Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Follen, Charles Theodore Christian

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Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography
Follen, Charles Theodore Christian
Edition of 1900. See also Charles Follen on Wikipedia, and our Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography disclaimer.

FOLLEN, Charles Theodore Christian, educator, b. in Romrod, Germany, 4 Sept., 1796; d. in Long Island sound, 13 Jan., 1840. He was the second son of Christopher Follen, an eminent jurist. 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, and began the study of jurisprudence, but presently, on hearing the news of Napoleon's defeat at Leipsic, he enlisted in a corps of riflemen. 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, where he took the degree of doctor of civil law in 1817. In the following year he lectured on the pandects in the University of Jena. Here he was arrested on suspicion of complicity with the fanatical assassin, Sand, in the murder of Kotzebue. The suspicion was entirely groundless. After his acquittal he returned to Giessen, but soon incurred the dislike of the government through his liberal ideas in politics. His brother had already been thrown into jail for heading a petition begging for the introduction of a representative government. Dr. Follen, perceiving that he was himself in danger, left Germany and went to Paris, where he made the acquaintance of Lafayette. In 1820 the French government ordered all foreigners to quit France, and Dr. Follen repaired to Zurich, where he became professor of Latin in the cantonal school of the Grisons. He was soon afterward transferred to the University of Basel, as professor of civil law, and here, in association with the celebrated De Wette, he edited the literary journal of the university, and published an essay on the “Destiny of Man,” and another on “Spinoza's Doctrine of Law and Morals.” In 1824 the governments of Russia, Austria, and Prussia demanded of the Swiss government that Dr. Follen should be surrendered to “justice” for the crime of disseminating revolutionary doctrines, and, finding the Swiss government unable to protect him, he made his escape to America, and, after devoting a year to the study of the English language, was appointed instructor in German at Harvard. He studied divinity with Dr. W. E. Channing, began preaching in 1828, and also served as instructor in ecclesiastical history in the Harvard divinity-school. In 1830 he was appointed professor of German literature at Harvard. There was no regular foundation for such a professorship; it was merely continued from time to time by a special vote of the corporation. About this time Dr. Follen became prominently connected with the anti-slavery movement, which was then extremely unpopular at Harvard, and in 1834 the corporation refused to continue his professorship. Thrown thus upon his own resources, after nearly ten years of faithful and valuable service at the university, Dr. Follen supported himself for a time by teaching and writing, living at Watertown, Milton, and Stockbridge. In 1836 he was formally ordained as a Unitarian minister, and preached occasionally in New York, Washington, and Boston. He continued conspicuous among the zealous advocates of the abolition of slavery. In 1840 he was settled over a parish in East Lexington, Mass., but while on his way from New York to Boston he lost his life in the burning of the steamer “Lexington.” He published a “German Reader” (Boston, 1831; new ed., with additions by G. A. Schmitt, 1858); and “Practical Grammar of the German Language” (Boston, 1831). His complete works, containing lectures on moral philosophy, miscellaneous essays and sermons, and a fragment of a treatise on psychology, and a memoir by his widow, were published after his death (5 vols., Boston, 1842). — His wife, Eliza Lee Cabot, author, b. in Boston, 15 Aug., 1787; d. in Brookline, Mass., 26 Jan., 1860, was the daughter of Samuel Cabot, of Boston, and married Dr. Follen in 1828. After her husband's death she educated their only son, whom, with other pupils, she fitted for Harvard. She edited the “Child's Friend” in 1843-'50. Mrs. Follen was an intimate friend of William Ellery Channing, and was a zealous opponent of slavery. Besides the memoir of her husband, mentioned above, she published “The Well-Spent Hour” (Boston, 1827); “The Skeptic” (1835); “Poems” (1839); “To Mothers in the Free States” (1855); “Anti-Slavery Hymns and Songs” (1855); “Twilight Stories” (1858); and “Home Dramas” (1859).