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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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Robert Rantoul

RANTOUL, Robert, reformer, born in Salem, Massachusetts, 23 November, 1778; died in Beverly, Massachusetts, 24 October, 18;58. His father, Robert, a native of Kinross-shire, Scotland, was descended from an ancient family prominent in the ecclesiastical and literary annals of Scotland, came to America at the age of sixteen, and settled in Salem. The son became druggist at Beverly in 1796. He sat in the legislature from 1809 till 1820, in the state senate from 1821 till 1823, and in the house of representatives again till 1833. He was a member of the State constitutional conventions of 1820 and 1853. After taking part in the militia and coast-guard service of 1812-'15, he became a member of the Massachusetts peace society. He enlisted, as early as 1803, in movements to suppress the common use of ardent spirits, and became a life member of the Massachusetts state temperance society at its inception in 1812. While in the legislature he raised a question as to the expediency of capital punishments, prompted by the hanging for arson on Salem neck, in 1821, of a lad of seventeen, and the continued agitation of this question by himself and his son has done much to ameliorate the criminal legislation of the country. He was a pioneer in the liberal religious movements of the first years of the nineteenth century, and when these took form, in 1819, in Dr. William E. Channing's Baltimore sermon he became a pronounced Unitarian, and soon after conducted a correspondence on the subject of popular beliefs with Rammohun Roy, of Calcutta. In 1810 he took part in establishing at Beverly a charity-school which was the first Sun-day-school in America. His sister, Polly, was the mother of Dr. Andrew P. Peabody. He was an active member of the Massachusetts historical society. --His son, Robert, statesman, born in Beverly, Massachusetts, 13 August, 1805; died in Washington, D. C., 7 August, 1852, was graduated at Harvard in 1826, studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1829, and began practice in Salem, but transferred his practice in 1830 to South Reading, Massachusetts In 1832 he removed to Gloucester. He was elected to the legislature in 1834, serving four years, and assuming at once a position as a leader of the Jacksonian Democracy, in which interest he established at Gloucester a weekly journal. In the legislature he formed a friendship with John G. Whittier, who wrote a poem in his memory. He sat upon the first commission to revise the laws of Massachusetts, and was an active member of the judiciary committee. He interested himself in the establishment of lyceums. In 1836-'8 he represented the state in the first board of directors of the Western railroad, and in 1837 became a member of the Massachusetts board of education. In 1839 he established himself in Boston, and in 1840 he appeared in defence of the Journeymen bootmakers' organization, indicted for a conspiracy to raise wages, and procured their discharge on the ground that a combination of individuals to effect, by means not unlawful, that which each might legally do, was not a criminal conspiracy. He defended in Rhode Island two persons indicted for complicity in the Dorr rebellion of 1842, Daniel Webster being the opposing counsel, lie was appointed United States district attorney for Massachusetts in 1845, and held that office till 1849, when he resigned. He delivered in April, 1850, at Concord the address in commemoration of the outbreak of the Revolution. In 1850 he was the organizer and a corporator of the Illinois Central railroad. In 1851, when Daniel Webster gave up his seat in the United States senate, on being appointed secretary of state, Mr. Rantoul was appointed to fill the vacancy till the end of the session, serving only nine days. He was elected as an opponent of the extension of slavery by a coalition of Democrats and Free-soilers to the National house of representatives, and served from 1 December, 1851, till his death. In 1852 he was refused a seat in the National Democratic convention on the ground that he and his constituents were disfranchised by their attitude toward slavery. He was an advocate of various reforms, and delivered lectures and speeches on the subject of educational advancement, several of which were published, and while a member of the Massachusetts legislature prepared a report in favor of the abolition of tile death-penalty that was long quoted by the opponents of capital punishment, He took a prominent part in the agitation against the fugitive-slave law. As counsel in 1851 for Thomas Simms, the first escaped slave delivered up by Massachusetts, he took the ground that slavery was a state institution, and that the general government had no power to return fugitives from justice, or runaway apprentices or slaves, but that such extradition was a matter for arrangement between the states. He lent his voice and pen to the movement against the use of stimulants, but protested against prohibitory legislation as an invasion of private rights. After leaving the legislature, where the variety of his learning, the power of his eloquence, and his ardent convictions against the protection of native industry and other enlargements of the sphere of government, and in favor of educational and moral reforms had attracted attention, he became a favorite lecturer and political speaker throughout New England, New York, Pennsylvania, , and Ohio. He edited a "Workingmen's Library," that was issued by the lyceums and two series of a "Common School Library" that was published under the sanction of the Massachusetts board of education. See his " Memoirs, Speeches, and Writings," edited by Luther Hamilton (Boston, 1854).--The second Robert's son, Robert Samuel, antiquarian, born in Beverly, Massachusetts, 2 June, 1832, was graduated at Harvard in 1853 and at the Harvard law-school in 1856. On being admitted to the bar, he settled in Beverly, which he represented in the legislature in 1858, and afterward removed to Salem, Massachusetts He was collector of Salem in 1865-'9, and representative from that town in 1884-'5. Besides an oration on the " Centennial of American Independence," delivered in Stuttgart, Germany, 4 July, 1876, and one delivered in Salem on the "Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Landing of John Winthrop," in 1880, he has published many historical and genealogical papers in the "Collections" of the Essex institute, of which he is a vice-president.

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