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John C. Frémont. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107503).


Frémont, John Charles (21 January 1813–13 July 1890), explorer and presidential candidate, was born in Savannah, Georgia, the son of Jean Charles Fremon, a French émigré teacher, and Anne Beverley Whiting Pryor, a Virginia woman of patrician birth who left her elderly husband in 1811 to run away with Fremon. The couple, who apparently never married, moved frequently, living for a period in Savannah, where Jean Charles gave French and dancing lessons, and Anne took in boarders. In 1818 Jean Charles Fremon died, and the family, which by then included several younger children, eventually settled in Charleston, South Carolina, to a life of genteel poverty. The social and economic insecurity of his situation profoundly influenced Frémont. He grew up an outsider—proud, reserved, cautious in sharing his feelings, skeptical of rules and authority, and eager, at times to the point of recklessness, to prove himself....