North American Scholar

CLEVELAND, Charles Dexter

  • Image
  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1802-12-03
  • Born City: Salem
  • Born State/Country: MA
  • Parents: Charles, missionary to the poor in Boston, & Mehitable Treadwell C.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1869-08-18
  • Death City: Philadelphia
  • Death State/Country: PA
  • Married: Alison Nisbet, 31 Mar 1831
  • Education:

    BA Dartmouth, 1827; LLD, Ingham School, 1861; CUNY, 1866

  • Professional Experience:

    Teacher, Baltimore Classical School, 1827-9; prof Lat & Gk, Dickinson Coll, 1830-2; head, private school (New Haven, CT), 1832-3; prof Lat & Gk, CUNY 1833-4; head, Philadelphia Ladies' School, 1834-61; US Consul, Cardiff, Wales, 1861-4; mem APS

  • Publications:

    The Moral Characters of Theophrastus (Boston, 1826); An Epitome of Grecian Antiquities (Boston, 1827); First Lessons in Latin, upon a New Plan (Boston, 1829); Xenophon's Expedition of Cyrus (Boston, 1830); A Compendium of Grecian Antiquities (Boston, 1831); First Lessons in Greek (Boston, 1833); Adam's Latin Grammar (Philadelphia & Hartford, 1836); A Compendium of English Literature (Philadelphia, 1848); A Compendium of American Literature (New York, 1851); English Literature of the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia, 1851); A Compendium of Classical Literature (Philadelphia, 1861); An Edition of Milton's Poetical Works (New York, 1865); Antislavery Addresses of 1844 and 1845 with Salmon P. Chase (New York, 1867); Lyra Sacra Americana (New York, 1868)

  • Notes:

    Charles Dexter Cleveland, one of the first American classicists to face the attacks on Latin and Greek philological education, was also a pioneer in providing American anthologies and texts for the study of classical antiquities (“classical civilization” in modern terms) and of classical literature in translation. Perhaps consciously, he balanced teaching and public life, to prove to the young democracy that classicists were not hopelessly bogged down in monarchy and colonialism. Though his father climaxed a century of Puritan life with nearly 40 years of service as “Missionary to the poor of the City of Boston,” Cleveland's ascetic background did not prevent him from entering the mercantile fleshpots of the city. But his hunger for education led him to Dartmouth where before he had completed his B.A., he had already published his edition/translation of Theophrastus and his famous Epitome of Greek Antiquities.While still a student, Cleveland had written an epoch-making letter to the faculty of Dartmouth College demanding admission for a student denied it only because of his race; this letter deserves to be better known. His study of Greek antiquities and his Salem home-bred hatred of slavery nourished each other. “The Spartans,” he wrote, “boasted that they were the freest people on earth. But they kept their slaves in the greatest subjection.” The jab at his own country is unmistakable. In 1844 and 1845 he joined his Dartmouth schoolmate and fellow Abolitionist Salmon P. Chase on the lecture block. When, fifteen years later, Lincoln made Chase his Secretary of the Treasury, he appointed Cleveland United States Consul in Wales, ending his professional career in classics.

  • Sources:

    Charles Dexter Cleveland, To My Friends Carlisle, PA, 1832); Dartmouth College, Memorial of the Class of 1827 (Hanover, NH, 1869) 19-22; Charles Coleman Sellers, Dickinson College: A History (Middletown, CT, 1973) 188-9, portrait, 197

  • Author: Philip N. Lockhart