Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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BANCROFT, Edward, author, born in Westfield, Massachusetts, 9 January 1744; died in England, 8 September 1820. He had but little schooling, and was apprenticed to a trade. Running away while in debt to his master, he went to sea, but on his return paid what he owed. After going to sea again, he settled in Guiana, and practiced medicine there in 1763. He then removed to England and published a "Natural History of Guiana" (London, 1769), containing some new information, particularly about the woo-tall, or vegetable poison, used by the Indians on their arrows. He afterward wrote a novel called "Charles Wentworth," vilifying the Christian religion. He became intimate with Priestley and Benjamin Franklin, and the latter obtained for him a place on the " Monthly Review," for which he wrote reviews of publications relating to America. In 1777, suspected of complicity in an attempt to burn the Portsmouth dock-yard, he fled to Passy, France, and then went to Paris, where an old teacher of his, Silas Deane, was commissioner of the continental congress. Deane confided to him an account of the intercourse between France and the congress in relation to the furnishing of supplies, and Bancroft communicated the whole to the British ministry, thus enabling the British ambassador to hinder the shipment, it is impossible to tell how long Bancroft was in British pay; he had previously received money as an American spy. After the close of the war he obtained patents in France and England giving him the exclusive right to import yellow oak-bark, used in dyeing, which made him rich. He published "Experimental Researches concerning Permanent Colors " (1794; 2d ed., with additional volume, 1813). This work was translated into German. He also wrote articles on the relations between France and America, which were translated into French. Bancroft was a fellow of the royal society and a member of the royal College of physicians in London.
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