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George Bancroft


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Massachusetts statesman and scholar, while holding various government posts obtained material for his monumental History of the United States (1834–76). As secretary of navy under Polk, he was instrumental in establishing Annapolis as the U.S. Naval Academy, and as secretary of war pro tem (May 1845) he sent General Taylor across the Texas border, precipitating war with Mexico. His standing order to Sloat to occupy California ports in case of war led to the early occupation of that territory. Bancroft was minister to Great Britain (1846–49) and minister to Germany (1867–74). His ten-volume History was revised in 1876 to six volumes. A final revision (6 vols., 1883–85) includes the History of the Formation of the Constitution (1882). Although the work is now outmoded, it is still important as an example of the aggressive yet spiritual nationalism of America's mid-19th century. Some of Bancroft's many orations and essays are collected in Literary and Historical Miscellanies (1855).

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