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Both of Melville’s grandfathers were heroes of the Revolutionary War, and Melville found satisfaction in his “double revolutionary descent” Major Thomas Melvill (1751–1832) had taken part in the Boston Tea Party,and his maternal grandfather, General Peter Gansevoort (1749–1812), was famous for having commanded the defense of Fort Stanwix in New York in 1777. Major Melvill sent his son Allan (Herman’s father) to France instead of college at the turn of the nineteenth century, where he spent two years in Paris and learned to speak and write French fluently. In 1814, Allan, who subscribed to his father’s Unitarianism, married Maria Gansevoort, who was committed to the more strict and biblically oriented Dutch Reformed version of the Calvinist creed of her family. This more severe Protestantism of the Gansevoorts’ tradition ensured she was well versed in the Bible, both in English as well as in Dutch, the language she had grown up speaking with her parents.

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