Biography of George Bancroft


GEORGE BANCROFT, American historian, born October 3rd, 1800, near Worcester, in Massachusetts, was the son of Dr. Aaron Bancroft, a Unitarian minister. He entered Harvard College at the age of 13, and obtaining a valuable exhibition there, proceeded in 1818, to Gottingen, where he studied history and philology under Heeren, Plank and Eichhorn, and in 1820, attained the degree of doctor. At Berlin, he attended the lectures of Hegel, and had frequent intercourse with Schleiermacher, W. Von Humboldt, Savigny, Varnhagen von Ense and other literary men of note. Subsequently he travelled through Germany, and formed an acquaintance with Goethe and Schlosser. Having visited Paris, London and Italy, Bancroft returned to America, and after some time spent in tuition, devoted himself to politics. He soon became celebrated as a democratic politician, and was made Collector of Customs at Boston. He still continued his literary labors, in lecturing on German literature, philosophy, etc. When Polk was elected president in 1845, he appointed Bancroft Secretary of the Navy. While in this office he established an observatory at Washington, and a naval school at Annapolis. In the autumn of 1845, Bancroft was sent by Polk as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to England, where he remained until 1849, taking advantage of his stay in London to carefully and comprehensively investigate all authentic sources for materials to aid him in writing the History of America. He published the result of his labors in his History of the Revolution (Boston, 1852). He had already secured for himself an honorable place among modern historians, by his History of the Colonization of the United States (1834-1840). The whole of these writings are now included in the author's History of the United States, a work of solid excellence.