"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be
disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe.
The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws
by the sword; because the whole body of the people are
armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands
of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised
in the United States. A military force, at the command
of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people
perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will
possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire
the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which
appears to them unjust and oppressive. " (Noah Webster,
"An Examination into the Leading Principles of
the Federal Constitution," 1787, a pamphlet aimed
at swaying Pennsylvania toward ratification, in Paul
Ford, ed., Pamphlets on the Constitution of the United
States, at 56 [New York, 1888])
Noah Webster was born on October 16, 1758, in the West
Division of Hartford. Noah's was an average colonial
family. His father farmed and worked as a weaver. His
mother worked at home. Noah and his two brothers, Charles
and Abraham, helped their father with the farm work.
Noah's sisters, Mercy and Jerusha, worked with their
mother to keep house and to make food and clothing for
Few people went to college, but Noah loved to learn
so his parents let him go to Yale, Connecticut's only
college. He left for New Haven in 1774, when he was
16. Noah's years at Yale coincided with the Revolutionary
War. Because New Haven had food shortages during this
time, many of Noah's classes were held in Glastonbury.
Noah graduated in 1778. He wanted to study law, but
his parents could not afford to give him more money
for school. So, in order to earn a living, Noah taught
school in Glastonbury, Hartford and West Hartford. Later
he studied law.
Noah did not like American schools. Sometimes 70 children
of all ages were crammed into one-room schoolhouses
with no desks, poor books, and untrained teachers. Their
books came from England. Noah thought that Americans
should learn from American books, so in 1783, Noah wrote
his own textbook: A Grammatical Institute of the
English Language. Most people called it the "Blue-backed
Speller" because of its blue cover.
For 100 years, Noah's book taught children how to read,
spell, and pronounce words. It was the most popular
American book of its time. Benjamin Franklin used Noah's
book to teach his granddaughter to read.
In 1789, Noah married Rebecca Greenleaf. They had eight
children. Noah carried raisins and candies in his pockets
for the children to enjoy. The Websters lived in New
Haven, then moved to Amherst, MA. There, Noah helped
to start Amherst College. Later the family moved back
to New Haven.
When Noah was 43, he started writing the first American
dictionary. He did this because Americans in different
parts of the country spelled, pronounced and used words
differently. He thought that all Americans should speak
the same way. He also thought that Americans should
not speak and spell just like the English.
Noah used American spellings like "color" instead of
the English "colour" and "music" instead " of "musick".
He also added American words that weren't in English
dictionaries like "skunk" and "squash." It took
him over 27 years to write his book. When finished in
1828, at the age of 70, Noah's dictionary had 70,000
words in it.
Noah Webster died in 1843. He worked for copyright laws,
wrote textbooks, Americanized the English language,
and edited magazines.
(The Noah Webster House Museum of West Hartford