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he entered Harvard College in 1811. Though his straitened circumstances made long absences for school-keeping necessary, and his health at one time was greatly impaired, he yet maintained a high college rank, and, in mathematics especially, was regarded as at the head of his class. After graduating in 1815, by invitation of the late Stephen Higginson, Esq., he taught a private school at Lancaster, Massachusetts, in the parish of Rev. Dr. Thayer, with whom he commenced the study of theology while engaged in the instruction of his sons. About this time he thought seriously of devoting himself to the scientific exploration of unknown regions. Mungo Park's Travels had interested him peculiarly in Africa, and arrangements were nearly completed for his entering the service of an English society for African research. The negotiation failed through no backwardness on his part, and from causes which he never fully understood.
In 1817 he was recalled to Cambridge, as Tutor in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, and during the two years for which he held this appointment he completed his preparation for the ministry. In 1819 he was ordained pastor of a new Unitarian Church in Baltimore. Here he found himself unwillingly drawn into two separate controversies, – one with Rev. Mr. Wyatt, of Baltimore, on “ The Ministry, Ritual, and Doctrine of the Protestant Episcopal Church"; the other with Rev. Dr. Miller, of Princeton, on the “ Comparative Moral Tendency of Trinitarian and Unitarian Doctrines.” The letters written in these controversies respectively were published in separate volumes, which, while they are monuments of their author's extensive learning and marked polemic ability, are admirable for their genial temper, their uniform courtesy, and their entire freedom from bitterness and invective. It is worthy of emphatic notice, that both of the divines who were then his earnest antagonists became his warm personal friends. He at the same time edited a monthly theological magazine, for which he furnished the greater part of the materials. He also commenced the editorship of a Collection of Theological Essays and Traets by various authors, with biographical and critical notices by his own hand, — a work undoubtedly suggested by that well-known series of tracts bearing the name of Bishop Watson. This work was continued through six volumes. During a portion of his residence in Baltimore he served as Chaplain to the House of Representatives in Congress, at a period when that office was not, as now, scrambled for by greedy seekers, but conferred unsought on the best man.
In 1823 he resigned his charge at Baltimore on account of enfeebled health. He then removed to Boston, and became proprietor and editor of the North American Review. During the seven years for which this work was entirely under his control, it reached a degree of prosperity and an extended circulation which it has never equalled at any subsequent time. In 1828 he published a “ Life of John Ledyard, the American Traveller.” · Shortly after his removal from Baltimore he determined to attempt the publication of Washington's Life and Writings. In 1828 he spent a year in Europe, employed principally in copying documents illustrative of the history of the American Revolution in the public archives of England and France. His great work appeared in twelve volumes, in 1834-37. During its preparation, and chiefly from materials accumulated in its furtherance, he published the “ Life and Correspondence of Gouverneur Morris,” in three volumes, and the “Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution,” in twelve volumes. The American Almanac, from the outset a work of national interest and importance, was also started by him, and he edited its first volume, – that for 1830. Simultaneously with the appearance of the first volume of his Washington, he commenced the publication of his “ Library of American Biography," which was continued through twenty-five volumes, several of the memoirs having been written by himself, and all the rest written by authors of his own procuring, and published under his immediate supervision. In 1840 he completed, in ten volumes, his Life and Writings of Franklin. In 1854 he published four volumes of the more important Correspondence of the American Revolution. In these labors he easily takes the lead of the historians of the United States. No other man has approached him either in the amount or the value of bis contributions. He has done more, perhaps, than all others to make it possible that a history of the American Revolution should be written. His works bear abundant tokens of his conscientious faithfulness, his judiciousness as an historical critic, his freedom from prejudice and partiality, his perspicuity, grace, and dignity as a writer, his sound judgment as an editor, and his skill in availing himself of the cooperation of others. It is believed that no one has ever covered so much ground with so few assailable points ; and the two or three instances in which he has been called in question have only served to bring into clearer view the patient industry, profound discretion, and VOL. VII.
single-hearted rectitude with which he had managed the many difficult subjects that came under his treatment.
From 1839 to 1849 he was Professor of History in Harvard College, and he was its President from 1849 to 1852. Since retiring from the Presidency he has written little. It was his intention to write an extended history of the United States, and he regarded his previous labors as but a preparation for this. But a lameness of the right arm precluded the free use of the pen, and the conscious difficulty of so changing all his habits of study, note-taking, and composition as to conform himself to the use of an amanuensis postponed the commencement of this plan till it was too late to carry it into execution. He continued to live at Cambridge, surrounded by many of his early friends, and by many more by whom he was equally revered and loved. On the evening of March 6th, 1866, he was at a social party. On his return home he was seized with chill, and on the next day pneumonia set in, at his age with little or no hope of recovery. His sufferings were probably not severe; if they were, he bore them in perfect serenity, and remained cheerful and self-collected till a comatose condition ensued but a few hours before his death. He died on the 14th of March.
Mr. Sparks did nothing that was not done well, few things that were not done superlatively well. His reputation rests not merely on his capacity as an editor and compiler: had he written nothing else, his biographies alone would have seemed work and glory enough for one man ; and these, in the appreciation of their subjects, in the grouping of persons and incidents, in the delineation of character, and in the tracing of relations and sequences among events, give ample evidence of a keen insight, an analytic faculty, and a constructive power, which the literary world would have better appreciated, had not his more important biographies, those of Washington and Franklin, been in form subsidiary to the publication of their works.
In his private character no ordinary terms can convey the measure in which he was honored and loved, most by those who knew him best. He can have had no enemies ; and no man can have made more or warmer friends. In meekness, modesty, kindness, generosity, a winning politeness that went to the heart because it came from the heart, the most tender concern for the well-being and happiness of others, constant watchfulness for the opportunities of doing good, charity that dropped its benefactions in look, word, and deed all along his life-path,
- in these and other like traits he realized to many, with more fulness than they can readily recall it elsewhere, the ideal of a Christian gentleman. And it was his happiness and ours that he died, though full of years, before the infirmities of old age had impaired either his capacity of enjoyment, or — what would have been to him the same thing
- the power of active beneficence. “ Felix, non vitæ tantum claritate, sed etiam opportunitate mortis.”
CHARLES Beck, late Vice-President of the Academy, died in Cambridge, March 19, 1866, after an illness of only three hours. He was the son of a merchant, and was born at Heidelberg on the 19th of August, 1798. His mother afterwards marrying for her second husband Professor De Wette, the family moved to Berlin in the year 1810, when De Wette, then about thirty years old, and already widely known as a theologian, was called to a chair in the new University.
The boy bood and early youth of Dr. Beck were passed partly in Carlsruhe and partly in Berlin, in which latter place he enjoyed unusual advantages. He was a pupil in the Werder Gymnasium, where, among other instructors, he had the elder Zumpt: his step-father's literary and social position gave him an opportunity of seeing and hearing the gifted men in whom Berlin then abounded; and the events of the War of Liberation, going on before his eyes, awakened in him a spirit of patriotic fervor which never died out, and which made his example and influence of great worth in after days to his adopted country. Indeed, the chances of war made his home at times unsafe for women and children: on one occasion it was thought best for his mother to leave town, and as she travelled with her son they listened all day to the roar of Napoleon's guns. The day after the battle of Grossbeeren, not far from Berlin, August 23, 1813, he visited the battle-field, and was vividly impressed with the dreadful reality of the contest in which his country was engaged. He was one of the patriotic pupils in the Gymnastic School of Jahn, established near Berlin in 1811 : he belonged also to the Band of Virtue, an association which embraced the flower of the German youth, and to the Burschenschaft.
The lessons of this period were not lost upon young Beck. His well-knit frame was made strong and supple by the manly exercises for which he retained a love all his life. His mind, naturally of a hardy mould, acquired great force and a set determination. With the shrewdest practical judgment, with the soundest common sense, he was always ready to sacrifice everything to his ideas of right.
During his career as a student at the University an incident occurred which gave a direction to his whole life. His stepfather, Professor De Wette, who had enjoyed the hospitalities of the parents of the student Sand, the assassin of Kotzebue, wrote a letter of condolence to the mother of the unhappy young man. Although the letter, far from justifying the deed, merely pointed out general sources of Christian consolation, the Prussian government was not inclined to pass it by unnoticed : on the 28th of August, 1819, Professor De Wette was asked if he acknowledged the authorship of the letter ; two days after he was summarily dismissed from the University. After an interval of three years he was called to the University of Basle as Professor of Theology. His step-son meantime having finished his theological and pbilological studies at the University of Berlin, and after passing his examination as candidate of theology, having been ordained as a clergyman in Heidelberg (July 7, 1822), left Germany and joined his step-father at Basle in the same year, and spent the next two years as a successful Teacher of the Latin Language and Literature in the Pedagogium at Basle. During this time he took the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Tübingen (September 18, 1823).
The state of affairs in Germany and Switzerland convinced Dr. Beck that there was no field in either of these countries for one of his sentiments. He left Switzerland accordingly in the year 1824, and came to this country with his valued friend, Dr. Follen. They landed in New York, December 24th. The testimonials and letters brought with him insured him a favorable reception at once. As an evidence that America was henceforth to be his permanent home, Dr. Beck took the preliminary steps to being naturalized in Philadelphia, a month after he landed : he was naturalized in Northampton, March, 1830. The first five years of his American life were passed in Northampton, in the well-known Round Hill School of Messrs. Cogswell and Bancroft. At this school Gymnastics were taught for the first time in America. In 1830, he on the Hudson opened a school of his own for boys. Two years after, in the beginning of 1832, he was called to Harvard College as University Professor of Latin, and remained in that office till 1850. After his resignation he was occupied with his own private studies, and with many trusts of a public character, till his death. He was twice a member of the Legislature, Vice-President of the Oriental Society, President of a Savings Bank, and Director of another Bank, . and a valued member of many boards and commissions in his own town.