Howard, John One of the most eminent of modern Christian philanthropists, was born at Hackney in 1726. His father apprenticed him to a wholesale grocer, but died when his son was about nineteen years of age, leaving him in possession of a handsome fortune, and young Howard, who was in weak health, determined to make a tour in France and Italy. On his return he took lodgings in Stoke Newington, where his landlady, a widow named Loidore, having nursed him carefully through a severe illness, he, out of gratitude, married her, though she was twenty-seven years his senior. She, however, died about three years after the marriage, and he now conceived a desire to visit Lisbon, with a view to alleviate the miseries caused by the great earthquake in 1756. On his voyage he was captured by a French privateer, carried a prisoner to Brest, and subsequently removed into the interior, but was finally permitted to return to England on the promise of inducing the government to make a suitable exchange for him. This was affected, and Howard retired to a small estate he possessed at Cardington, near Bedford, and there, in April 1758, he married Miss Henrietta Leeds. It is mentioned as a characteristic trait that he stipulated before marriage "that, in all matters in which there should be a difference of opinion between them, his voice should rule." For seven years he was chiefly engaged in the task of raising the physical and moral condition of the peasantry of Cardington and its neighborhood by erecting on his own estate better cottages, establishing schools, and visiting and relieving the sick and the destitute; in his benevolent exertions he was assisted by his wife. She died March 1765, and Howard from that time lost his interest in his home and its occupations. He lived some years at Cardington in seclusion, then made another Continental tour, and in 1773 was nominated sheriff of Bedford. The sufferings, which he had endured and witnessed during his own brief confinement as a prisoner of war struck-deep into his mind, and, shocked by the misery and abuses, which prevailed in the prisons under his charge, he attempted to induce the magistrates to remedy the more obvious of them. The reply was a demand for a precedent, and Howard at once set out on a tour of inspection. But he soon found that the evil was general, and he set himself diligently to work to inquire into the extent and precise nature of the mischief, and, if possible, to discover the true remedy for the evil. He visited, in two journeys, most of the town and county jails of England, and accumulated a large mass of information, which, in March 1774, he laid before the House of Commons. This was the commencement of prison reform in England. Once actively engaged, he became more and more devoted to this benevolent pursuit. He traveled repeatedly over the United Kingdom, and at different periods to almost every part of Europe, visiting the most offensive places, relieving personally the wants of the most wretched objects, and noting all that seemed to him important either for warning or example. The first fruit of these labors was The State of the Prisons in England and Wales, with an Account of some Foreign Prisons (1777). "As soon as it appeared, the world was astonished at the mass of valuable materials accumulated by a private unaided individual, through a course of prodigious labor, and at the constant hazard of life, in consequence of the infectious diseases prevalent in the scenes of his inquiries. The cool good sense and moderation of his narrative, contrasted with that enthusiastic ardor which must have impelled him to his undertaking, were not less admired, and he was immediately regarded as one of the extraordinary characters of die age, and as the leader in all plans for ameliorating the condition of that wretched part of the community for whom he interested himself" (Aikin). In 1778 he undertook another tour, revisited the celebrated Rasp-houses of Holland, and continued his route through Belgium and Germany into Italy, whence he returned through Switzerland and France in 1779. In the same year he made another survey of Great Britain and Ireland. In these tours he extended his views to the investigation of hospitals. The results were published in 1780, in an Appendix to "The State o' the Prisons in England and Wales," etc. Having traveled over nearly all the south of Europe, in 1781 he visited Denmark, Sweden, Russia, and Poland, and in 1783 he went through Spain and Portugal, continuing at intervals his home inquiries, and published in 1784 a second appendix, together with a new edition of the original work, in which the additional matter was comprised. The importance, both in prisons and hospitals, of preventing the occurrence or spread of infectious diseases, produced in Mr. Howard a desire to witness the working and success of the Lazaretto system in the south of Europe, more especially as. a safeguard against the plague. Danger or disgust never turned him from his-path, but on this occasion he went without even a servant, not thinking it right, for convenience sake, to expose another person to such a risk. Quitting England in 1785, he traveled through the south of France and Italy to Malta, Zante, and Constantinople, whence he returned to Smyrna, while the plague was raging, for the purpose of sailing from an infected port to Venice, where he might undergo the utmost rigor of the quarantine system. He returned to England in 1787, resumed his home tours, and in 1789 published the result of his late inquiries in another important volume, entitled An Account of the principal Lazarettos in Europe, etc., with additional Remarks on the present State of the Prisons in Great Britain and Ireland. The same summer he renewed his course of foreign travels, meaning to go into Turkey and the East through Russia, He had, however, proceeded no farther than the Crimea when a rapid illness, which he himself believed to be an infectious fever, caught in prescribing for a lady-, put an end to his life on the 20th of January, 1790. He requested that no other inscription should be put upon his grave than simply this, "Christ is my hope." He was buried at Dauphiny, near Cherson, and the utmost respect was paid to his memory by the Russian government. The intelligence of his death caused a profound feeling of regret in his native country, and men of all classes and parties vied in paying their tribute of reverence to his memory. A marble statue by Bacon of "the philanthropist" was erected in St. Paul's Cathedral by a public subscription.
Mr. Howard's piety was deep and fervent, and his moral character most pure and simple. His-literary acquirements were small, neither were his talents brilliant; but he was fearless, single-minded, untiring, and did great things by devoting his whole energies to one good object. The influence of disinterestedness and integrity is remarkably displayed in the ready access granted to him even by the most absolute and most suspicious governments, in the respect invariably paid to his person, and the weight attached to his opinion and authority. He was strictly economical in his personal expenses, abstemious in his habits, and capable of going through' great fatigue; both his fortune and his constitution were freely spent in the cause to which his life was devoted. The only blemish which has ever been suggested as resting upon his memory is in connection with his conduct to his son. Mr. Howard was a strict — and has not escaped the charge of being a severe — parent. The son, unhappily, in youth fell into dissolute habits, which being carefully concealed from the father, and consequently unchecked, brought on a disease which terminated in insanity. He survived his father nine years, dying on the 24th of April 1799; but he remained till his death a hopeless lunatic. The question of Howard's alleged harshness to his son has been thoroughly investigated and effectually disproved. (See Dixon's Life of Howard.) That his devotion to the great philanthropic object to which he gave up his life may not have interfered with his paternal duties, it is, of course, impossible to affirm; but that John Howard was an affectionate and kind-hearted father, as well as a single-minded benefactor to his species there can now be no reasonable doubt. See English Cyclopedia; Aiken, Character and Services of John Howard (London, 1792, 8vo); Brown, Memoirs of John Howard (London 1818, 4to); Dixon, Johns Howard and the Prison World of Europe (London, 1850, 12mo; reprinted, with an introduction, by the Rev. R. W. Dickinson, D.D., N. Y. 1854, 18mo); Field, Life of John Howard (London 1850. 8vo); Skeats, History of the Free Churches of England, p. 479.