Is there some reason you largely gutted the section on his religious views?
Webster was a devout Christian. His speller was very moralistic, and his first lesson began "Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink ; nor for your body, what ye shall put on; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things."
His 1828 American Dictionary contained the greatest number of Biblical definitions given in any reference volume. Webster considered "education useless without the Bible." Webster learned 20 different languages in finding definitions for which a particular word is used. [Preface to the 1828 edition of Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language]
"In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first 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."
Webster released his own edition of the Bible in 1833, called the Common Version. He used the King James Version 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.
- The biographers don't think it was very important (thus: there is one sentence in the DAB article, which I used). Wiki has these religious types that add all sorts of uncritical stuff that they think promote Christianity. For example, Webster was a deist or freethinker for most of his career (he got religion about 1808) and the Wiki editor deliberately hides that and mis-states his religion--and he removed a section (from Ellis) on how his spellers were secular.Richard Jensen 03:06, 4 July 2007 (CDT)
- Are you saying the quote is fabricated and his thinking on the matter unimportant to understand him? That his proliferate use of Bible verses in his dictionary as he edited it while living is unimportant to understand him? That seems implausible at best. Sure the David Barton and Peter Marshall types would wish to make the "Founding Fathers" into Saints, but on the other extreme, other historians would wish to seriously downplay the role of religion in these people's thinking and contributions. But to understand a man, one must understand his core motivations--and there lies religion for a good deal of historically important people, from Gandhi to "W"--and a man's own words best describes those motivations, rather than listing out names of groups with which he was an adherent. I'm a big fan of peppering histories of people with their own quotes. —Stephen Ewen (Talk) 03:11, 4 July 2007 (CDT)
- Webster is closer to Jefferson in religious outlook--deist for the most part. Late in life he wrote a religious preface to the Dictionary (which sold poorly). His textbooks that sold millions and millions of copies were deliberately secular. He left God out of the American story. yes he saw how important the Bible was for the American language, and so included large numbers of Biblical names and places. But as Ellis argues, he was a powerful force --perhaps the most important--for removing religion from American schools. As for the role of religion, look at CZ's Great Awakening articles that I largely wrote. Richard Jensen 03:51, 4 July 2007 (CDT)
Certainly you have considered that one's religious motivations would have them deliberately "leave God out" of policy on secular life, e.g., Roger Williams. Religious people, and early American figures who were religious, certainly did not all wear cloths, keep their domain the church, and only print sermons.
The only real issue I see in the Awakening articles is that the First Great Awakening clearly had a permanent impact on secular America, not just on "American religion". That was the point. The Fourth Great Awakening--sheesh, from a Church history standpoint, that is a simply very stretched and contrived notion, which you point out.
- Late-Webster is a big hero to the religious right. They use his dictionary in Christian schools and even in home schooling! But they don't pretend to know any history and we have to have higher standards in CZ. (Webster's strict Calvinism in later life is theologically very different from current fundamentalism, which is mostly a 20th century invention.) Richard Jensen 04:21, 4 July 2007 (CDT)
Yes, I know it is different. Calvinism of the day, and Webster became an adherent of Calvinism as you know, rejected that there were separate secular/spiritual domains of work. Every activity was "spiritual" in the worldview, unless explicitly prohibited in Scripture. This is why interpreting him through the grid of today's Christian fundamentalism, which via dispensationalism explicitly teaches a staunch secular/spiritual divide, is erroneous. I think you are doing that here more than you might realize. One doing "secular" work and advocating for secular policies for a society does not equate to them being irreligious or having purely secular motivations. That's interpreting him through the grid of modern fundamentalism. Modern Christian fundamentalists see his statements and leap that he was "one of them". Secular people see his "secular" activities and policy ideas and leap that he was "one of them". Both are erroneous, on opposite poles. If one accounts for Webster's statements on religion, and the worldview taught by that religion, it makes perfect sense to accept that his "secular" work was a logical extension of his expressed religious views. This seems the only way to reconcile the two. —Stephen Ewen (Talk) 04:34, 4 July 2007 (CDT)
- good points but I think the Wester of the 1780-1810 period was systematically secular. He deliberately rejected the old religious spellers. I reread his Speller (1810 edition--2 years after his conversion) and a God appears briefly to create and watch over the world; no mention of Jesus or Christianity. I will recheck later editions of the Speller. Richard Jensen 05:39, 4 July 2007 (CDT)
Quotations needing references
- "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."
- Rescue "our native tongue" from "the clamor of pedantry"
- "the same republican principles as American civil and ecclesiastical constitutions,"
- If the preceding two were from the Ellis, the reference needs to make that clear.
- "diffuse the principles of virtue and patriotism." "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."
- "Let sacred things be appropriated for sacred purposes,"
- "In this sense, Webster's speller replaced was the secular successor to The New England Primer with its explicitly biblical injunctions"
- "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 as the...." —as the what?