Author: Horace Mann


Considered by many to be the “father of American public education,” Horace Mann (1796–1859) was born in Franklin, Massachusetts, the son of a poor farmer. Although self-educated as a child, Mann went on to study at Brown University where he was the valedictorian of the Class of 1819. He briefly studied law at Brown before his election to the Massachusetts legislature in 1827 and later, the Massachusetts State Senate. Mann found his life’s passion, however, upon his appointment as Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education in 1837. He became a national spokesman for education reform, with the goal of bringing children of all classes together for a common learning experience. He viewed education as critical to social advancement and argued the merits of teaching civic virtues as part of the education experience. Mann was elected to the US Congress in 1848 and served two terms, often speaking in opposition to slavery. In 1852, he was appointed president of Antioch College in Ohio, where he served until his death. His oft-repeated commencement address called on students to “be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”

Fourth of July Oration

Horace Mann

To provide the proper education for America’s citizen rulers was the lifelong cause of Horace Mann (1796–1859), father of the “Common School [Public School]” movement, promoter of “Normal Schools”[for training of teachers]), politician, and president of Antioch College. This (excerpted) Fourth of July oration, delivered in 1842 before the civic leaders of Boston, is guided by a single idea and purpose: to convey the importance of implementing and expanding more and better public education.