Abbott, John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot), 1805-1877

Titles by this author
The child at home, or, The principles of filial duty, familiarly illustrated
The mother at home : or, The principles of maternal duty familiarly illustrated

John S.C. Abbott, Congregational clergyman and historian, was born to Jacob Abbot 2nd and Betsey Abbot and was the younger brother of Jacob Abbott. Abbott attended Hallowell and Portland Academies in Maine and joined Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the class of 1825 at Bowdoin College. After graduating, he served for a year as principal of the academy in Amherst, Massachusetts and then attended Andover Seminary. He established Sunday schools along the southern shore of Cape Cod and entered his first pastorate in Worcester, Mass. where he was ordained on January 28, 1830. An energetic, even restless man, his pulpit oratory is described as "strongly evangelistic, little philosophical, but well supplied with historical illustrations and aiming chiefly at practical piety" (Chase and Ham 22).

In the preface of The Mother at Home, Abbott describes the religious sentiments in his book as those "usually denominated evangelical" (5). Abbott wrote principally about European history, but he also examined American history, biography, ethics, religion, popular science and juvenile literature. The Mother at Home, or the Principles of Maternal Duty Familiarly Illustrated, published in 1833 by the American Tract Society, was the first of Abbott's books. It is a compilation of a series of lectures before the mother's association of his parish with the purpose of showing that "The great object of education is to prepare the child for its heavenly home" (6). Among his ethical works, The Mother at Home was extremely popular in both the U.S. and Europe and was translated into a number of languages. Abbott's intention to provide moral education above intellectual development is evident even in his historical writing. As he stated, "I have written fifty-four volumes. In every one it has been my endeavor to make the inhabitants of this sad world more brotherly - better and wiser" (qtd. in Chase and Ham 22). Abbott's life of Napoleon appeared in Harper's Magazine (1851-1854) and was published in 1855 in book form as The History of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was enormously popular although it also was the most severely censured of his works. In an extravagant assessment, Abbott describes Napoleon as "more than a hero, more than an Emperor" and "a man to whose name alone is attached inexhaustible admiration and imperishable remembrance" (qtd. in Chase and Ham 22). According to Allen, Abbott's writing is melodramatic and lacking in scholarly authority. Abbott's books were interesting to the public, however, and served to popularize the reading of history (22). Abbott's other works include: The Empire of Austria (1859), The Empire of Russia (1860), Italy (1860), Civil War in America (2 vols; 1863, 1866), History of Napolean III (1868), Romance of Spanish History (1869), and History of Frederick the Great (1871).

Chase, Stanely P. and Robert Edmond Ham. Dictionary of American Biography. Volume 1. Johnson, Allen, ed. New York: Scribner's. 1936.

Other sources: Memorial of John S.C. Abbott by Rev. Horatio O. Ladd (1878).

Written by Stephen Rachman