Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Mann, Horace

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MANN, Horace, educator, b. in Franklin, Mass., 4 May, 1796; d. in Yellow Springs, Ohio, 2 Aug., 1859. His father was a farmer in limited circumstances, and the son was forced to procure by his own exertions the means of obtaining an education. He earned his school-books when a child by braiding straw, and his severe and frugal life taught him habits of self-reliance and independence. From ten years of age to twenty he had never more than six weeks' schooling during any year, and he describes his instructors as “very good people, but very poor teachers.” He was graduated at Brown in 1819, and the theme of his oration, “The Progressive Character of the Human Race,” foreshadowed his subsequent career. After his graduation he was tutor in Latin and Greek in Brown, entered the Litchfield, Conn., law-school in 1821, and in 1823 was admitted to the bar, opening an office in Dedham, Mass. He was elected to the legislature in 1827, and in that body was active in the interests of education, public charities, and laws for the suppression of intemperance and lotteries. He established through his personal exertions the State lunatic asylum at Worcester, and in 1833 was chairman of its board of trustees. He continued to be returned to the legislature as representative from Dedham till his removal to Boston in 1833, when he entered into partnership with Edward G. Loring. In the practice of his profession he adopted the principle never to take the unjust side of any cause, and he is said to have gained four fifths of the cases in which he was engaged, the influence that he exerted over the juries being due in a great measure to the confidence that all felt in his honesty of purpose. He was elected to the state senate from Boston in 1833, was its president in 1836-'7, and from the latter year till 1848 was secretary of the Massachusetts board of education. While in the legislature he was a member and part of the time chairman of the committee for the revision of the state statutes, and a large number of salutary provisions were incorporated into the code at his suggestion. After their enactment he was appointed one of the editors of the work, and prepared its marginal notes and its references to judicial decisions. On entering on his duties as secretary to the Massachusetts board of education he withdrew from all other professional or business engagements and from politics. He introduced a thorough reform into the school system of the state, procuring the adoption of extensive changes in the school law, establishing normal schools, and instituting county educational conventions. He ascertained the actual condition of each school by “school registers,” and from the detailed reports of the school committees made valuable abstracts that he embodied in his annual reports. Under the auspices of the board, but at his own expense, he went to Europe in 1843 to visit schools, especially in Germany, and his seventh annual report, published after his return, embodied the results of his tour. Many editions of this report were printed, not only in Massachusetts, but in other states, in some cases by private individuals and in others by legislatures, and several editions were issued in England. By his advocacy of the disuse of corporal punishment in school discipline he was involved in a controversy with some of the Boston teachers that resulted in the adoption of his views. By his lectures and writings he awakened an interest in the cause of education that had never before been felt. He gave his legal opinions gratuitously, superintended the erection of a few buildings, and drew plans for many others. In his “Supplementary Report” (1848) he said : “From the time I accepted the secretaryship in June, 1837, until May, 1848, when I tendered my resignation of it, I labored in this cause an average of not less than fifteen hours a day; from the beginning to the end of this period I never took a single day for relaxation, and months and months together passed without my withdrawing a single evening to call upon a friend.” In the spring of 1848 he was elected to congress as a Whig, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of John Quincy Adams. His first speech in that body was in advocacy of its right and duty to exclude slavery from the territories, and in a letter in December of that year he said: “I think the country is to experience serious times. Interference with slavery will excite civil commotion in the south. But it is best to interfere. Now is the time to see whether the Union is a rope of sand or a band of steel.” Again he said: “I consider no evil as great as slavery, and I would pass the Wilmot proviso whether the south rebel or not.” During the first session he volunteered as counsel for Drayton and Sayres, who were indicted for stealing seventy-six slaves in the District of Columbia, and at the trial was engaged for twenty-one successive days in their defence. In 1850 he was engaged in a controversy with Daniel Webster in regard to the extension of slavery and the fugitive-slave law. Mann was defeated by a single vote at the ensuing nominating convention by Mr. Webster's supporters; but, on appealing to the people as an independent anti-slavery candidate, he was re-elected, serving from April, 1848, till March, 1853. In September, 1852, he was nominated for governor of Massachusetts by the Free-soil party, and the same day was chosen president of Antioch college, Yellow Springs, Ohio. Failing in the election for governor, he accepted the presidency of the college, in which he continued until his death. He carried that institution through pecuniary and other difficulties, and satisfied himself of the practicality of co-education. His death was hastened by his untiring labors in his office. He published, besides his annual reports, his lectures on education, and his voluminous controversial writings, “A Few Thoughts for a Young Man” (Boston, 1850); “Slavery: Letters and Speeches” (1851); “Powers and Duties of Woman” (1853); and “Sermons” (1861). See “Life of Horace Mann,” by his wife (1865); “Life and Complete Works of Horace Mann” (2 vols., Cambridge, 1869); and “Thoughts selected from the Writings of Horace Mann” (1869). His lectures on education were translated into French by Eugene de Guer, under the title of “De l'importance de l'éducation dans une république,” with a preface and biographical sketch by Edouard R. L. Laboulaye (Paris, 1873). — His second wife, Mary Tyler (Peabody), author, b. in Cambridgeport, Mass., 16 Nov., 1806; d. in Jamaica Plain, Mass., 11 Feb., 1887, was a daughter of Dr. Nathaniel Peabody. She resided in Salem during her youth, and afterward lived for the most part in or near Boston. During her husband's life she shared in all his benevolent and educational work, and her familiarity with modern languages enabled her to assist him greatly in his studies of foreign reforms. Her writings, especially those on the kindergarten system, with her sister, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, are distinguished for vigor of thought and felicity of expression. She published “Flower People” (1838); “Christianity in the Kitchen, a Physiological Cook-Book” (Boston, 1857); “Culture in Infancy,” with Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1863); “Life of Horace Mann” (1865); and “Juanita, a Romance of Real Life in Cuba,” published after her death (1887).