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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Elihu Burritt

BURRITT, Elihu, reformer, born in New Britain, Connecticut, 8 December, 1810; died there, 9 March, 1879. He was the son of a shoemaker, was educated in the common schools of his native place, and in 1828, after his father's death, was apprenticed to a blacksmith. The stories of the old revolutionary soldiers who came to his father's house had given him a desire to know more of books, and, when his apprenticeship was ended, he studied Latin, French, and mathematics with his brother, the principal of a small boarding-school. He attempted to perform the duties of a teacher as a means of support, but poor health prevented success. He returned to his forge, still continuing his studies, often watching the castings in his furnace with a Greek grammar in his hand. After beginning the study of Hebrew, he thought of going to sea and using his wages to buy oriental books at the first port, but gave up this plan, and, going to Worcester, Massachusetts, resumed work at the anvil and the study of languages, for which the antiquarian library there gave him special facilities. Here he translated all the Icelandic sagas relating to the discovery of America, and obtained the name of the "learned blacksmith."

In 1839 he published for a year a monthly periodical to teach French, called " The Literary Gemini." Mr. Burritt made his first public appearance m 1841 as a lecturer, maintaining the doctrine that all mental attainments are the result of persistent study and effort. In 1842 he established the "Christian Citizen" at Worcester, a weekly journal, devoted to anti-slavery, peace, temperance, and self-culture. Four years later he went to Europe, and during a visit of three years devoted himself to co-operation with the English peace advocates. During this time also he developed the basis of an international association known as the League of universal brotherhood, which aimed at the abolition of war and the promotion of fraternal relations and feelings between different countries. At this time he was proprietor and editor of the "Peace Advocate," and published a periodical tract, the " Bond of Brotherhood." He was prominent in organizing the first peace congress, and took part in two subsequent congresses, in 1849 and 1850. In 1852 he became editor of the "Citizen of the World," Philadelphia, in which he urged the compensated emancipation of southern slaves. His disappointment at the failure of his project was great. He had advocated it clearly and forcibly, and to its advancement had devoted all his time and resources, living at times almost in poverty. Mr. Burritt then retired to a small farm which he owned at New Britain. He made a brief visit to England in 1863, and during the following two years he published three new books and several volumes of general writings. He was appointed United States consul at Birmingham in 1865, returned to America in 1870, and spent the remainder of his days in his native village. He published " Sparks from the Anvil" (London, 1848); "Miscellaneous Writings" (1850); "Olive Leaves" (1853); "Thoughts of Things at Home and Abroad" (Boston, 1854); " Hand-Book of the Nations" (New York, 1856); "A Walk from John O'Groat's to Land's End" (London, 1864); " The Mission of Great Sufferings" (1867); "Walks in the Black Country" (1868); "Lectures and Speeches " (1869) : "Ten Minute Talks" (1873); and "Chips from Many Blocks" (1878). See "Life of Elihu Burritt," by Charles Northend (New York, 1879).

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