John Bigelow - Encyclopedia

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JOHN BIGELOW (1817-), American journalist and diplomat, was born at Malden, New York, on the 25th of November 1817. He graduated at Union College in 1835, practised law in New York for several years after 1839; took up journalistic work; was joint owner (with William Cullen Bryant) and managing editor of the New York Evening Post (1849-1861); was United States consul at Paris in 1861-1864, and was minister to France in 1864-1867. While consul, Bigelow wrote Les Etats-Unis d'Amerique en 1863 in order to counteract the apparent desire of the French people for a dissolution of the American Union, by showing them the relative importance of the commerce of the northern and southern states. On discovering in 1863 that a French shipbuilder, with the connivance of Napoleon III., was constructing two formidable iron-clads and two corvettes for the use of the Confederacy, he devoted his energies to thwarting this scheme, and succeeded in preventing the delivery of all but one of these vessels to the Confederate agents. In his work entitled France and the Confederate Navy (New York, 1888) he gives an account of this episode. In 1865-1866, it devolved upon Bigelow, as minister to France, to represent his government in its delicate negotiations concerning the French occupation of Mexico, and he discharged this difficult task with credit. From 1875 to 1877 he served as secretary of state of New York. He wrote books of travel, of popular biography, or of historical or political discussion, &c., from time to time; but his principal literary achievements were editions, between 1868 and 1888, of Franklin's autobiography and autobiographical writings, copiously annotated; and of the complete works of Franklin, in ten octavo volumes (New York, 1887-1889). These editions were based in part upon the editor's personal investigations of manuscript sources in France and elsewhere, and supplanted the well-known, long serviceable, but less accurate edition of Jared Sparks (Boston, 1836-1840); they have in turn been supplanted by the edition of A. H. Smythe (io vols., 19051 9 07). Mr Bigelow was a close friend of Samuel J. Tilden, and became his literary executor, editing his speeches and other political writings (1885), publishing a biography in 1895, and editing a two-volume collection of Tilden's letters and literary memorials (1908). He also wrote a biography of William Cullen Bryant (1890). In 1897 he published a volume entitled The Mystery of Sleep (2nd ed., 1903). In 1909 he published Retrospections of an Active Life.

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