Joel Barlow, an American poet and politician, born at Reading, Conn., in 1755, died near Cracow, Poland, Dec. 22, 1812. He was educated at Dartmouth and Yale colleges, and during his latter vacations took part in the opening scenes of the revolution, fighting valiantly, it is said, in the battle at White Plains. At his graduation in 1778 he read a poem upon the prospect of peace, which, with another poem delivered on occasion of taking his master's degree, was published in the Litchfield collection of American poems. He began the study of law upon leaving college, but the army being at that time deficient in chaplains, he was persuaded to study theology, and after six weeks' preparation was licensed a Congregational minister, and joined the army, where he inspired the troops not only by his preaching but by patriotic songs and speeches. At the close of the war he resumed the study of law, and settled in Hartford, where he established a weekly newspaper, and prosecuted his poetical designs, adapting Watts's versions of the Psalms of David to the use of the general association of Connecticut, and adding to the collection several original hymns.
His " Vision of Columbus" was published by subscription in 1787, received with favor, and reprinted in London and in Paris. In 1788 he went to England as agent of a land company, but learning that he had become associated with a party of swindlers, he resigned his office, repaired to Paris, and involved himself in revolutionary schemes. In 1791 he published in London the first part of his "Advice to the Privileged Orders," a vehement production, which was soon followed by a poem upon the "Conspiracy of Kings." The poem was suggested by the first continental alliance against France, and was introduced by a prose preface violently denouncing Mr. Burke as the author of the calamities of the time. He published a translation of Volney's "Ruins, or Reflections on the Revolutions of Empires," and in 1792 sent a letter to the national convention of France, in which he recommended an extremely popular government. He became associated with the constitutional reformers of England, and was at the same time one of a commission sent by France to organize the newly acquired territory of Savoy. At Chambery he wrote an enthusiastic exhortation to the people of Piedmont to adopt the revolutionary principles of France, and there he wrote his humorous and most popular poem upon "Hasty Pudding." He made a fortune in France by commercial speculations, and after addressing two extravagant political letters to the people of the United States, he returned in 1805 and established himself in Washington. In 1806 he propounded a scheme for a national academy under the patronage of government, and the next year his "Colum-biad," the fruit of the labor of half his life, appeared in a style which made it the most costly publication that had yet been attempted in America, being illustrated by engravings executed by the best artists of London. A more elaborate and declamatory poem than his " Vision of Columbus," it yet never attained to the popularity of the latter.
In its design it was simply a historical view of events from the time of Columbus to the scenes of the revolution, the great discoverer being represented as seeing them from his prison in Spain. In his latter years he was collecting materials for a history of the United States, and in 1811 was appointed by President Madison minister to France. His diplomatic skill was there in request, and Napoleon, perplexed by negotiations at the time of his Russian campaign, sent for him to meet him at Wilna. Barlow set off immediately, but died at a cottage in Poland before accomplishing his mission. His last poem, dictated from his deathbed, was a powerful expression of resentment against Napoleon for the hopes which he had disappointed.