Beveridge, Albert J(eremiah) 1862-1927
BEVERIDGE, Albert J(eremiah) 1862-1927
PERSONAL: Born October 6, 1862, in Highland County, OH; died April 27, 1927, in Indianapolis, IN; son of Thomas (a farmer) and Frances (Parkinson) Beveridge; married Katherine Langsdale, 1887 (died, 1900); married Catherine Eddy, 1907. Education: Asbury College (now De Pauw University), B.A., 1885, M.A., 1888, LL.D., 1902. Politics: Republican.
CAREER: Attorney. Admitted to the Bar of the State of Indiana, 1887. Lawyer in Indianapolis, IN, 1887-99; U.S. senator, 1899-1910.
MEMBER: Indianapolis Literary Club.
AWARDS, HONORS: Pulitzer Prize, 1920, for The Life of John Marshall.
The Philippine Situation, Government Printing Office (Washington, DC), 1902.
The Russian Advance, Harper & Brothers (New York, NY), 1903.
What Is Back of the War, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1915.
The Life of John Marshall, four volumes, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1916-19, published in two volumes, 1929.
Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1858, two volumes, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1928, published in four volumes, 1928.
SIDELIGHTS: Albert Beveridge came from humble beginnings, yet he pushed himself towards success his entire life. He was not only a gifted speaker, lawyer, and U.S. senator, but also achieved great success as a writer and biographer. Beveridge's parents were farmers and because of financial difficulties the young Albert had to go to work as a plowboy at the age of twelve. He also worked on the railroad and at fifteen he was in charge of a logging crew. However, at the age of sixteen he went back to high school. When he graduated, he was able to enter Asbury College in Indiana with the financial help of friends. While there he developed great talent as an orator and became an active member of the Republican Party.
After graduating, Beveridge worked as a law clerk and reading clerk for the Indiana legislature and was admitted to the Indiana State Bar in 1887. He quickly built a successful law practice in Indianapolis, but he also developed his literary interests and began to write in his spare time. As a member of the Indianapolis Literary Club, he wrote thesis-driven papers about Shakespeare and other playwrights. Beveridge also traveled to Europe and, while away, wrote a series of articles for the local newspaper.
Beveridge continued to be active in the Republican Party, and in 1899 he was one of the youngest men to be elected to the U.S. Senate. This new responsibility took much time and Beveridge decided to close his law practice. However, he continued to write, since he found that he could support himself financially by using his travels and political ideas for material. One such trip was an investigative journey to the Philippines. Beveridge wanted to explore the independence movement of that country and determined that the Filipinos were not capable of governing themselves. He wrote a series of articles supporting this stance for the Saturday Evening Post. In 1903 Beveridge took another trip to Europe, traveling extensively in Russia. His observations were published again in the Saturday Evening Post and later put into a book titled The Russian Advance.
Twelve years after his first novel was published, Beveridge produced another book based on his travels and politics. He spent time in Germany, France, and Great Britain and wrote What Is Back of the War. The book was regarded as very pro-German, since Beveridge was forthright in expressing his opinion that the German troops were extremely disciplined and brave. He also found Germany's political leaders to be very intelligent. The French army also received favorable reviews in his book, but that was not the case with the British military. Beveridge thought the British lacked vigor and was turned off even more when he was not granted an interview in London.
In 1910 the senator found himself at odds with the Republican Party's leadership and was not reelected. So, in 1912, he decided to begin working on a project he had been planning for a number of years: compiling the biography of Chief Justice John Marshall. This work became Beveridge's greatest literary accomplishment and won him the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1920. His reputation and political standing made it fairly easy for Beveridge to obtain archives and documents about Marshall. He was scrupulous about accuracy and rechecked and cross-referenced his information many times. He also asked numerous historians and academics to critique his work. Though he found the suggestions of these critics helpful, Beveridge managed to keep his work original and true to his own writing style. He thought it was important to present Marshall as a person against a historical background in order for the reader to truly understand the man's life and career.
The first two volumes of Marshall's biography received wide-ranging reviews. Sales of the book were high; however, Beveridge was accused of using his writing as a vehicle to flaunt his own political views. In places, he digresses from directly writing about Marshall's life into extensive background information that supports his personal opinions. Although he did not deny this claim, he refused to remove the material from the book, asserting that the reader who is not well versed in history or constitutional law needs this information in order to understand the chief justice. The final two volumes of this biography were published in 1919.
Beveridge rejoined the Republican Party in 1916, but when he was defeated in the 1922 election, he found himself drawn again to writing. He began to work on a biography of Abraham Lincoln. As he had done with the Marshall biography, the writer placed Lincoln's story within the historical events of his period. Incredible amounts of information are available on the former president, and Beveridge spent much time and money accessing documents and consulting primary resources. A writer for American National Biography stated that, because of Beveridge's inexhaustible efforts to debunk the myths and inaccuracies surrounding Lincoln, his biography is considered "the first Lincoln biography to meet modern scholarly standards."
Though his intention was to create another four-volume work, Beveridge did not live to see the first two volumes of his Lincoln biography in print. The work was published posthumously in 1928. As Herbert A. Johnson concluded in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, "The senator wrote biography as he had lived his political career, with a sense of pride and satisfaction in the progress of his nation."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 17: Twentieth-Century American Historians, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1983.