North American Scholar

ALEXANDER, Caleb

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1775-07-22
  • Born City: Norfhfield
  • Born State/Country: MA
  • Parents: Simeon A. & wife.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1828-04-12
  • Death City: Onondaga
  • Death State/Country: NY
  • Married: Lucina Strong, 1779.
  • Education:

    Study at Dartmouth; B.A. Yale, 1777; A.M. (hon.) Rhode Island Coll., 1789.

  • Professional Experience:

    Pastorates at New Marlboro, MA, 1778-82; Harwinton, CT, 1782-3, Mendon, MA, 1783-1802; founded school at Fairfield, NY, 1802-12; founded Onondaga Hollow Acad., 1812-6; theol. seminaries at Onondaga, 1816 & Auburn, NY, 1821.

  • Publications:

    A Grammatical System of the English Language (Boston, 1792); Grammatical Elements or Theory of English Grammar (Boston, 1793); An Introduction to the Speaking and Writing of the English Language (Boston, 1794); A Grammatical Institute of the Latin Language (Worcester, MA, 1794); A New Introduction to the Latin Language (Worcester, MA, 1795); A Grammatical System of the Grecian Language (Worcester, MA, 1796); The Works of Virgil Translated into Literal English Prose (Worcester, MA, 1796); The Young Gentlemen and Ladies' Instructor . . . (Boston, 1797); The Young Ladies' and Gentlemen's Spelling Book (Providence, 1797); New Testament in Greek (Wigorniae, 1800); A New and Complete System of Arithmetic (Albany, 1802); The Columbian Dictionary of the English Language (Boston, 1800).

  • Notes:

    Alexander's career as preacher, teacher, textbook writer, missionary, and educational founder gave strong support to the nationalistic movement in American life and literature. He has more "firsts" to his credit than possibly any other American classical scholar, but is probably one of the least known. He was the first American to write a Latin textbook in English that combined the "Accidence" with "Rules of Grammar" along with illustrative examples and sentences. He was the first to write two Latin textbooks to be studied in sequence; to translate all of Virgil into English prose; to write and publish a Greek grammar in English; to edit and publish the New Testament in Greek as well as a large English dictionary. In addition, he wrote and published five grammatical works in English, a system of arithmetic, and numerous opera minora consisting of sermons, Biblical essays, and one scientific paper.During the period between 1802 and 1812 he took a leading role in developing an academy in Clinton, NY, that became Hamilton College. In recognition of his services and of his educational qualifications, the trustees unanimously elected him president of the college. In a letter of 22 July 1812, his 57th birthday, he regretted that personal considerations forced him to decline the honor.

  • Sources:

    Onondaga Register (12 Apr. 1828); "Caleb Alexander," Annals of the American Pulpit, ed. W. B. Sprague (New York, 1858) 3:405-8; Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Yale College, ed. Franklin B. Dexter (New York, 1903) 3:644-9; A Documentary History of Hamilton College (Clinton, NY, 1922) 120-1; three letters to the author dated 11 Nov. 1949, 26 Jan. 1950, and 12 Mar. 1950 by Carew Sheldon & Miss Marion C. Sheldon of Buffalo, NY; John Francis Latimer, "American Classical Scholarship and Caleb Alexander," TAPA 80 (1949) 403-22.

  • Author: John Francis Latimer