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Mann, Horace (1796–1859)

MANN, HORACE (17961859)

Principal advocate of the nineteenth-century common school movement, Horace Mann became the catalyst for tuition-free public education and established the concept of state-sponsored free schools. The zeal with which Mann executed his plan for free schools was in keeping with the intellectual climate of Boston in the early days of the republic. The Mann contribution, state government sponsored education unfettered by sectarian control, made possible a democratic society rather than a government by elites. The atmosphere of early-nineteenth-century Boston stimulated keen minds to correct social disharmonies caused by ignorance, intemperance, and human bondage. Reform that emanated from the Lockean notion that human nature may be improved by the actions of government motivated these New Englanders, who shaped social and political thought for generations.

Horace Mann was born in Franklin, Massachusetts, to Thomas Mann and Rebecca Stanley Mann. His parents lacked the means to educate their children beyond rudimentary ciphering and elementary reading. Therefore Mann's education consisted of no more than eight or ten weeks a year of sitting in tight rows on slab benches, learning from a schoolmaster barely out of his teens. Of his early schooling, Mann recalled, "Of all our faculties, the memory for words was the only one specially appealed to." A small lending library in Franklin circulated such books as John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress. School days were minimal as the majority of the year was spent in haying, planting, and plowing. When Horace's father died of tuberculosis in 1809, the farm was left to an older son, Stanley Mann. The modest sum of $200 was left to each child. Horace saved tuition by teaching his sister, Lydia, to read and write, instead of her attending school.

Education and Training

Part of the bequest of Thomas Mann to Horace was spent on his tuition at Barrett's school. Horace was twenty in 1816, and his education to that point amounted to several dozen weeks scattered over nine years. At Barrett School under an exacting but sometimes intemperate schoolmaster, Mann first conjugated Latin verbs.

A half year at Barrett School fitted Mann for admission to the sophomore class at Brown University, where penury remained a constant problem for Mann. Mann graduated first in his class (1819) two years after arriving at the university. His oration, entitled "The Gradual Advancement of the Human Species in Dignity and Happiness," linked the success of the American political experiment directly to the development of its educational system. No valedictory speech has ever been more prophetic. Brown University president Asa Messer honored Mann by making him an instructor soon after his graduation. From 1820 until 1822 he taught Latin classics. Nine years later, Mann married Messer's daughter, Charlotte.

Mann's ambition was to train in the law at Judge Tapping Reeve's prestigious law school in Litchfield, Connecticut. At the time there was no better preparation for legal and political careers than Reeve's plain, free-standing law library located in the yard of his stately home in Litchfield. Meanwhile, Mann clerked in the office of Judge Fiske for thirteen months to earn tuition money. Mann arrived in Litchfield in 1822 for the course of study that took a year and a half and cost $160. Then Mann became a clerk for Judge James Richardson in Dedham, Massachusetts, for several months until he was admitted to practice before the bar of the State of Massachusetts in 1823.

Career and Contribution

Intemperance and the humane treatment of criminals were topics debated in polite society around Dedham, and Mann championed reforms ranging from temperance to religious toleration. He realized that through proper educating of the public, lasting change could be effected.

The positions of trust Mann achieved in Dedham in the 1820s made him confident to offer for the legislature in Massachusetts. The same year he was elected to the Dedham School Commission, he was also elected to the state's general assembly. Mann added the title legal counsel to the state supreme court, as well as commissioner to the new mental hospital, to his growing list of responsibilities.

After the death of his wife Charlotte in 1832, Mann liquidated his estate and resigned all offices, including his seat in the legislature. To those around him, it was apparent he planned to immerse himself in his work. Taking lodging at a boarding house in Boston, Mann joined the law firm of his old friend, Edward Loring. Boarders there were Boston notables such as Elizabeth Peabody, social crusader, and Reverend William Ellery Channing, the voice of Unitarianism in Boston. Elizabeth Peabody's sister, Mary, was there as well.

Friends persuaded him that he should stand for the Massachusetts senate in 1834 as a Whig. Mann had never competed politically at this level, and campaigns for senate races brought vitriolic debates not seen in his career before. As he celebrated his forty-first birthday, he contemplated his newest responsibility, president of the Massachusetts senate. This honor as a junior senator typifies the trust and respect colleagues placed in his judgment. One issue that the senate wrestled with for several years prior to Mann's election was how public education could better prepare people for citizenship in this expanding young republic. As senate president, Horace signed into law the bill creating the Massachusetts State Board of Education, unique for its time and designed to disseminate education information statewide and to improve curriculum, method, and facilities.

Educating the masses was also the concern of James G. Carter of Boston, and he published in 1825 the Outline for an Institute for the Education of Teachers. He wrote on the necessity of training teachers in the art of teaching. Normal schools were an outgrowth of this important early work in educational thought. Carter, a legislator, and Mann, president of the senate, maneuvered a revolutionary bill through both houses and to the desk of Governor Edward Everett.

The members of the board of the newly created State Department of Education selected Mann as its first secretary. Mann resigned his seat in the state senate. Mann, like many Bostonians, believed that the emphasis on public education held more promise than either government or religion for yielding lasting social reform. He accepted a 50 percent cut in pay, from $3,000 a year to $1,500. His personal journal records, "I have faith in the improvability of the race, in their accelerating improvability. "

The struggle for common schools in Massachusetts defined the parameters of the free school movement for decades to come. Though Mann engaged in reforms such as temperance and the treatment of the insane, the perfection of the common school concept occupied his waking hours for the rest of his life. Mann argued that all citizens, regardless of race or economic status, should have equal access to a tuition-free, tax-supported public school system. Such a system must be responsive to all races and nonsectarian if society is to achieve the unshackled status of a true democracy.

Mann knew he had to convince the entire state that the common school system was desirable and worth the increased tax revenue. He conducted town meetings across the state, giving a speech "The Means and Objects of Common School Education." The obstacle was a populace that did not care whether more schooling was offered.

Mann's tour of the state's schools concluded with Salem, the town where Mary Peabody was teaching. Once more, he pleaded for a statewide system of tuition-free education that would, he claimed, break down the troubling hierarchy of class in American society. Mann had spent months on tour, and much of what he had encountered discouraged him. Revenue would have to be raised to build adequate schools and staff them with learned teachers. There was the problem of poor versus wealthy districts; and that of the poor counties' being able to offer an education comparable to that of wealthy counties. Inadequate instruction troubled Mann as much as broken-down school buildings. He contemplated teacher training academies, called normal schools, as a solution.

Required by state law to make an annual report to the legislature on the condition of the state's school districts and programs, Mann turned the legal mandate into a yearly treatise on educational philosophy and methods. His annual reports became his platform for launching new programs and educating the public on new ideas in pedagogy. He explored new ideas in school design and the teaching of reading by words rather than by alphabet letters. Simple instruction in daily hygiene was emphasized along with more interesting ways of teaching science. Mann saw education as the uniting force to bring understanding and toleration between factions of the populace, as well as between the various states themselves. One novel idea Mann put forth was that teachers should gather together periodically to share ideas.

Mann developed the special teacher training colleges that he called normal schools. Instruction expertise rose yearly because the normal schools graduated capable teachers and eliminated the unfit. With teaching skills garnered from the normal school programs, teachers looked forward to a higher pay scale. Horace Mann was certain that better schools coupled with compulsory education would cure the ills of society. Traditional education did not vanish quickly in Massachusetts, however. Many found that curriculum and instruction varied little from content and materials of their grandparents' time.

Mann recalled the small library he had known while growing up. He believed that every child should have that advantage, so he set up a library expansion program. Mann also liked the German kindergarten idea that his confidant, Mary Peabody, espoused. Horace married Mary Peabody in 1843 in the bookstore that her sister, Elizabeth, ran on West Street, a store that was a gathering place for William Ellery Channing, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. Mary's sister, Sophia, had wed Nathaniel Hawthorne there a few months earlier. Horace wished to take a trip to Europe to visit common schools, so they settled upon that idea as their honeymoon.

One person Mann wanted to meet in England was Charles Dickens, the social reformer and novelist. Dickens gave Mann and his wife a tour of London's wretched east side. The squalor was worse by far than anything Mann had seen in America. The English schools did not impress Mann, either. Recitation and Anglican dogma dulled the student's appetite for intellectual stimulation. He was amazed that teachers talked in monotone voices and stood transfixed during lecture. The Manns traveled widely in England and on the continent. While touring the University of Berlin, Horace learned that Alexander von Humboldt had implemented a state certification process and written examinations for teachers. Horace realized that this is what he must do in Massachusetts to eliminate the problem of incompetent teachers.

Mann's seventh annual report to the board was written partly on the voyage home. The comparisons he made with European schools, especially German schools, offended school administrators. Critics questioned Mann's credentials to lead school reform. Mann stood his ground for five more years and continued to bring uniformity to programs and quality of instruction.

Mann saw revenue for education rise precipitously over the twelve years of his tenure (18361848). He popularized the idea of a centralized bureaucracy to manage primary and secondary education. He advised the legislature on fiscal responsibility in implementing equal programs throughout the state. He standardized the requirements for the diploma.

When the eighth congressional seat became vacant due to the death of John Quincy Adams, Mann ran for the office and was successful in his first federal election. The two terms he spent in Washington were neither satisfactory nor productive. He had disagreements with his loyal political friends Daniel Webster and Charles Sumner. Against a backdrop of the rising tension over slavery, Horace sought a way out after his second term.

In 1852 Mann heard of a new college being built in Yellow Springs, Ohio, with support from a liberal Christian denomination. He decided that if the college presidency were offered, he would accept and resign from Congress. The post was offered, and Mann became the first president of Antioch College. The Ohio churchmen were so liberal in their doctrinal beliefs that they accepted Mann, a Unitarian. Antioch was a sectarian foundation and chapel attendance was not compulsory. Antioch College opened its doors to eight young men in 1850.

The Ohio frontier proved a different world from the East. Money was a problem from the start, grand illusions in the minds of the trustees never bore fruit, and paydays were missed regularly. Mann never compromised his expectations in scholarship. The financial problems at Antioch began before the buildings went up, and they steadily got worse.

The curriculum and methodology had all been Mann's development, and it was a creditable program. A preparatory school was added to accept the less qualified and was open to all no matter what race or gender. The mood of the populace, however, turned against Mann due to his Unitarian belief.

Mann turned his attention to the idea of publicly funded universities. He believed that church-sponsored colleges and universities undid the work of the free-school movement. The fight for the publicly funded university would be someone else's battle as Mann had developed a form of debilitating cancer. Mann's last educational act was to salvage the bankrupt Antioch College with a syndicate of New England investors. Mann died August 2, 1859. He could not have realized that he would become part of the legend of democracy built upon the foundation of a tuition-free public school system. Mann's last professional statement concluded the commencement address at Antioch College: "I beseech you to treasure up in your hearts these my parting words: Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."

See also: Common School Movement.


Cremin, Lawrence A. 1980. American Education: The National Experience: 1783-1876. New York: Harper and Row.

Kendell, Kathleen Edgerton. 1968. "Education as 'the Balance Wheel of Social Machinery': Horace Mann's Arguments and Proofs." Quarterly Journal of Speech and Education 54:1321.

Mann, Horace. 1891. Life and Works of Horace Mann, 5 vols. Boston: Lee and Shepard.

Mann, Mary Peabody. 1891. Life of Horace Mann. Boston: Lee and Shepard.

Messerli, Jonathan. 1972. Horace Mann: A Biography. New York: Knopf.

Tharp, Louise Hall. 1950. The Peabody Sisters of Salem. Boston: Little, Brown.

Treichler, Jessie. 1962. Horace Mann. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica Press.

Vinovskis, Maris A. 1970. "Horace Mann on the Economic Productivity of Education." New England Quarterly 43:550571.

Thomas B. Horton

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Mann, Horace (1796–1859)

Mann, Horace (17961859)

A prominent statesman, Horace Mann is best remembered as a preCivil War educational reformer who was instrumental in the creation of the Massachusetts system of public education. A statue of Mann stands before that state's capitol today as evidence of his importance. Mann was also a successful lawyer, a member of both the Massachusetts General Court and the U.S. Congress, the president of a fledgling college, and a humanitarian reformer.

Mann was born in Franklin, Massachusetts, and he grew up in a poor and puritanical environment. He received the typical schooling of the time, consisting of brief periods in the district school under ill-equipped teachers, but he seems to have devoured the town library's collection. He was admitted to nearby Brown College in 1816 at the age of twenty (which was older than customary) as a sophomore. He graduated as valedictorian of his class and returned to the college a year later to serve several terms as a tutor. He read law intermittently with a local barrister, attended the Litchfield (Connecticut) Law School, and was admitted to the bar in 1823. Four years later, in 1827, he was elected to the lower house of the state legislature from Dedham, where he had set up his practice, commencing a thirty-year career devoted, as he put it, to the "benefit of mankind." In 1830 he married Charlotte Messer, the daughter of Asa Messer, president of Brown and Mann's early mentor. After his wife's death two years later Mann resigned his seat and moved from Dedham to Boston to continue to practice law. He was elected to the state senate in 1834 as a representative of Boston.

Although he had been born in modest circumstances, Mann became a member of the Massachusetts establishment. His second wife, whom he married in 1843, was Mary Peabody, sister of Elizabeth Peabody, an inveterate reformer. Mann had initially stood for office as a National Republican, and he later became a Whig. In the legislature his stances were those of a moralistic reformer. His maiden address was a defense of religious freedom, while his next argued that the support of railroads would lead to prosperity, which in turn would lead to the intellectual and moral betterment of the populace. He was an ardent supporter of the temperance movement, was instrumental in the establishment of the first state institution for the mentally ill, and was a moderate abolitionist. It was for his efforts on the behalf of common schools, however, that he is most remembered today.

Massachusetts had, as early as 1647, mandated the support of schooling by local communities, but by the nineteenth century the state's schools, dependent on local sources, were in a sorry state. Inspired by reports of educational reform in Europe and a growing national movement, and prodded by eminent citizens such as Edmund Dwight, James G. Carter, Josiah Quincy, Charles Brooks, and the governor, Edward Everett, the legislature passed a bill on April 20, 1837, authorizing the creation of a state board of education. Mann accepted the secretaryship a month later, vowing that from that moment to "let the next generation be my client." For the next twelve years he served that client with dedication.

The board, in actual fact, had virtually no power; its role was the collection and dissemination of information about the state of the schools. Mann lectured widely on educational topics to citizens and teachers, and he utilized his twelve annual reports to publicize and advance his cause. His first report, in 1837, served to introduce the reformist agenda, including the need for good schoolhouses, competent teachers, committed school boards, and widespread public support. His twelfth and final report, in 1848, was by far the most thoughtful, and it provided his valedictoryan anthem in support of public education. Other reports addressed issues such as language instruction, teacher training, music and health education, compulsory attendance, the necessity of school libraries (as well as free public ones), and the economic benefits of better schools. In his seventh report (1843), Mann summarized his observations of schools in Europe, lauding especially the Pestalozzian techniques he had seen demonstrated in the schools of Prussia, but the angered response of an association of Boston schoolmasters led to a lengthy and acrimonious exchange.

To Mann, good, publicly financed common schools would never succeed without an informed and concerned citizen body and without good teachers. Local authorities had to rekindle their commitment under the supervision and urging of the central government. Good teachers had to be trained in the newest pedagogical techniques that emphasized motivation and encouragement, rather than discipline, and recognized the individuality of each child. The curriculum had to be designed for every child in the commonwealth, and it should encompass all that was necessary for the creation of upright, responsible citizens. Mann believed that schools were vested with intellectual, political, and, most importantly, moral authoritythe morality of the liberal, nonsectarian, Protestant elite of the day.

In 1839 the first public normal school (for training teachers) was opened in Lexington, Massachusetts, and two others soon followed. However, partisan politics threatened the board's existence when the democratic governor, preaching economy, advocated returning control of the schools to the localities. But the board survived, and Mann continued as its secretary until he resigned in 1848, when he was appointed to John Quincy Adams's seat in Congress. He was elected in his own right later the same year, and was re-elected as a Free Soil advocate. He served in Congress until 1852, the year in which he was defeated in the race for the governorship of Massachusetts.

Although he had given scant attention to higher education previously, Mann was intrigued, during a lecture tour through the West, at the descriptions of a projected nonsectarian, coeducational college in Ohio, and in 1853 he accepted the presidency of the not-yet-completed Antioch College in Yellow Springs. Despite near financial disaster, faculty opposition, and an innovative honor code, the college survived, and the first class of sixteen students (including three women) graduated in 1857. Mann declined offers to become the head of other institutions of higher learning and remained at Antioch until his death in August, 1859. His final address to that year's graduating class was both a challenge to them and a summary of his life: "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."

See also: Compulsory School Attendance; Pestalozzi, Johann Heinrich; Urban School Systems, The Rise of.


Cremin, Lawrence A., ed. 1957. The Republic and the School: Horace Mann on the Education of Free Men. New York: Teachers College Press.

Mann, Mary Peabody. 1867. Life of Horace Mann, By His Wife Boston: Walker, Fuller.

Messerli, Jonathan. 1972. Horace Mann: A Biography. New York: Knopf.

Edith Nye MacMullen

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Mann, Horace


Attorney, politician, and reformer of U.S. public education Horace Mann transformed the nation's schools. Mann was a gust of wind blowing through the doldrums of nineteenth-century teaching. In 1837, he left a promising career in law and politics to become Massachusetts's first secretary of education. In this capacity, he rebuilt shoddy schools, instituted teacher

training, and ensured widespread access to education for children and adults. These reforms not only revived the state system but also inspired great national progress. The spirit of opportunity and the duty of citizenship guided Mann: "In a republic," he said, "ignorance is a crime." Later, he served in the U.S. Congress before becoming a professor at and the president of Antioch College. Besides these contributions, his legacy to U.S. education is still felt in the contemporary debate over school prayer. He helped wean education from its religious origins in order to create a truly public system.

Mann was born in poverty on May 4, 1796, in Franklin, Massachusetts. His father, Thomas Mann, was a farmer in Franklin. Neither his father nor his mother, Rebecca Mann, received much formal education, which was not widely available in the years following the American Revolution. Little opportunity existed for Mann, a sensitive boy driven to tears by hellfire-and-brimstone sermons on Sundays. Although an avid reader, Mann never attended school for more than ten weeks of the year. His extraordinary mind might have gone no further than the family's ancestral farm were it not for a traveling Latin teacher who tutored him when Mann was twenty. Provided with decent instruction, Mann's gifts were revealed: he qualified for entrance as a sophomore to Brown University. He graduated with high honors in 1819; remained briefly as a tutor in Latin and Greek; enrolled in litchfield law school, in Connecticut, two years later; and was admitted to the bar of Norfolk County in 1823.

Mann practiced law for fourteen years while making his name in politics. He first won election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1827; election to the state senate, where he served as president, followed in 1833. He left his mark on the legislature in two ways: by seeking state help for mentally ill persons and by passing the landmark education bill of 1837. The law created a board of education at a time when Massachusetts's public schools were barely limping along. Buildings were crumbling, teachers underpaid, and teaching methods erratic. Much the same could be said of the nation's public schools. In Massachusetts, moreover, one-third of the children did not attend school at all, and one-sixth of all students attended private schools. To clean up this mess, the 1837 law called for the appointment of a state secretary of education. Mann, despite the promise of further success as a lawyer and politician, took the job.

Over the next twelve years, Mann's success was stunning. His efforts rebuilt Massachusetts's education system from the ground up: he centralized control of its schools, invested in better facilities, established institutes for teacher training, revamped the curriculum, discouraged physical punishment, and held annual education conventions for teachers and the public. Educators nationwide sought out his ideas, published in a bimonthly magazine that he founded, called the Common School Journal, as well as in annual reports. In 1843, pursuing new ideas for improving the quality of Massachusetts's system, he toured schools in eight European countries. His praise for the rigors of the German model brought him into open conflict with schoolteachers back home, who thought him critical of their work. Mann stood his ground; he had not spent five months abroad only to be bullied by the status quo.

"Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men,—the balance wheel of the social machinery."
—Horace Mann

Even more controversial was Mann's position on Bible reading in public schools. In the mid-nineteenth century, the practice remained a leftover from the colonial period, when schools were each run by a church of an individual sect, or group. Mann thought Bible reading useful for teaching moral instruction, and he promoted it, but only so long as it was done without comment. As a Unitarian, he did not want teachers imposing views on students of different faiths; this had often led to bitter disagreements. (In the early 1840s, disputes over classroom Bible reading would cause Catholic-Protestant riots in New York and Philadelphia.) Under Mann's influence, Massachusetts adhered to the law it had passed in 1827 banning sectarian instruction (instruction specific to or characteristic of a particular religious group) from public schools. Orthodox church leaders sharply attacked Mann, one calling his policy "a grand instrument in the hands of free thinkers, atheists and infidels." History was on Mann's side, however. The sectarian influence would continue to die out over the next half century, a historical trend culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark rulings banning school prayer in 1962 (engel v. vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 82 S. Ct. 1261, 8 L. Ed. 2d 601 [1962]) and Bible reading in 1963 (abington school district v. schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 83 S. Ct. 1560, 10 L. Ed. 2d 844 [1963]).

Ironically, the prayer ban arose from an attempt by administrators of education in New York to compose a bland, inoffensive prayer in the spirit of Mann's anti-sectarianism.

Mann spent the last decade of his life in public service and education. Resigning the education secretary's post in 1848, he won election to the U.S. Congress and served there four years. A run for governor of Massachusetts failed in 1852, and he accepted the offer of the presidency of newly founded Antioch College, a multiracial school for men and women, where he also taught courses in philosophy and theology. The college suffered financially. Mann's health failed, and he died August 2, 1859, at the age of sixty-three. Shortly before his death, at a commencement ceremony, he left the graduating class to ponder this sterling ideal: "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."

further readings

Blanshard, Paul. 1963. Religion and the Schools: The Great Controversy. Boston: Beacon Press.


Education Law; Schools and School Districts.

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Horace Mann

Horace Mann

The American educational reformer and humanitarian Horace Mann (1796-1859) was enormously influential in promoting and refining public education in Massachusetts and throughout the nation in the 19th century.

Horace Mann was born in Franklin, Mass., on May 4, 1796. He labored on the family farm and learned his letters at home and in the district school, supplemented by long hours in the town library. Guided by his parents, he developed an appetite for knowledge. Mann's father died in 1809. The next year, when his older brother drowned while swimming on a Sunday, the local Congregational minister elaborated on the dangers of breaking the Sabbath, instead of consoling the family. This confirmed Mann's growing alienation from the Church.

After briefly attending an academy in Wrentham and intensive tutoring by an itinerant schoolmaster, Mann entered the sophomore class of Brown University in 1816. He developed a lively interest in debating, frequently speaking in support of humanitarian causes. He graduated as valedictorian in 1819. A growing interest in public affairs led him to study law after graduation. He interrupted his legal education to serve as tutor of Latin and Greek at Brown but returned to legal study in 1821 at the famous school of Tapping Reeve in Litchfield, Conn. He was admitted to the bar in 1823.

Mann practiced in Dedham and Boston, acquired an admiration for Whig politics, and was elected to the Massachusetts Legislature in 1827. Essentially an activist, Mann came to believe that public education, which he called "the great equalizer of the conditions of men," was more likely to yield the general social improvements he desired than piecemeal efforts in behalf of prison reform, humane treatment of the insane, and temperance. A fellow legislator had studied educational conditions in Massachusetts and reported that barely a third of the school-age children were attending school; that teachers were ill-prepared, poorly paid, and unable to maintain discipline; and that public schools were avoided by those who could afford private education. As a result, in 1837 the assembly created the Massachusetts State Board of Education. The board was required to collect and disseminate information about public schools and, through its secretary, report annually to the legislature.

First Secretary of the State Board

Mann abandoned his promising political career to become secretary of the board. For 12 years he campaigned to bring educational issues before the people. He toured the state speaking on the relationship between public education and public morality, developing the theme of education as "the balance wheel of the social machinery." He believed that social and economic distinctions, unless reduced by a common educational experience, would create communities of interest that would eventually harden into warring factions.

In publicizing his cause, Mann found arguments attractive to all segments of the community, but he sometimes irritated powerful interests. Because he admired the Prussian system of education, his loyalty to democratic institutions was questioned. Because he believed the schools should be nonsectarian, he was attacked as antireligious. His advocacy of state supervision antagonized local politicians. His criticism of corporal punishment angered the influential Boston schoolmasters.

All the reform impulses of the American 1830s and 1840s converged in Mann's devotion to the cause of the common schools. He created teachers' institutes to improve teaching methods and arranged public meetings to discuss educational theory. He established and edited the Common School Journal. With private benefaction and state support he established three state normal schools for teacher education, the first in the country. His annual reports were lucid examinations of educational issues. Widely distributed and discussed, they exerted a powerful influence on public opinion in Massachusetts and the nation.

In Massachusetts, Mann's leadership produced dramatic change. The school curriculum was broadened and related more closely to the social outcomes he admired. Teaching methods, especially the teaching of reading, and the professional status and salary of teachers were improved. Facilities and equipment were increased, and more than 50 new high schools were established. Mann's influence became national and international.

Later Years

In 1848 Mann resigned his secretaryship to accept election to the U.S. Congress. He now enthusiastically entered the slavery debate, opposing the extension of slavery into the territories. His stand generated such hostility that he declined to run in the 1852 election and, instead, unsuccessfully campaigned for the governorship as a Free Soil candidate.

In 1852 Mann was elected president of Antioch College in Ohio. He discharged his new duties with customary zeal, creating a curriculum, doing much of the teaching, and contending with difficult economic problems. But the work proved too much for Mann, in ill health since boyhood. He died on Aug. 2, 1859, 2 weeks after telling the graduating class to "be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."

Further Reading

The Republic and the School: The Education of Free Men (1957), edited by Lawrence A. Cremin, contains a thorough analysis of Mann's educational positions and extracts from his annual reports. E. I. F. Williams, Horace Mann: Educational Statesman (1937), is somewhat eulogistic but complete and well documented. Louise Hall Tharp, Until Victory: Horace Mann and Mary Peabody (1953), is a popular treatment, well written and rich in background but sometimes casual in documentation. Jonathan Messerli, Horace Mann (1972), is a perceptive and revealing biography, particularly informative on Mann's 12 years as secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education.

Additional Sources

Downs, Robert Bingham, Horace Mann: champion of public schools, New York, Twayne Publishers 1974.

Sawyer, Kem Knapp, Horace Mann, New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1993.

Tharp, Louise Hall, Until victory: Horace Mann and Mary Peabody, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1977. □

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Mann, Horace (1796-1859)

Horace Mann (1796-1859)


Public school crusader

Lawyer and Legislator. Born and raised in Franklin, Massachusetts, Horace Mann graduated from Brown University in 1819. He served as a tutor at Brown for the next three years while simultaneously studying law. In 1823 he was admitted to the bar of Norfolk County, Massachusetts. Mann practiced law at various places throughout the state from 1823 to 1837 and served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1827 to 1833 and the Massachusetts Senate from 1833 to 1837. As a legislator he was instrumental in the creation of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, of which he served as secretary for nearly twelve years. Mann began his task as secretary with exuberance, exclaiming on 2 July 1837: My lawbooks are for sale. My office is to let! The bar is no longer my forum. My jurisdiction has changed. I have abandoned jurisprudence, and betaken myself to the larger sphere of mind and morals. Such enthusiasm and urgency rarely slackened for the remainder of his life. In 1848 he resigned as secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education to succeed John Quincy Adams in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he stayed for five productive years, championing the cause of education nationally. Later in life Antioch College in Ohio appointed Mann its first president, a position he held until his death. At each stop he remained committed to education reform.

Public School Reform. Mann stood at the center of the movement for a tax-supported common school system. In the debate between those who hoped public schools would guarantee civic virtue, national loyalty, and industrious workers and those who feared state-sponsored autocracy, Mann remained committed to his cause. Constantly opposed by contemporaries who viewed universal public education as a waste of money and local groups who detested the homogenizing effects of state-run education, Mann utilized the popular American lyceum movement to generate mass support for public education. In addition to lecturing throughout the East, in 1838 he founded the Common School Journal as an organ for reformers ideas. As secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education he campaigned effectively for more and better schoolhouses, longer school terms, higher pay for teachers, and an expanded curriculum. He traveled from town to town, gathering information, propagandizing for improved schools, and encouraging school committees and citizens to commit themselves to greater efforts for the education of their children. From his modest power base Mann proceeded not only to transform the educational system of his home state but also to become the foremost leader of the common school movement in the nation.

Loyalty and Social Order. Manns lectures and writings preached universal public education as the only means to transform Americas disorderly masses into a disciplined, law-abiding, republican citizenry, which he believed would eliminate the risk of anarchy and class conflict. Concerned about the additional thousands of voters every year crossing the line of manhood to decree the destiny of the nation, Mann explained in 1842 that without additional knowledge and morality, things must accelerate from worse to worse. Two dangers awaited the nation if it failed to extend the most basic of educational opportunities to immigrants and the poor: the danger of ignorance which does not know its duty, and the danger of vice, which knowing, condemns it. At the same time Mann wanted to prevent a sort of industrial feudalism from emerging, with a small group of wealthy capitalists dominating the growing factory system. If one class possesses all the wealth and education, while the residue of society is ignorant and poor, it matters not by what name the relation between them may be called: the latter, in fact and in truth, will be the servile dependents and subjects of the former. Mann envisioned a society of order and opportunity, a system that rewarded righteous behavior and honest work with material well-being and the responsibilities of leadership.

Influence. Horace Mann symbolized the Yankee reformer of the era, completely convinced of the righteousness of his cause and willing to spare no effort to attain his goals. Imbued with a Puritan sense on the necessity for society to be governed by a strict moral code, Mann was also a humanitarian who regarded education as the starting point for universal reform. For Mann the mission of the public school was to be nothing less than to offer opportunities for the fullest development of each individual, to secure progress through social harmony, and to guarantee that intelligent and moral citizens would guide the new republic. He was not original in his advocacy of such goals, but no predecessor or contemporary had presented them so convincingly, expressed so eloquently their importance, or described in such detail how the nation could best attain them. He was certain that schools would accomplish wonders if they could first gather the nations children under educations roof. Manns deep conviction in the nearly limitless potential of education to resolve Americas problems set in motion a national faith whose power still guides reformers today.


Robert E. Downs, Horace Mann: Champion of Public Schools (New York: Twayne, 1974);

Jonathan Messerli, Horace Mann: A Biography (New York: Knopf, 1972).

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Mann, Horace

Horace Mann (măn), 1796–1859, American educator, b. Franklin, Mass. He received a sparse preliminary schooling, but succeeded in entering Brown in the sophomore class and graduated with honors in 1819. He studied law, was admitted (1823) to the Massachusetts bar, and practiced in Dedham, Mass., and in Boston. He entered the state legislature in 1827, became speaker of the senate (1835), and was made secretary of the newly created (1837) state board of education at a time when the public school system was in very bad condition. Within his 12-year period of service, public interest was aroused, a movement for better teaching and better-paid teachers was instigated, school problems and statistics were brought to light and discussed, training schools for teachers were established, and schoolhouses and equipment were immeasurably improved. In 1843, Mann studied educational conditions abroad, and in 1848 he was elected to Congress as an antislavery Whig. He ran unsuccessfully for governor of Massachusetts in 1852. In 1853 he became the first president of Antioch College, where he also taught philosophy and theology. He died there, having achieved considerable success in demonstrating the practicality of coeducation and in raising the academic standards of the college. His second wife was Mary T. Peabody, sister of Elizabeth Peabody.


See M. T. P. Mann et al., ed., The Life and Works of Horace Mann (5 vol., 1891); biographies by J. Messerli (1972) and R. B. Downs (1974); B. A. Hinsdale, Horace Mann and the Common School Revival in the United States (1937); Selective and Critical Bibliography of Horace Mann (comp. by the Federal Writers' Project of Massachusetts, 1937).

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Mann, Horace

Mann, Horace (1796–1859) US educational reformer. As secretary of the Massachusetts board of education (1837–48), he established teacher-training schools, increased teachers' salaries, and improved teaching practices. He served in Congress (1848–52) as an anti-slavery Whig.

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