David Humphreys


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(1752–1818), born in Connecticut, graduated from Yale (1771), and during the Revolutionary War became a lieutenant colonel and aide-de-camp to Washington. His stirring patriotism appears in A Poem Addressed to the Armies of the United States (1780), and his military knowledge in An Essay on the Life of the Honorable Major-General Israel Putnam (1788). After the peace, he spent two years abroad as secretary to the Commission for Negotiating Treaties of Commerce, and then returned to Mount Vernon for a year with his “Dear General.” At the threat of war between Spain and England (1790), he was appointed a secret agent abroad, and, appointed sole commissioner in Algerine affairs (1793), spent three more years in Spain as minister plenipotentiary. Returning to the U.S. (1802), he interested himself in the production of wool from the Spanish merino sheep, wrote a dissertation on the subject, and imported some of the sheep, establishing a successful woolen mill. A typical 18th-century squire, having directed his pen to A Poem on the Happiness of America (1780) and The Glory of America; or, Peace Triumphant over War (1783), he now addressed “to the Citizens of the United States” a didactic Poem on the Industry of the United States of America (1783). Here he expressed his faith in the nation's glorious future, with a social and economic conservatism characteristic of a Yankee industrialist and staunch Federalist. Associated with the Connecticut Wits, he wrote poetry that is pompous and lacking in imagination, although he contributed a few light bagatelles and participated in the satire, The Anarchiad (1786–87). He was also the author of a romantic drama, The Widow of Malabar (1790), and a comedy, The Yankey in England (1814).

From The Oxford Companion to American Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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