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Bigelow, John (25 November 1817–19 December 1911), writer, and diplomat, was born in Bristol (now Malden-on-Hudson), New York, the son of Asa Bigelow and Lucy Isham, successful farmers and merchants. At thirteen he entered Washington (later Trinity) College in Hartford, Connecticut, but transferred to Union College in Schenectady, New York, from which he was graduated in 1835. In New York City Bigelow studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1838....

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Lee, Arthur (20 December 1740–12 December 1792), polemicist and diplomat, was born at “Stratford Hall” in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the son of Thomas Lee and Hannah Harrison Ludwell, leading Virginia planters. Arthur was one of eleven children. His two eldest brothers, Philip Ludwell Lee and Thomas Ludwell Lee inherited the substantial family wealth (30,000 acres) and prestige when both parents died in 1750. The “Stratford Lees” developed a distinctive family perspective on life; this, combined with the ideals instilled in them by their formal education, propelled them to the highest levels of the provincial elite....

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James Russell Lowell. Engraving, c. 1894, from a drawing by S. W. Rowse, 1855. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100831).

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Lowell, James Russell (22 February 1819–12 August 1891), author and diplomat, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Lowell, a liberal Congregational minister, and Harriet Brackett Spence. Among New Englanders who were apt to take ancestry seriously, the Lowell family was already firmly established in the region’s ecclesiastical and legal annals. During the nineteenth century the Lowell name became synonymous with manufacturing wealth and State Street trusts, but Charles Lowell’s descendants benefited little from this tradition. Their area of prominence was in literature; both James Russell Lowell’s sister Mary Lowell Putnam and brother ...

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Moran, Benjamin (01 August 1820–20 June 1886), diplomat and writer, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of William Moran, a textile mill manager. His mother’s name is unknown. Moran completed public school and then left home for Philadelphia, where he found employment in a printer’s shop. Apparently he received some additional education at the Franklin Institute, developed an interest in writing, and as a young man published some poems and sketches. Intent on making his mark as a writer, Moran left the printer’s trade and in 1851 sailed for England. His literary career was brief and undistinguished. An account of his travels, ...

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Piatt, John James (01 March 1835–16 February 1917), author and diplomat, was born at James’ Mills (later Milton), in Dearborn (now Ohio) County, Indiana, the son of John Bear Piatt and Emily Scott, farmers. Piatt attended school at nearby Rising Sun, on the Ohio River. In 1841 the family moved to a farm near Columbus, Ohio, where Piatt continued his education. At age fourteen he began an apprenticeship as a printer in the office of his uncle, Charles Scott, who published the ...

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Rives, William Cabell (04 May 1793–25 April 1868), politician, diplomat, and author, was born in Amherst County, Virginia, the son of Robert Rives, a revolutionary war veteran and merchant, and Margaret Jordan Cabell. Rives was educated at Hampden-Sydney College and graduated from William and Mary in 1809. He studied law with ...

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Smith, William Loughton (02 October 1758–19 December 1812), congressman, diplomat, and essayist, was born in Charles Town (later Charleston), South Carolina, the son of Benjamin Smith, a wealthy merchant and colonial legislator, and Anne Loughton. He was educated by private tutors in London and Geneva and studied law at the Inns of Court (Middle Temple) in England from 1779 to 1782. He remained aloof from events in America during the Revolution and did not return from Europe until 21 November 1783....

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Thayer, Alexander Wheelock (22 October 1817–15 July 1897), diplomat and biographer, was born in South Natick, Massachusetts, the son of Alexander Thayer, a physician, and Susanna Bigelow. As a Harvard undergraduate, Thayer wrote a prize-winning essay on modern philosophy. Following his graduation in 1843, he pursued a law degree at his alma mater while serving as an assistant librarian, a position in which he developed research skills that would ultimately permit him to succeed in his life’s work: writing a factually accurate biography of Beethoven. He received his law degree in 1848 and worked for a summer for the United States Geological Survey before leaving the next year for Europe, where he mastered the German language and conducted research on Beethoven in Bonn, Berlin, and Vienna. Lack of funds and ill health caused him to return to the United States in 1851; the following year he assumed an editorial position with the ...