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[177]

George Bancroft, who was born in 1800, and died, a horseback-riding sage, at ninety-one, inherited from his clergyman father a taste for history. He studied in Germany after leaving Harvard, turned schoolmaster, Democratic politician and office-holder, served as Secretary of the Navy, Minister to England and then to the German Empire, and won distinction in each of his avocations, though the real passion of his life was his History of the United States, which he succeeded in bringing down to the adoption of the Constitution. The first volume, which appeared in 1834, reads today like a stump speech by a sturdy Democratic orator of the Jacksonian period. But there was solid stuff in it, nevertheless, and as Bancroft proceeded, decade after decade, he discarded some of his rhetoric and philosophy of democracy and utilized increasingly the vast stores of documents which his energy and his high political positions had made it possible for him to obtain. Late in life he condensed his ten great volumes to six. Posterity will doubtless condense these in turn, as posterity has a way of doing, but Bancroft the historian realized his own youthful ambition with a completeness rare in the history of human effort and performed a monumental service to his country.

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