Noah Webster: Early American Christianity

At some point in our lives, we’ve all reached for a dictionary or googled the definition of a word.  At least I hope we have!  Because either we’ve needed – and obtained – clarification on definitions or some of us are walking around needlessly clueless!

            Many of us know the dictionary as Webster’s.  Noah Webster started working on a dictionary of American English, which differed in substantial ways from England’s English, in 1801 and published it five years later in 1806 and twenty-two years later in 1828 he published his American Dictionary of the English Language, defining more than 65,000 words.[1]      

            Noah Webster also helped to define the importance of Christianity not only to the Christian population, but also for the entire world so we could all understand the foundation of liberty.  In 1832 he published a History of the United States covering “…the dispersion at Babel, to their migration to America, and of the conquest of South America, by the Spainards.”[2] 

Within this work, starting at list number 578 he writes of the “Origin of Civil Liberty.”[3]  He states “Almost all the civil liberty now enjoyed in the world owes its origin to the principles of Christian religion.”[4]  He goes on to explain that the reformation brought about the opportunity for people to read the Bible and “understand their natural rights.”[5]  He explains this does not mean that there should be any church “established by law.”[6]  However, he does explain how Christianity is the foundation for liberty.  He writes “…the religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and his apostles which enjoins humility, piety, and benevolence; which acknowledges in every person a brother, or a sister, and a citizen with equal rights.  This is genuine Christianity, and to this we owe our free constitutions of government.”[7]

Webster knew and well understood what Christianity meant.  He had spent a lifetime studying the Bible and had even taken it upon himself to translate his own version of it from the King James Bible.[8]  Imagine that.  I recently did a study that encouraged me to write three verses of 1 John daily until I have written the entire book of 1 John – by hand.  I am merely copying these verses but by doing this exercise, I am noticing that I really ponder the words and the teachings, it leads to deeper study and hopefully deeper understanding.


[2] Webster, Noah.  History of the United States : to which is prefixed a brief historical account of our [English] ancestors, from the dispersion at Babel, to their migration to America, and of the conquest of South America, by the Spaniards.  Durrie & Peck, New Haven, Connecticut. 1832.  Sabin Collection Number 102358. 270-271.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Webster, Noah.  The Holy Bible, Containing The Old And New Testaments, In The Common Version.  With Amendments Of The Language.  Durrie and Peck, New Haven, Connecticut.  1833.

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