth of material available. The nature and extent of his studies, the solidity of his work, and the philosophic spirit which animates both, explain the enthusiasm with which the earlier volumes of Bancroft were received. Their sale at home was very large; they were reprinted in England and translated immediately into Danish, Italian, German and French. The latest volumes were considered by all competent judges quite as important as their predecessors. When the author was preparing to return from Berlin, the Royal Academy made him their guest at a public dinner, an unprecedented honour; and the universities of Berlin, Heidelberg and Munich united in a testimonial of regard. At Washington he was the confidential advisor of statesmen to the end of his life and the unofficial dean of the best society.

Bancroft's historical creed is best set forth in the address he delivered on the semi-centennial of the New York Historical Society in 1854. In philosophy he found the basis for positing a ,collective human will, revealing in its activities the materials for determining ethical laws. Since there must be the same conservation of energy in morals as elsewhere, the eternal reason is the divine Logos. History, therefore, is God working in examples. It must be a unit, its forces constant and its totality an organic whole. Within this the individual moves and acts with liberty and responsibility; for each, in will, affection and intellect is consubstantial with the rest. Truth, morals and justice are subject to no evolution; but the collective man evolves better forms of knowledge and behaviour. The organization of society, therefore, produces successive states, in each of which the principle of freedom is better established than in the antecedent. Permanency in republican government is, therefore, based upon corresponding experience and culture, and its possibilities grow ever stronger. The relation of American democracy to the systems which have preceded it forms the latest proof of these contentions. As Heeren's pupil, he laid enormous stress on the importance of original authorities. In dealing with documentary evidence he sought to apply very stringent rules: - (1) Carefully distinguish between original authority and historical memorials or aids; for example, between a fact recorded at firstor secondhand knowledge, and a decision of principle by authority. (2) Represent every man from his own standpoint; judge him from your own. His collections of original materials were vast; beginning with his residence in England, he brought together at enormous pains and expense the authenticated copies of archives, family papers, and personal journals written by historic personages, which now constitute an invaluable treasure in the New York public library. They are from every land and from every people with which American origins are connected. His use of this material was not always according to accepted standards. To avoid dryness and prolixity he condensed quotations, and occasionally employed the Thucydidean method of abridgment or representation in place of fact catalogues. During his long life enormous strides were made by others in collecting the materials of American history, and while in the main he kept pace with them by ruthless revision, yet even the latest edition of his work disregards some minor facts which others knew for the insertion of much which the author alone knew.

Bancroft's imagination and enthusiasm were alike exuberant. His pages abound in fine and acute insight. His generalizations are vivid and enlightening. He spared no pains to acquire true style, frequently rewriting his chapters, and sometimes testing passages of philosophy and description in eight different forms. Yet to a certain extent he lacked the representative power and often failed to conceal his art, many pages ringing with artificial tones. But, after making all allowances, it remains true that he had a pefect sense of proportion, sound maxims and thorough common-sense. He was of that greatest human type: a man of the present, valuing justly the past and no dreamer. In the nature and extent of his studies, in the solidity of his work, and in the philosophic spirit which animated his life he ranks as the foremost historian of the United States, and as an American historian second to none of his European contemporaries in the same line. He displayed the heroic, epic value of American history, its unity with the great central stream, and dispelled for ever the extravagant conceptions of a sentimental world just emerging from the visionary philosophy of the 18th century.

See M. A. de Wolfe Howe, The Life and Letters of George Bancroft (New York, 1908). (W. M. S.)


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Simple English

George Bancroft
File:George Bancroft United States Secretary of Navy c.


In office
March 11, 1845 – September 9, 1846
Preceded by John Y. Mason
Succeeded by John Y. Mason

Born October 3, 1800(1800-10-03)
Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died January 17, 1891 (aged 90)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse Sarah Dwight
Elizabeth Davis Bliss
Alma mater Harvard University
University of Göttingen
Profession Politician, writer and historian

George Bancroft (October 3, 1800 – January 17, 1891) was an American historian and statesman. He was important in promoting secondary education both in his home state and at the national level. He made the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1845. Among his best-known writings is History of the United States, from the Discovery of the American Continent. He was known as the "father of American History".[1] He was born into a Whig family, but Brancroft's studies led him to become a Democratic.

References

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