Elihu Burritt (1810–1879) was an American philanthropist, linguist, and social activist born in the town of New Britain, Connecticut in 1810. He was active in many causes, namely opposing slavery, working for temperance, and trying to achieve world peace. These accomplishments caused President Lincoln to appoint him as a United States consul in Birmingham, England. He published over 37 books and articles, including Sparks from the Anvil and Ten Minute Talks. In 1847, his pamphlet Four Months in Skibbereen made residents of the United States more aware of the Potato Famine in Ireland. Elihu Burritt died in 1879 in New Britain.
He possessed an extraordinary aptitude for languages which allowed him to attain his marvelously rapid mastery of them. Having first followed the occupation of blacksmith, his remarkable mental traits earned for him the title "Learned Blacksmith."
During a trip abroad in 1846–47, he was deeply touched by the suffering of the Irish peasantry. In 1848, he organized a precursive entity to the League of Nations and the United Nations called the first international congress of the Friends of Peace, which convened in Brussels in September, 1848. A second "Peace Congress" met in Paris in 1849 presided over by Victor Hugo. Burritt attended the "Peace Congresses" at Frankfort on the-Main in 1850, London in 1851, Manchester in 1852, and Edinburgh in 1853.
The outbreak of the Crimean War in Europe and the War of the Rebellion in the United States jolted his senses. He realized that his conceptions of universal brotherhood and international arbitration were not making an impression on the leaders of nations. For his biography consult Northend, (New York, 1879).