Girard, Stephen

Girard, Stephen an American philanthropist, was born at Bordeaux, France, May 21, 1750. He began life as a sailor at the age of thirteen, and ten years later became a master and captain. He settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in May 1777, and began his eminently successful mercantile career. During the prevalence of the yellow fever in Philadelphia in 1793, 1797-98, raging with unwonted violence, Mr. Girard devoted himself personally, fearless of all risks. to the care of the sick and the burial of the dead, not only in the hospital, of which he became manager, but throughout the city, supplying the sufferers with money and provisions. Two hundred children, whose parents died of the fever, were in a great measure intrusted to his care. In 1812 he purchased the building and a large part of the stock of the old United States bank, and commenced business as a private banker, with a capital of $1,200,000, which was afterwards increased to $4,000,000. During the war of 1812 he rendered valuable services to the government by placing at its disposal the resources of his bank, and subscribing with unexampled 'liberality to its loans. He died December 26, 1831. He contributed liberally to all public improvements, and erected many handsome buildings in the city of Philadelphia. He was profuse in his public charities, but exacting to the last fraction due him. Notwithstanding his extraordinary attentions to the sick, he never had a friend. He was a freethinker in religion, and. an ardent admirer of Voltaire and Rousseau. Although he was uneducated, his success in business had been such that his property at the time of his death amounted to about $9,000,000. Of this vast estate he bequeathed only $140,000 to his relatives. The remainder was devoted to various public charities, including hospitals, asylums, schools, etc.; $500,000 to the city of Philadelphia; $300,000 to the state of Pennsylvania; and his principal bequest, which was $2,000,000, besides certain other property, together with a plot of ground in Philadelphia, for the erection and support of a college for orphans. The most minute directions were given in regard to the buildings to be erected, and the admission and management of the inmates. He required that the pupils be instructed in the purest principles of morality, but they must be left free to adopt such religious tenets as their matured reason may lead them to prefer. No ecclesiastic, minister, or missionary of any sect whatever is allowed to hold any connection with the college, or even be admitted to the premises as a visitor. The officers and instructors of the institution are eighteen in number, and the inmates about five hundred.

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