Noah Webster College
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
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About


 
"The object of this institution, that of education for the gospel ministry. . . is to second the efforts of the Apostles themselves, in extending and establishing the Redeemer's empire - the empire of truth. . . . The appropriate business of men is to imitate the Savior, to serve their God, and bless their fellow-men."  
~ Noah Webster at the founding of Amherst College
 
     Noah Webster (1758-1843)  was extraordinarily involved in a great number of events and activities in the period of America's founding as well as the federal period of United States history.  For his role in advancing Christian education, he has been called "the Father of American Christian Education" and "Schoolmaster to America."  He was an expert in grammar and philology, the study of word origins.  He immensely impacted education with the publication of his famous Blue-Backed Speller in 1783 and his American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828. His speller was a landmark achievement and eventually sold more than 40 million copies in a century.  It became the model for the famous McGuffey Readers of the late 1800's which accompanied immigrant families westward to the Pacific.
 
     The motive for publishing both of these great works was to make America more independent of Europe and England.  Believing the Americans are unique and different from Europeans, he set about showing these distinctions on the basis of philology and political beliefs.  He believed the English language was the instrument for propagating the Christian religion and that a distinct national language was necessary for a strong federal republic (Stephen McDowell and Mark Beliles, Providence Foundation).  His dictionary was the first Christian dictionary in the world with literally thousands of Biblical references within its pages as well as references to the use of words in the works of many noted English writers - Spencer, Shakespeare, Dryden, and Milton, to name but a few.  His Speller was written to "instill into their minds, with the first rudiments of the language, some just ideas of religion, morals, and domestic economy."  Its premise is that "God's Word, contained in the Bible, has furnished all the necessary rules to direct our conduct."  Noah Webster affected the course of American education more than any one person. 
 
     Not only a publisher and philologist, Webster was a soldier, lawyer, teacher, and public official. He edited New York's first daily newspaper, American Minerva. He started the first magazine in America, the American Magazine, and authored a number of pamphlets and textbooks.  In 1808, he made a public profession of his Christian faith at age 50.  He publicly promoted a Constitutional Convention, secured copyright legislation on the state and national levels, served in the Connecticut Legislature, and helped found Amherst College.  He mastered 26 languages, and began researching the dictionary which took the next 20 years of his life at a time most people today would begin planning their retirement!   To an unusual degree, his life exemplified piety, self-government, and constant diligence or industry.  Perhaps no other American affected his culture with so many long-lasting positive effects.
 
"In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the few things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed.  No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people."
 
     - For further reading on the Life of Webster see Alan Snyder's Defining Noah Webster and Rosalie Slater's Teaching and Learning America's Christian History: The Principle Approach pp. 280-301.