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Presents:


Noah Webster!

American Founding Father!

Created the Great Webster Dictionary, 1828,

Believed the goal of government was to "CHRISTIANIZE AMERICA!"

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Noah Webster!

American Founding Father!

Created the Great Webster Dictionary, 1828,

Believed the goal of government was to "CHRISTIANIZE AMERICA!"

Noah Webster in early life was something of a freethinker - though always a believer in Christ - but in 1808 he became a convert to Puritan Calvinistic Christian Orthodoxy [age 50] - and thereafter became a devout Congregationalist who preached the need to Christianize the nation.[21]

Webster grew increasingly intellectual and evangelistic as he saw America's new generation changing from the one just past.

Webster viewed language as a tool to control unruly thoughts.

Webster's American Dictionary emphasized:

    >> the virtues of social control over human passions and individualism;

    >> submission to authority;

    >> and fear of God;

    >> that they were necessary for the maintenance of the American social order;

As he grew older, Noah Webster's attitudes changed from those of an optimistic revolutionary in the 1780s, to those of a wise old sage fearful of the decline, decay and demise of America's Society by the 1820s. [22]

Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary contained the greatest number of Biblical definitions given in any reference volume.

Webster considered education "useless without the Bible."

Webster released his own edition of the Bible in 1833, called "The Common Version." He used the King James Version (KJV) as a base and consulted the Hebrew and Greek along with various other versions and commentaries.

Webster molded the KJV to correct grammar, replaced words that were no longer used, and did away with words and phrases that could be seen as offensive.


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Noah Webster!

American Founding Father!

Created the Great Webster Dictionary, 1828,

Believed the goal of government was to "CHRISTIANIZE AMERICA!"

Noah Webster married Rebecca Greenleaf (1766–1847) on October 26, 1789, New Haven, Connecticut. They had eight children:

* Daughter Emily Schotten (1790–1861), who married William W. Ellsworth, named by Webster as an executor of his will.[24] Emily, their daughter, married Rev. Abner Jackson, who became president of both Hartford's Trinity College and Hobart College in New York State.[25]

* Frances Julianna (1793–1869)

* Harriet (1797–1844)

* Mary (1799–1819)

* William Greenleaf (1801–1869)

* Eliza (1803–1888)

* Henry (1806–1807)

* Louisa (b. 1808)

He moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1812, where Webster helped to found Amherst College. In 1822, the family moved back to New Haven, and Webster was awarded an honorary degree from Yale the following year. He is buried in New Haven's Grove Street Cemetery.

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Noah Webster!

American Founding Father!

Created the Webster Dictionary, 1828,

Believed the goal of government was to "CHRISTIANIZE AMERICA!"

Noah Webster (October 16, 1758 – May 28, 1843) was an American lexicographer, textbook pioneer, English spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author. He has been called the "Father of American Scholarship."

His blue-backed speller books taught five generations of children in the United States how to spell and read.

In the U.S. his name became synonymous with "dictionary," especially the modern Merriam-Webster dictionary that was first published in 1828 as An American Dictionary of the English Language.


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Noah Webster!

American Founding Father!

Created the Great Webster Dictionary, 1828,

Believed the goal of government was to "CHRISTIANIZE AMERICA!"

Noah Webster was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, to an established Yankee family. His father Noah Sr. (1722–1813) farmed 90 acres, was justice of the peace and deacon of the local Congregational church, and was captain on the "alarm list" of the local militia.

Noah's father was a descendant of Connecticut Governor John Webster; his mother Mercy (née Steele; d. 1794) was a descendant of Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony.[1]

In 1774, at the age of 16, he matriculated at Yale College in New Haven, studying with the learned Ezra Stiles, Yale's president.

His four years at Yale overlapped with the American Revolutionary War, and because of food shortages, many of his college classes were held in other towns.

He served in the Connecticut Militia.

His father had mortgaged the farm to send Webster to Yale, but the son was now on his own - and sadly - had no more to do with his family.[2]

After graduating Yale in 1778, he taught school in Glastonbury, Hartford, and West Hartford. He was admitted to the bar in 1781 and practiced after 1789. Discovering that law was not to his liking, he tried teaching, setting up several very small schools that did not thrive.


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Noah Webster!

American Founding Father!

Created the Webster Dictionary, 1828,

Believed the goal of government was to "CHRISTIANIZE AMERICA!" Political vision

Webster was by nature a revolutionary, seeking American independence from the cultural thralldom to Britain. To replace it he sought to create a utopian America, cleansed of luxury and ostentation and the champion of freedom[3]

By 1781, Webster had an expansive view of the new nation. American nationalism was superior to Europe because American values were superior, he claimed.[4]

    America sees the absurdities--she sees the kingdoms of Europe, disturbed by wrangling sectaries, or their commerce, population and improvements of every kind cramped and retarded, because the human mind like the body is fettered 'and bound fast by the chords of policy and superstition':

    She laughs at their folly and shuns their errors: She founds her empire upon the idea of universal toleration: She admits all religions into her bosom; She secures the sacred rights of every individual; and (astonishing absurdity to Europeans!)

    she sees a thousand discordant opinions live in the strictest harmony ... it will finally raise her to a pitch of greatness and lustre, before which the glory of ancient Greece and Rome shall dwindle to a point, and the splendor of modern Empires fade into obscurity.

Early Philosophical Errors:

Webster dedicated his Speller and Dictionary to providing an intellectual foundation for American nationalism. In 1787-89 Webster was an outspoken supporter of the new Constitution.

In terms of political theory, he deemphasized virtue (a core value of republicanism) and emphasized widespread ownership of property (a key element of liberalism).

He was one of the few Americans who paid much attention to the French theorist Jean Jacques Rousseau.[5]

Her later regretted this change of emphasis!


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Noah Webster!

American Founding Father!

Created the Great Webster Dictionary, 1828,

Believed the goal of government was to "CHRISTIANIZE AMERICA!" Federalist editorTo the Friends of Literature in the United States, Webster's prospectus for his first dictionary of the English language, 1807–1808

Webster married well and had joined the elite in Hartford but did not have much money. In 1793, Alexander Hamilton lent him $1500 to move to New York City to edit the leading Federalist Party newspaper. In December, he founded New York's first daily newspaper, American Minerva (later known as the Commercial Advertiser), and edited it for four years, writing the equivalent of 20 volumes of articles and editorials.

He also published the semi-weekly publication, The Herald, A Gazette for the country (later known as The New York Spectator).

As a Federalist spokesman, he was repeatedly denounced by the Jeffersonian Republicans as

    "a pusillanimous,

    half-begotten,

    self-dubbed patriot,"

    "an incurable lunatic,"

    and "a deceitful newsmonger ...

    Pedagogue and Quack."

    "a traitor to the cause of Federalism", calling him

    "a toad in the service of sans-cullottism,"

    "a prostitute wretch,"

    "a great fool, and a barefaced liar,"

    "a spiteful viper,"

    and "a maniacal pedant."

Webster, the consummate master of words, was distressed. Even the use of words like "the people," "democracy," and "equality" in public debate bothered him, for such words were "metaphysical abstractions that either have no meaning, or at least none that mere mortals can comprehend." [6]

Webster followed French radical thought and was one of the few Americans who admired Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

He urged a neutral foreign policy when France and Britain went to war in 1793. But when French minister Citizen Genêt set up a network of pro-Jacobin "Democratic-Republican Societies" that entered American politics and attacked President Washington, Webster condemned them.

He called on fellow Federalist editors to "all agree to let the clubs alone—publish nothing for or against them. They are a plant of exotic and forced birth: the sunshine of peace will destroy them."[7]


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Noah Webster!

American Founding Father!

Created the Great Webster Dictionary, 1828,

Believed the goal of government was to "CHRISTIANIZE AMERICA!"

For decades, he was one of the most prolific authors in the new nation, publishing textbooks, political essays, a report on infectious diseases, and newspaper articles for his Federalist party.

He wrote so much that a modern bibliography of his published works required 655 pages. He moved back to New Haven in 1798; he was elected as a Federalist to the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1800 and 1802-1807.

Copyright

Politician Daniel Webster was Noah Webster’s cousin. As a senator, Daniel sponsored Noah’s proposed copyright bill.[8] The first major statutory revision of U.S. copyright law, the 1831 Act was a result of intensive lobbying by Noah Webster and his agents in Congress.[9]

Blue Backed Speller

A 1932 statue of Webster by Korczak Ziółkowski stands in front of the public library of West Hartford, Connecticut.

As a teacher, he had come to dislike American elementary schools. They could be overcrowded, with up to seventy children of all ages crammed into one-room schoolhouses. They had poor underpaid staff, no desks, and unsatisfactory textbooks that came from England.

Webster thought that Americans should learn from American books, so he began writing a three volume compendium, A Grammatical Institute of the English Language. The work consisted of a speller (published in 1783), a grammar (published in 1784), and a reader (published in 1785).

His goal was to provide a uniquely American approach to training children. His most important improvement, he claimed, was to rescue "our native tongue" from "the clamour[10] of pedantry" that surrounded English grammar and pronunciation.

He complained that the English language had been corrupted by the British aristocracy, which set its own standard for proper spelling and pronunciation. Webster rejected the notion that the study of Greek and Latin must precede the study of English grammar.

The appropriate standard for the American language, argued Webster, was "the same republican principles as American civil and ecclesiastical constitutions." This meant that the people-at-large must control the language; popular sovereignty in government must be accompanied by popular usage in language.

The Speller was arranged so that it could be easily taught to students, and it progressed by age. From his own experiences as a teacher, Webster thought the Speller should be simple and gave an orderly presentation of words and the rules of spelling and pronunciation.

He believed students learned most readily when he broke a complex problem into its component parts and had each pupil master one part before moving to the next. Ellis argues that Webster anticipated some of the insights currently associated with Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development.

Webster said that children pass through distinctive learning phases in which they master increasingly complex or abstract tasks. Therefore, teachers must not try to teach a three-year-old how to read; they could not do it until age five.

He organized his speller accordingly, beginning with the alphabet and moving systematically through the different sounds of vowels and consonants, then syllables, then simple words, then more complex words, then sentences.[11]

The speller was originally titled The First Part of the Grammatical Institute of the English Language. Over the course of 385 editions in his lifetime, the title was changed in 1786 to The American Spelling Book, and again in 1829 to The Elementary Spelling Book.

Most people called it the "Blue-Backed Speller" because of its blue cover, and for the next one hundred years, Webster's book taught children how to read, spell, and pronounce words.

It was the most popular American book of its time; by 1837 it had sold 15 million copies, and some 60 million by 1890—reaching the majority of young students in the nation's first century.

Its royalty of a half-cent per copy was enough to sustain Webster in his other endeavors. It also helped create the popular contests known as spelling bees.Handwritten drafts of dictionary entries by Webster

Slowly, edition by edition, Webster changed the spelling of words, making them "Americanized." He chose s over c in words like defense, he changed the re to er in words like center, and he dropped one of the Ls in traveler. At first he kept the u in words like colour or favour but dropped it in later editions. He also changed "tongue" to "tung"—an innovation that never caught on.[12]

Part three of his Grammatical Institute (1785) was a reader designed to uplift the mind and "diffuse the principles of virtue and patriotism."[13]

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Noah Webster!

American Founding Father!

Created the Great Webster Dictionary, 1828,

Believed the goal of government was to "CHRISTIANIZE AMERICA!"

"In the choice of pieces," he explained, "I have not been inattentive to the political interests of America.

Several of those masterly addresses of Congress, written at the commencement of the late Revolution, contain such noble, just, and independent sentiments of liberty and patriotism, that I cannot help wishing to transfuse them into the breasts of the rising generation."

    Students received the usual quota of

    Plutarch,

    Shakespeare,

    Swift, and

    Addison, as well as such Americans as

    Joel Barlow's Vision of Columbus,

    Timothy Dwight's Conquest of Canaan, and

    John Trumbull's poem M'Fingal.

    He included excerpts from Tom Paine's The Crisis

    and an essay by Thomas Day calling for the abolition of slavery in accord with the Declaration of Independence.


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Noah Webster!

American Founding Father!

Created the Great Webster Dictionary, 1828,

Believed the goal of government was to "CHRISTIANIZE AMERICA!"

Webster's Speller was entirely secular.

After Christian conversion, Webster greatly regretted this as well, and took years adding thousands of Biblical definitions to his renowned dictionary, making it the most Biblical cited work of all time . . .

Webster spent the last ten years of his life tracing the etymologies of all languages to the Hebrew language.

His secular Speller simply ended with two pages of important dates in American history, beginning with Columbus's in 1492 and ending with the battle of Yorktown in 1781.

There was no mention of God, the Bible, or sacred events. "Let sacred things be appropriated for sacred purposes," wrote Webster. As Ellis explains, "Webster began to construct a secular catechism to the nation-state. Here was the first appearance of 'civics' in American schoolbooks.

In this sense, Webster's speller became the secular successor to The New England Primer with its explicitly biblical injunctions." [14]

Not only was Webster sorry for this after his conversion, . . . but this complete secularization cost him much.

After 1840 Webster's books lost market share to the McGuffey Eclectic Readers of William Holmes McGuffey, which sold over 120 million copies.[15]

Bynack (1984) examines Webster in relation to his commitment to the idea of a unified American national culture that would stave off the decline of republican virtues and solidarity.

Webster acquired his perspective on language from such theorists as Maupertuis, Michaelis, and Herder. There he found the belief that a nation's linguistic forms and the thoughts correlated with them shaped individuals' behavior.

Thus the etymological clarification and reform of American English promised to improve citizens' manners and thereby preserve republican purity and social stability. This presupposition animated Webster's Speller and Grammar.[16]


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Noah Webster!

American Founding Father!

Created the Great Webster Dictionary, 1828,

Believed the goal of government was to "CHRISTIANIZE AMERICA!"

Dictionary Publication

In 1806, Webster published his first dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. In 1807 Webster began compiling an expanded and fully comprehensive dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language; it took twenty-seven years to complete.

To evaluate the etymology of words, Webster learned twenty-six languages, including Old English (Anglo-Saxon), German, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Arabic, and Sanskrit. Webster hoped to standardize American speech, since Americans in different parts of the country used different languages. They also spelled, pronounced, and used English words differently.

Webster completed his dictionary during his year abroad in 1825 in Paris, France, and at the University of Cambridge.

His dictionary contained seventy thousand words, of which twelve thousand had never appeared in a published dictionary before.

As a spelling reformer, Webster believed that English spelling rules were unnecessarily complex, so his dictionary introduced American English spellings, replacing "colour" with "color", substituting "wagon" for "waggon", and printing "center" instead of "centre".

He also added American words, like "skunk" and "squash", that did not appear in British dictionaries. At the age of seventy, Webster published his dictionary in 1828.

Though it now has an honored place in the history of American English, Webster's first dictionary only sold 2,500 copies. He was forced to mortgage his home to develop a second edition, and his life from then on was plagued with debt.

In 1840, the second edition was published in two volumes. On May 28, 1843, a few days after he had completed revising an appendix to the second edition, and with much of his efforts with the dictionary still unrecognized, Noah Webster died.

Impact

Lepore (2008) demonstrates Webster's paradoxical ideas about language and politics and shows why Webster's endeavors were at first so poorly received. Culturally conservative Federalists denounced the work as radical—too inclusive in its lexicon and even bordering on vulgar.

Meanwhile Webster's old foes the Republicans attacked the man, labeling him mad for such an undertaking.[17]

Scholars have long seen Webster's 1844 dictionary to be an important resource for reading poet Emily Dickinson's life and work; she once commented that the "Lexicon" was her "only companion" for years. One biographer said, "The dictionary was no mere reference book to her; she read it as a priest his breviary — over and over, page by page, with utter absorption."[18]

Austin (2005) explores the intersection of lexicographical and poetic practices in American literature, and attempts to map out a "lexical poetics" using Webster's dictionaries. He shows the ways in which American poetry has inherited Webster and drawn upon his lexicography in order to reinvent it.

Austin explicates key definitions from both the Compendious (1806) and American (1828) dictionaries and brings into its discourse a range of concerns including the politics of American English, the question of national identity and culture in the early moments of American independence, and the poetics of citation and of definition.

Webster's dictionaries were a redefinition of Americanism within the context of an emergent and unstable American socio-political and cultural identity. Webster's identification of his project as a "federal language" shows his competing impulses towards regularity and innovation in historical terms.

Perhaps the contradictions of Webster's project comprised part of a larger dialectical play between liberty and order within Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary political debates.[19]

Webster's dictionaries dominated the English speaking world.

In 1850, for example, Blackie and Son in Glasgow published the first general dictionary of English that relied heavily upon pictorial illustrations integrated with the text.

Its The Imperial Dictionary, English, Technological, and Scientific, Adapted to the Present State of Literature, Science, and Art;

On the Basis of Webster's English Dictionary used Webster's for most of their text, adding some additional technical words that went with illustrations of machinery.[20]


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Noah Webster!

American Founding Father!

Created the Great Webster Dictionary, 1828,

Believed the goal of government was to "CHRISTIANIZE AMERICA!"


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Noah Webster!

American Founding Father!

Created the Great Webster Dictionary, 1828,

Believed the goal of government was to "CHRISTIANIZE AMERICA!"

FOOTNOTES:

1. ^ Noah had two brothers (Abraham (1751-1831) and Charles (b. 1762)) and two sisters (Mercy (1749-1820) and Jerusha (1756-1831)).

2. ^ Richard Rollins, The Long Journey of Noah Webster (1980) p. 19

3. ^ Rollins (1980) p 24

4. ^ Ellis 170

5. ^ Rollins, (1980) ch 2

6. ^ Ellis 199, 206.

7. ^ Ellis p. 201.

8. ^ "An Exhibit Commemorating the 250th Anniversary of Noah Webster’s Birth, October 16, 1758". Amherst College.. https://www.amherst.edu/library/archives/exhibitions/webster. Retrieved 2008-07-18.

9. ^ Copyright Act (1831), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer

10. ^ Citing this article, "at first he kept the u in words like colour or favour" so this quote should have a 'U' in clamour

11. ^ Ellis 174.

12. ^ Scudder 1881, pp, 245-252.

13. ^ Harry Redcay Warfel, Noah Webster, schoolmaster to America‎ (1966) p. 86

14. ^ Ellis 175.

15. ^ John H. Westerhoff III, McGuffey and His Readers: Piety, Morality, and Education in Nineteenth-Century America (1978).

16. ^ Vincent P. Bynack, "Noah Webster and the Idea of a National Culture: the Pathologies of Epistemology." Journal of the History of Ideas 1984 45(1): 99-114.

17. ^ Jill Lepore, "Introduction" in Arthur Schulman, Websterisms: A Collection of Words and Definitions Set Forth by the Founding Father of American English (Free Press, 2008.

18. ^ Jed Deppman, "'I Could Not Have Defined the Change': Rereading Dickinson's Definition Poetry," Emily Dickinson Journal, Volume 11, Number 1, 2002, pp. 49-80 DOI: 10.1353/edj.2002.0005; Martha Dickinson Bianchi, The life and letters of Emily Dickinson (1924) p 80 for quote

19. ^ Nathan W. Austin, "Lost in the Maze of Words: Reading and Re-reading Noah Webster's Dictionaries," Dissertation Abstracts International, 2005, Vol. 65 Issue 12, p. 4561

20. ^ Michael Hancher, "Gazing at the Imperial Dictionary," Book History, Volume 1, 1998, pp. 156-181 DOI: 10.1353/bh.1998.0006

21. ^ Snyder (1990).

22. ^ Rollins (1980).

23. ^ Noah Webster and the First American Dictionary, Luisanna Fodde Melis, Rosen Publishing Group, New York, 2005

24. ^ Noah Webster and the American Dictionary, David Micklethwait, McFarland, 2005

25. ^ Genealogy of the Greenleaf family - Google Books


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Noah Webster!

American Founding Father!

Created the Great Webster Dictionary, 1828,

Believed the goal of government was to "CHRISTIANIZE AMERICA!"

Other References

* "Noah Webster" in The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). vol 18 section 25:33 online edition

* Bynack, Vincent P. "Noah Webster and the Idea of a National Culture: the Pathologies of Epistemology." Journal of the History of Ideas 1984 45(1): 99-114. Issn: 0022-5037 in Jstor

* Ellis, Joseph J. After the Revolution: Profiles of Early American Culture 1979. chapter 6, interpretive essay online edition

* Gallardo, Andres. "The Standardization of American English." PhD dissertation State U. of New York, Buffalo 1980. 367 pp. DAI 1981 41(8): 3557-A. 8104193, focused on Webster's dictionary

* Kendall, Joshua. The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster's Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture (2011)

* Leavitt, Robert Keith. Noah's Ark New England Yankees and the Endless Quest: a Short History of the Original Webster Dictionaries, With Particular Reference to Their First Hundred Years (1947). 106pp

* Lepore, Jill. "Noah's Mark: Webster and the original dictionary wars." The New Yorker, (November 6, 2006). 78-87. online edition

* Malone, Kemp. "Webster, Noah," Dictionary of American Biography, Volume 10 (1936)

* Micklethwait, David. Noah Webster and the American Dictionary (2005)

* Morgan, John S. Noah Webster (1975), popular biography

* Moss, Richard J. Noah Webster. (1984). 131 pp. Wester as author

* Nelson, C. Louise. "Neglect of Economic Education in Webster's 'Blue-Backed Speller'" American Economist, Vol. 39, 1995 online edition

* Proudfit, Isabel. Noah Webster Father of the Dictionary (1966).

* Rollins, Richard. The Long Journey of Noah Webster (1980) (ISBN 0-8122-7778-3)

* Rollins, Richard M. "Words as Social Control: Noah Webster and the Creation of the American Dictionary." American Quarterly 1976 28(4): 415-430. Issn: 0003-0678 in Jstor

* Scudder, Horace E. (1881). Noah Webster. Cambridge, Mass.: The Riverside Press. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/31238/31238-h/31238-h.htm. (from the series American Men of Letters. New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company)

* Snyder, K. Alan. Defining Noah Webster: Mind and Morals in the Early Republic. (1990). 421 pp.

* Southard, Bruce. "Noah Webster: America's Forgotten Linguist." American Speech 1979 54(1): 12-22. Issn: 0003-1283 in Jstor

* Unger, Harlow Giles. Noah Webster: The Life and Times of an American Patriot (1998), scholarly biography

* Warfel, Harry R. Noah Webster: Schoolmaster to America (1936), a standard biography


Primary sources

* Harry R. Warfel, ed., Letters of Noah Webster (1953),

* Homer D. Babbidge, Jr., ed., Noah Webster: On Being American (1967), selections from his writings

* Webster, Noah. The American Spelling Book: Containing the Rudiments of the English Language for the Use of Schools in the United States by Noah Webster 1836 edition online, the famous Blue- Backed Speller

* Webster, Noah. An American dictionary of the English language 1848 edition online

* Webster, Noah. A grammatical institute of the English language 1800 edition online

* Webster, Noah. Miscellaneous papers on political and commercial subjects‎ 1802 edition online mostly about banks

* Webster, Noah. A collection of essays and fugitive writings: on moral, historical, political and literary subjects 1790 edition online 414 pages


SEE THESE WEBSITES:

* Works by Noah Webster at Project Gutenberg

* The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

* Noah Webster Collection, Special Collections, Jones Library, Amherst MA

* Noah Webster on the Merriam-Webster website

* Connecticut Heritage website

* Biographical entry in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

* Searchable Webster's 1828 dictionary and Searchable Webster's 1913 dictionary - both in the public domain.

* Searchable Webster's 1828 dictionary

* Searchable Webster's 1828 wildcard dictionary

* Webster Bible text

* Preface to the Webster Bible

* Downloadable PDF of the Webster Bible

* A proposal for spelling reform from his younger and more radical days

* Online Webster Bible Searchable by verse and keywords

* The American Spelling Book

* Commentary of a Speech by Noah Webster on July 4, 1802



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