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Horace Mann

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HORACE MANN (1796-1859)

Horace Mann's parents were farmers in Franklin, Massachusetts. When Horace saw that farming was exhausting work for a very meager living, he decided to learn a different trade.

With very little formal schooling, he read books from the library. This self-education enabled him to enter Brown University in Providence, RI. When he graduated in 1819, he was the orator at the final Examination Dinner of the Senior Class, the highest honor.

Next he studied law and was married to Charlotte Messer, the daughter of the President of Brown University. They were married only two years when she died of tuberculosis. In his deep grief, he gave up his law practice and home in Dedham and moved to Boston. There he met Elizabeth and Mary Peabody, who helped him make a new life for himself. In due time he married Mary Peabody and with close friends, they went on a trip to Europe to study educational methods there.

Horace launched himself on a career of public service. He became a State Representative in Massachusetts, but found his mind turning in other directions. He wanted to establish public schools for all the children. He became the Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education and organized the first Normal School in the U.S.A. in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Antioch College

In November 1848 Horace Mann was elected to the House of Representatives in Congress. The next year he received an honorary LL.D. degree from Harvard University, whose President was Jared Sparks, a Unitarian minister. In November 1852 he ran for Governor of Massachusetts, but came in third.

Now came his big opportunity in the field of education. He was offered the Presidency of the new college in Yellow Springs, Ohio, to be named "Antioch" in honor of "the place where men were first called Christian." Horace, Mary and their three sons moved to Yellow Springs, where Horace began his Presidency of Antioch with high ideals and many struggles. When he died in 1859, his friends and school children contributed money for a bronze statue of him, which was placed in the heart of Boston, on Boston Common.

His Religion

As a child, Horace Mann went to the Calvinist church with his parents and neighbors. The sermons were a lurid, frightening description of God's wrath on this earth and the hereafter.

As an adult he rejected this religion, but it troubled him for a long time. After he graduated from Brown University and married Charlotte Messer, they lived in Dedham, Massachusetts where they attended the Unitarian Church. Charlotte died of tuberculosis after only two years of marriage; the grief stricken Horace gave up his home and went to Boston to start a new life for himself. At Mrs. Clarke's boarding house he met the Unitarian minister, Jared Sparks, and Elizabeth and Mary Peabody from Salem, Massachusetts.

When the Peabody sisters learned about Horace's sorrow and troubled spirit, Elizabeth determined to teach Horace that God was a loving father, Dr. William Ellery Channing, with his famous voice and personal charm had "opened the gates of heaven" for Elizabeth, and he was able to comfort and help Horace. In due time, Horace married Mary Peabody. They belonged to the Unitarian church in West Newton, Mass. where they helped to build the church and paid twenty dollars a quarter for the family pew.

Horace Mann

Many Unitarians from Massachusetts and New England helped him build and supported the new College at Yellow Springs, Ohio --- Antioch. In his last Baccalaureate speech at Antioch in 1859, he summed up his life's work and his religion, which shows his fervor and zeal: "Mann looked through life into eternity and found immortality of the soul as completely provable as any case in court. God's laws abide forever and we abide forever under them." He yearned to do more, to do better for the cause of humanity, ... for higher education of the world. His last Baccalaureate ended with Mann's greatest words: "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."

His friends and school children raised money for a bronze statue of Horace Mann, which was placed on the Boston Common, opposite the statue of Daniel Webster.

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