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, at the national and international level. During his tenure as U.S. Secretary of the Navy, he established the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1845. He was a senior American diplomat in Europe. Among his best-known writings is the magisterial series, History of the United States, from the Discovery of the American Continent.
|United States Minister to Germany|
August 28, 1867 – June 30, 1874
Ulysses S. Grant
|Preceded by||Joseph A. Wright|
|Succeeded by||Bancroft Davis|
|United States Minister to the United Kingdom|
November 12, 1846 – August 31, 1849
|President||James K. Polk|
|Preceded by||Louis McLane|
|Succeeded by||Abbott Lawrence|
|United States Secretary of the Navy|
March 11, 1845 – September 9, 1846
|President||James K. Polk|
|Preceded by||John Y. Mason|
|Succeeded by||John Y. Mason|
|Born||October 3, 1800|
Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||January 17, 1891 (aged 90)|
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Elizabeth Davis Bliss
|Education||Harvard University (BA)|
University of Göttingen (MA, PhD)
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; he entered Harvard College at thirteen years of age. At age 17, he graduated from Harvard, class of 1817, and went to study in Germany. Abroad, he studied at the universities of 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.
He returned to Heidelberg Schlierbach, where he had stayed during his studies in Heidelberg University. He founded a learning community for natural science and religion called Heidelbridge Community College, which in 1825 became Heidelbridge University of Science. This university received profound support from Harvard and in 1916 merged part of its academic learning with Heidelberg University, except Medicine and Law which still remained under the leadership of the Harvard Academic Council, although joint academic activities were exercised by the US Army Europe Command. No current activities are known since the US Army departed Heidelberg.
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.
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 and had two sons. She died in 1837. He formed a second marriage with Mrs Elizabeth Davis Bliss, a widow with two children. Together they had 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.
Edmund Morgan centers his discussion of the Whig view of the American Revolution on Bancroft and his treatment of the Founding Fathers. Morgan re-introduced Bancroft's narrative that the American patriots were motivated by a deep commitment to liberty and that the actions of King George were counter to their ideals. Between Bancroft's History of the United States and Morgan's 1958 pamphlet was a popular view of the Revolution known as the "Progressive view" which claimed that the rhetoric of the patriots was a mere invocation of political philosophy toward an ultimately conservative aim of keeping and consolidating power. Bancroft, like Morgan, would disagree with this interpretation. According to Morgan, Bancroft's treatment of the Revolution is most similar to another Whig historian, the British statesman Sir George Trevelyan.
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.
Bancroft entered politics in 1837 when appointed by Martin Van Buren as Collector of Customs of the Port of Boston. Two of his own appointees in the office were Orestes Brownson and author Nathaniel Hawthorne. In 1844, Bancroft was the Democratic candidate for governor of Massachusetts but he was defeated. He called for the annexation of Texas as extending "the area of freedom" and, though a Democrat, opposed slavery.
In 1845, in recognition for his support at the previous Democratic convention, Bancroft was appointed to James 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, Bancroft established the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, creating a legacy of education and leadership. He ordered naval action that resulted in the occupation of California and, as secretary of War, sent Zachary Taylor into the contested land between Texas and Mexico. That catalyzed the Mexican War, resulting in the United States greatly increasing its territory in the Southwest.
Bancroft designed and developed the Naval Academy; he received all the appropriations for which he asked. Congress had never been willing to establish a naval academy, but Bancroft studied the law to assess the powers of the Secretary of the Navy. He found that he could order "a place where midshipmen should wait for orders." He could also direct instructors to give lessons to them at sea, and by law, instructors could follow the midshipmen to the place of their common residence on shore. 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.
Therefore, when Congress came together, it learned that the midshipmen not at sea were housed at Annapolis. Thus, they were protected from the dangers of idleness and city life and busy at a regular course of study. Congress accepted the school, which was in full operation, and granted money for the repairs of the buildings.
Bancroft introduced some new respected professors into the corps of instructors, and he suggested a system of promotion, related to experience and achievements as well as age. The merit system was not fully developed or applied at the time. Bancroft was influential also in obtaining additional appropriations for the United States Naval Observatory.
Similarly, Bancroft studied so deeply the Oregon boundary dispute that in 1846, he was sent as minister plenipotentiary to London to work with the British government on the issue. There, he roomed with the historian Macaulay and the poet Hallam. With the election of Whig Zachary Taylor as president, Bancroft's political appointment ended. On his return to the United States in 1849, he withdrew from public life.
He resided in New York and wrote history. There, Bancroft acted as a founding member of the American Geographical Society and served as the society's first president for nearly three years (February 21, 1852 – December 7, 1854).
In April 1864, at Bancroft's request, President Abraham Lincoln wrote out what would become the fourth of five known manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address. Bancroft planned to include the copy in Autograph Leaves of Our Country's Authors, which he planned to sell at a Soldiers' and Sailors' Sanitary Fair, in Baltimore, to raise money to care for the Union Army.
In 1867, President Andrew Johnson offered Bancroft the post of US minister to Prussia, enabling him to return to Germany. Bancroft remained in Berlin for seven years, and President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him minister to the German Empire in 1871. During his tenure in Berlin, Bancroft spent much time negotiating agreements with Prussia and the other north German states relating to naturalization and citizenship issues; they became known as the Bancroft Treaties in his honor. The treaties were the first international recognition of the right of expatriation. The principle has since incorporated in the law of nations.
His last official achievements are considered the greatest. In the San Juan arbitration he displayed great versatility and skill and won the case, which was decided by a commission appointed by the German Emperor. He died in 1891, being the last surviving member of the Polk cabinet.
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.
The United States Navy has named several ships USS Bancroft for him, as well as the fleet ballistic missile submarine USS George Bancroft (SBN-643), and the mid-19th century United States Coast Survey schooner USCS Bancroft.
The name of Bancroft, honoring George Bancroft, is found atop one of several marble pillars in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the United States Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
In and around his birthplace of Worcester, Massachusetts, many streets, businesses and monuments bear his name:
Bancroft is interred at Rural Cemetery in Worcester.
John Y. Mason
| United States Secretary of the Navy
John Y. Mason
| U.S. Minister to Britain
Joseph A. Wright
| U.S. Minister to Prussia
Bancroft is a town in Putnam County, West Virginia, United States, along the Kanawha River. The population was 587 at the 2010 census. Bancroft is a part of the Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). As of the 2010 census, the MSA had a population of 287,702. New definitions from February 28, 2013 placed the population at 363,000. It officially became a town in 1952. The town was named for George Bancroft, a coal mine operator.Bancroft Prize
The Bancroft Prize is awarded each year by the trustees of Columbia University for books about diplomacy or the history of the Americas. It was established in 1948 by a bequest from Frederic Bancroft. The prize has been generally considered to be among the most prestigious awards in the field of American history writing and comes with a $10,000 stipend (raised from $4,000 beginning in 2004). Seventeen winners had their work supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and 16 winners were also recipients of the Pulitzer Prize for History.The prize was affected by the post-award controversy involving the scholarship of Michael A. Bellesiles, who received the prize for his work in 2001. Following independent investigations, Columbia University rescinded the prize for the first time.Blood Money (1933 film)
Blood Money is a 1933 American Pre-Code crime drama about a crooked bail bondsman named Bill Bailey, played by George Bancroft, with Chick Chandler as crime boss Drury Darling, Judith Anderson as Drury's sister and Bailey's lover, and Frances Dee as a thrill-seeking, larcenous beauty who fatefully catches Bailey's eye. The film was considered to be lost for nearly forty years before reappearing.This marked the film debut of Anderson (better known for her next role, housekeeper Mrs. Danvers in the 1940 Rebecca).Derelict (film)
Derelict is a 1930 American pre-Code adventure film directed by Rowland V. Lee and written by Grover Jones and William Slavens McNutt. The film stars George Bancroft, Jessie Royce Landis and William "Stage" Boyd. The film was released on November 22, 1930, by Paramount Pictures.George Bancroft (actor)
George Bancroft (September 30, 1882 – October 2, 1956) was an American
film actor, whose career spanned more than thirty years from 1925 to 1956. He was cast in many notable films alongside major film stars throughout his Hollywood years.George Bancroft Park, Blackpool
George Bancroft Park is a municipal park and garden created in the town of Blackpool (in Lancashire, England) in 2006. The park is named after George Bancroft who a former leader of Blackpool Town Council who died in 2001.John Meade's Woman
John Meade's Woman is a 1937 American drama film directed by Richard Wallace and written by John Bright, Vincent Lawrence, Herman J. Mankiewicz and Robert Tasker. The film stars Edward Arnold, Francine Larrimore, Gail Patrick, George Bancroft, John Trent and Sidney Blackmer. The film was released on February 26, 1937, by Paramount Pictures.Ladies Love Brutes
Ladies Love Brutes is a 1930 American pre-Code comedy film starring George Bancroft, Mary Astor, and Fredric March. The film was directed by Rowland V. Lee and based on the play Pardon My Glove by Zoë Akins.Old Ironsides (film)
Old Ironsides (1926) is a silent film starring Charles Farrell, Esther Ralston, Wallace Beery, and George Bancroft.Paramount on Parade
Paramount on Parade is a 1930 all-star American pre-Code revue released by Paramount Pictures, directed by several directors including Edmund Goulding, Dorothy Arzner, Ernst Lubitsch, Rowland V. Lee, A. Edward Sutherland, Lothar Mendes, Otto Brower, Edwin H. Knopf, Frank Tuttle, and Victor Schertzinger—all supervised by the production supervisor, singer, actress, and songwriter Elsie Janis.
Featured stars included Jean Arthur, Richard Arlen, Clara Bow, Evelyn Brent, Buddy Rogers, Jack Oakie, Helen Kane, Maurice Chevalier, Nancy Carroll, George Bancroft, Kay Francis, Richard "Skeets" Gallagher, Gary Cooper, Fay Wray, Lillian Roth and other Paramount stars. The screenplay was written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, produced by Adolph Zukor and Jesse L. Lasky, with cinematography by Victor Milner and Harry Fischbeck.Russel B. Nye
Russel Blaine Nye (February 17, 1913 – September 2, 1993) was an American professor of English who in the 1960s pioneered Popular Culture Theory. He is the author of a dozen books. His book George Bancroft: Brahmin Rebel won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.
Born in Viola, Wisconsin, Nye received his bachelor's degree from Oberlin College in 1934 and his master's degree from the University of Wisconsin in English the following year. In 1938 he married Kathryn Chaney, and in 1940 he completed his doctorate on George Bancroft again at the University of Wisconsin. Nye taught in the English department at Michigan State University from 1941 to 1979.In 1957 after the director of the Detroit Public Library claimed that Frank L. Baum's novel The Wizard of Oz had no value and shouldn't be stocked by libraries, Nye and Martin Gardner published a new critical edition of the novel bringing out its value, causing a firestorm of controversy, followed by eventual acceptance.
In 1970 he co-founded the Popular Culture Association with Ray B. Browne and Marshall Fishwick, working to shape a new academic discipline called Popular Culture Theory that blurred the traditional distinctions between high and low culture, focusing on mass culture mediums like television and the Internet, and cultural archetypes like comic book heroes.
He died in Lansing, Michigan in 1993.Sea Horses
for the British Indie band see The Seahorses.Sea Horses is a 1926 American drama silent film directed by Allan Dwan and written by Becky Gardiner, James Shelley Hamilton and Francis Brett Young. The film stars Jack Holt, Florence Vidor, William Powell, George Bancroft, Mack Swain, Frank Campeau and Allan Simpson. The film was released on February 22, 1926, by Paramount Pictures.It is considered a lost film.Submarine Patrol
Submarine Patrol is a 1938 film directed by John Ford and starring Richard Greene and Nancy Kelly. The supporting cast includes Preston Foster and George Bancroft. The movie was partly written by William Faulkner.The Bugle Sounds
The Bugle Sounds is a 1942 World War II movie starring Wallace Beery as a cavalry sergeant resistant to replacing horses with tanks. The supporting cast includes Marjorie Main, Lewis Stone, George Bancroft, Donna Reed, and Chill Wills, and the film was directed by S. Sylvan Simon.The Pony Express (1925 film)
The Pony Express is a 1925 American silent Western film produced by Famous Players-Lasky and distributed by Paramount Pictures. The film was directed by James Cruze and starred his wife Betty Compson along with Ricardo Cortez, Wallace Beery, and George Bancroft. Prints of this film survive and has been released on DVD.The Rough Riders (film)
The Rough Riders (1927) is a silent film directed by Victor Fleming, released by Paramount Pictures, and starring Noah Beery, Sr., Charles Farrell, George Bancroft, and Mary Astor. The picture is fictional account of Theodore Roosevelt's military unit in Cuba. This film had an alternate release name: The Trumpet Call. The cinematography was by James Wong Howe and E. Burton Steene.
Incomplete or fragment prints of this movie are extant at the Museum of Modern Art and the Library of Congress.The Wolf of Wall Street (1929 film)
Not to be confused with The Wolf of Wall Street (2013 film) or The Wolf of Wall Street (book).The Wolf of Wall Street is a 1929 American pre-Code drama film directed by Rowland V. Lee and starring George Bancroft, Paul Lukas, Olga Baclanova, and Nancy Carroll. The story and screenplay were written by Doris Anderson.Originally made as a silent film, The Wolf of Wall Street was completely re-filmed with sound, becoming Bancroft's first talkie.The plot concerns a ruthless trader (Bancroft) who corners the market in copper and then sells short, making a fortune but ultimately ruining the finances of himself and his friends.USS Bancroft (DD-598)
USS Bancroft (DD-598) was a Benson-class destroyer in the United States Navy during World War II. She was the third ship named for George Bancroft.
Bancroft was launched 31 December 1941 by Bethlehem Steel Company, Quincy, Massachusetts; sponsored by Mrs. Hester Bancroft Berry, great-granddaughter of George Bancroft; commissioned 30 April 1942, Lieutenant Commander J. L. Melgaard in command, and reported to the Pacific Fleet.USS George Bancroft (SSBN-643)
USS George Bancroft (SSBN-643), a Benjamin Franklin class (or "640-class") fleet ballistic missile submarine, was the fourth shipa of the United States Navy to be named in honor of George Bancroft (1800-1891), United States Secretary of the Navy (1845–1846) and the founder of the United States Naval Academy.