The Unfailing Moral Standard

- from "Toleration" by John Bigelow (1817 - 1911)

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John Bigelow, b. Malden, N.Y., Nov. 25, 1817, d. Dec. 19, 1911, was an American diplomat and writer. After a brief career as a lawyer, he became (1848) part owner and editor, with William Cullen Bryant, of the New York Evening Post; for a dozen years thereafter, he wrote editorials vigorously supporting free trade and denouncing slavery. In 1861 he went to Paris as consul general under the Lincoln Administration and in 1865-66 served as the U.S. minister to France. While in France, Bigelow was instrumental in generating support for the Union cause and in discouraging Napoleon III from undertaking an imperial expedition to Mexico.

In the latter half of his life, Bigelow produced a valuable analysis of French relations with the Confederate navy (1888), biographies of Edouard Laboulaye (1889) and Samuel TILDEN (1895), and two books reflecting his devotion to the philosophy of the Swedish theologian Emanuel SWEDENBORG. He also edited the works of Benjamin Franklin in ten volumes (1887-88); his Life of Benjamin Franklin (1874) is a version of the famous Autobiography that Bigelow had edited from a manuscript discovered in 1868. His own autobiography Retrospections of an Active Life, was published in five volumes between 1909 and 1913.

Bibliography: Clapp, Margaret A., Forgotten First Citizen: John Bigelow (1947; repr. 1968).

See also The Bigelow Page

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