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Gough, John Bartholomew (22 August 1817–18 February 1886), temperance orator, was born in Sandgate, Kent, England, the son of John Gough, a pensioned British war veteran, and Jane (maiden name unknown), a schoolteacher. Although the family was poor, Gough attended an academy until 1829, when his parents, seeking better opportunities for their son, paid ten guineas to David Mannering, a neighbor planning to emigrate, to take Gough to the United States. The youth worked on Mannering’s farm in Oneida County, New York, and joined the Methodist church during the revival then sweeping that region. Mannering, however, provided neither schooling nor a trade as had been promised, and in 1831 Gough left....

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Niebuhr, Reinhold (21 June 1892–01 June 1971), theologian and political journalist, was born Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr in Wright City, Missouri, the son of Gustav Niebuhr, a German immigrant preacher, and Lydia Hosto, his parish assistant and organist. Reinhold grew up in Missouri and Illinois, where his father, a minister of the German Evangelical Synod of North America, had a series of parishes. From age ten he lived in Lincoln, Illinois, a heavily first- and second-generation German-American town, where his family lived, he later recalled, in “genteel poverty.” One of four children (and three sons), he was the apple of his father’s eye and decided as a boy to follow his father into the ministry. At age fifteen, having finished the ninth grade at Lincoln High School, he left for three years of boarding school at the Synod’s proseminary, Elmhurst College, outside of Chicago. In later years he much regretted having missed a solid high school education. Neither did he ever attend an undergraduate college. His lack of a B.A. degree, and his poor schooling in English, modern history, and the sciences, led him to condemn his church for giving only lip service to education. At age eighteen he enrolled at the Synod’s Eden Theological Seminary, outside of St. Louis, where he starred in debate and worked hard on his English writing skills. In 1913 he received the bachelor of divinity degree and was ordained a minister....

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Wendell Phillips. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-10319).

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Phillips, Wendell (29 November 1811–02 February 1884), orator, abolitionist, and women's rights and labor advocate, orator, abolitionist, and women’s rights and labor advocate, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of John Phillips, a well-to-do politician and philanthropist, and Sarah Walley. The youngest of eleven children, Wendell received strict and loving attention from both of his parents. From the first he was trained to see himself as a great leader, committed to addressing the great moral and political questions of his age. This drive for leadership was compounded by his early discovery that he possessed extraordinary gifts as an orator. Athletic, handsome, and intelligent, he impressed teachers and classmates alike with his unusual capacity to express himself and to influence others with eloquent speaking. After attending the Boston Latin School, he graduated from Harvard in 1831 and obtained a Harvard law degree in 1833. For the next three years Phillips resided in and around Boston as he attempted, halfheartedly, to establish a legal practice, a career for which he felt no great enthusiasm. Instead he yearned to pursue a vocation worthy of his august legacy. That vocation, finally, was the cause of abolitionism, which he discovered through the process of courtship and marriage....

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Remond, Charles Lenox (01 February 1810–22 December 1873), abolitionist and civil rights orator, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of John Remond and Nancy Lenox, prominent members of the African-American community of that town. His father, a native of Curaçao, was a successful hairdresser, caterer, and merchant. Charles attended Salem’s free African school for a time and was instructed by a private tutor in the Remond household. His parents exposed him to antislavery ideas, and abolitionists were frequent guests in their home. He crossed the paths of a number of fugitive slaves while growing up and by the age of seventeen considered himself an abolitionist. He had also developed considerable oratorical talent....