Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Manliest Man

The Manliest Man: Samuel G. Howe and the Contours of NineteenthCentury American Reform

James W. Trent
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 336
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Manliest Man
    Book Description:

    A native of Boston and a physician by training, Samuel G. Howe (1801–1876) led a remarkable life. He was a veteran of the Greek War of Independence, a fervent abolitionist, and the founder of both the Perkins School for the Blind and the Massachusetts School for Idiotic and FeebleMinded Children. Married to Julia Ward Howe, author of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” he counted among his friends Senator Charles Sumner, public school advocate Horace Mann, and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Always quick to refer to himself as a liberal, Howe embodied the American Renaissance’s faith in the perfectibility of human beings, and he spoke out in favor of progressive services for disabled Americans. A Romantic figure even in his own day, he embraced a notion of manliness that included heroism under fire but also compassion for the underdog and the oppressed. Though hardly a man without flaws and failures, he nevertheless represented the optimism that characterized much of antebellum American reform. The first fulllength biography of Samuel G. Howe in more than fifty years, The Manliest Man explores his life through private letters and personal and public documents. It offers an original view of the reformer’s personal life, his association with social causes of his time, and his efforts to shape those causes in ways that allowed for the greater inclusion of devalued people in the mainstream of American life.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-202-8
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-8)

    By the time she arrived at the Boston Music Hall on 8 February 1876, Laura Bridgman, blind and deaf since before her second birthday, had already attended two memorial services for her beloved teacher, Samuel G. Howe. At age forty-six, Bridgman, Howe’s most famous pupil, had been a student and then a resident of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind since 1837. The first service for Howe was held Thursday morning, 13 January, in the chapel of the Perkins Institution in South Boston. For that occasion, the chapel was “appropriately dressed in mourning emblems and flowers,” and...

  6. CHAPTER ONE “A Respectable, If Ordinary Boyhood”
    (pp. 9-28)

    On 22 November 1801, a Sabbath day at the Brattle Street Church in Boston, the Reverend Peter Thacher baptized the third son and fourth child of Joseph Neals How and Martha Gridley How. Named for his maternal grandfather, Samuel Gridley, the twelve-day-old boy born in his family’s Pleasant Street home had the dark black hair and blue eyes of his mother’s side of the family. In 1806, eight months before the boy’s fifth birthday, Joseph How petitioned a Massachusetts court to add aneto the end of the family name, changing its spelling to Howe. Among the ten children...

  7. CHAPTER TWO “Greece! Greece! … I thought no land … could ever look more sweetly”
    (pp. 29-50)

    In 1821, clusters of Greeks began to revolt against what had been nearly 370 years of Turkish rule. At the time, Greece lacked political unity. With its complex terrain of mountains, plains, bays, and islands and its mixture of ethnic groups, Greece was ill prepared to rebel against an empire that remained strong despite having lost much of its former glory. Complicating matters, Christian Greece had a sizable Muslim Turkish population that had been a part of the nation for generations. Although the Greeks had a merchant class and some highly educated residents, the greater part of the Greek population...

  8. CHAPTER THREE “The Cadmus of the Blind”
    (pp. 51-85)

    For Samuel Howe neither the lectures at Parisian hospitals nor demonstrations in the city’s clinics matched the radical fervor of France and Belgium during the summer and fall of 1830, both of which had ended in a rapid change of government. In Paris he had been with Lafayette and James Fenimore Cooper at revolutionary meetings and in the streets with liberals seeking to overthrow despots. He had not liked everything he had witnessed, he had complained of arrogant rhetoric, but he had been there and been part of genuine change. Despite having studied with the world’s most respected physicians, Howe...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR A Phrenologist and a Superintendent
    (pp. 86-118)

    Howe’s confidence in phrenology marked a prominent fissure in his idealism, returning it to the Enlightenment truth, reason, and natural theology that his Romantic idealism had neither entirely abandoned nor entirely absorbed. It was not as if phrenology did not claim its own idealism. To be sure, the followers of the leading phrenologists—Franz Joseph Gall, Johann Spurzheim, and George Combe—were moved by contemporary German and English Romanticism. But the American followers of phrenology grounded their idealism in the materialism provided by the brain. The brain, phrenologists claimed, was divided into discrete regions, each of which was assigned to...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Private Lives, Public Causes
    (pp. 119-169)

    In 1842 Samuel Howe’s closest friend was Horace Mann. The two men had known each other since they were both students at Brown University, where Mann had been the studious older tutor, and Howe (at least for the first few years) the ill-behaved undergraduate. After medical school and his years in Greece, Howe had renewed his acquaintance with Mann through their common interest in the blind school. Mann had been a legislative sponsor of the school’s charter in 1829 and one of its first trustees. By the early 1840s they had extended their friendship through their mutual support for the...

  11. CHAPTER SIX For Free Soil and Free Men
    (pp. 170-213)

    A few days before Christmas 1846, Amos Adams Lawrence, accompanied by a British cousin, Arthur Lawrence, visited Laura Bridgman at the Perkins Institution. American and European guests like the Lawrences made frequent requests to view the remarkable blind and deaf girl, to see her read and do needle work, and to observe her communicating through finger spelling. The wealthy merchant and manufacturer had supported the school over the years and had recently contributed to the publication of Howe’s minority report of the Prison Discipline Society. All of his funds were given privately with the caveat that he would receive no...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN War, Freedmen, and Crete
    (pp. 214-254)

    On 25 October 1859, nine days after the raid on Harper’s Ferry, the state of Virginia indicted John Brown on the charges of treason and murder. On the same day, theNew York Heraldbegan a series of articles reporting information obtained from letters seized at the Kennedy Farm. These letters left little doubt that John Brown had planned a slave insurrection and that he had support—at least tacit support—for his plan from influential Northerners. The headline of one edition of theHeraldread, “The Exposure of the Nigger Worshipping Insurrectionists.” The names Franklin B. Sanborn, George L....

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Santo Domingo—the Perpetual Summer
    (pp. 255-272)

    Howe had been back in Boston for three months when Charles Sumner on 17 February 1868 wrote him that President Johnson would be nominating Charles Keating Tuckerman as minister to Greece. Sumner was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but despite of his position, his support of Howe for the Greek ministerial position had hurt what little chances Howe had for the appointment he so longed for. A man twenty-six years younger than Howe, Tuckerman was a native of Boston, but he had led the New York School for the Blind since 1856. Howe been passed over for a...

    (pp. 273-274)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 275-318)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 319-325)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 326-327)