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William Augustus Muhlenberg

William Augustus Muhlenberg (1796-1877) is considered to be the father of the Episcopal Church School Movement in the United States. He was a Protestant Episcopal clergyman in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America [1]. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 16, 1796, and was a great-grandson of Henry Muhlenberg and grandson of Frederick Muhlenberg.



Muhlenberg graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1815. In 1817, he was ordained a deacon in the Protestant Episcopal Church, and became assistant to Bishop William White (1748-1836) in the rectorship of Christ Church, St. Peters and St. James', Philadelphia.

In 1820 he was ordained priest and until 1826 was rector of St. James' Church, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Largely owing to his efforts, Lancaster was the second public school district created in the state. His interest in church music and hymnody prompted his pamphlet of 1821, A Plea for Christian Hymns; he drew up for the use of his own parish a collection of Church Poetry (1823); and in 1823 be was appointed by the General Convention a member of the committee on psalms and hymns, whose collection, approved in 1826, contained several of Muhlenberg's own compositions, including I would not live alway, Shout the glad tidings, and Saviour, who thy flock art feeding.

Muhlenberg as a young man.

Founding of the Episcopal Church School Movement

From 1826 to 1845 he was rector of St. George's, Flushing, Long Island, where in 1827 he became headmaster of the Flushing Institute, probably the first Protestant Episcopal Church School in the United States. He founded a St. Paul's College, for which College Point, Queens is named, to include the institute, but the panic of 1837 and the refusal of a charter by the state legislature brought it to an end; and the property was sold a few years after Muhlenberg left Flushing.

Muhlenberg's Eight Educational Principles

Muhlenberg thought that education was too narrowly defined to its intellectual and physical aspects, while a moral education was sadly neglected. By "moral education", he meant both a religious education and a character education. He spelled his notions out in eight leading principles:

1) Moral Education must be based on Christianity. 2) The Bible must be the subject of systematic instruction. 3) Moral discipline should as far as possible be preventive. 4) Proper Physical Education is a powerful auxiliary to moral discipline. 5) Reproof and admonition should for the most part be administered in private. 6) Corrective discipline should be chosen and regulated with a view to implanting the principle. 7) Rewards, like punishments, should have reference to the cherishing of principle. 8) Moral government should be mild and affectionate, yet steady and uniform.

The final purpose, the desirable end of these maxims was, in Muhlenberg's words, "that the pupil must be made to perceive that the law of God is the law of the school."

Muhlenberg's Impact on Episcopalian Education

The methods of Muhlenberg's Flushing Institute were copied widely. In 1842 Muhlenberg participated directly in the establishment of Saint James Hall (later Saint James College and now Saint James School) near Hagerstown, Maryland. Muhlenberg considered this school to be an offspring of his St. Paul's College, and the first headmaster was the Rev. John B. Kerfoot, a former pupil and then Muhlenberg's Professor of Latin and Greek. Later, over the second half of the 19th Century other Episcopal Church Schools sprang up throughout the United States. Notable schools directly influenced by Muhlenberg were St. Paul's School, in Concord, New Hampshire, and the Groton School in Groton, Massachusetts, both established in accordance with his ideals.

Later Years

Photograph of Muhlenberg in old age.

In 1845 he removed to New York City, where in 1846 he became rector of the Church of the Holy Communion, a free church built by his sister, Mrs. Mary A. Rogers. Here Muhlenberg founded the first American order of Protestant Episcopal deaconesses, the Sisterhood of the Church of the Holy Communion, begun in 1845 and formally organized in 1852. The work of the sisterhood led to Muhlenberg's establishment of St. Luke's Hospital (opened in 1858), for which his congregation made offerings each St. Luke's Day after 1846. In 1866 he founded on Long Island the Church Industrial Community of St. Johnland. He bought 535 acres (mostly wooded), with a shore front of 1 1/2 m. on Long Island Sound, near Kings Park, to be a home for the aged and for young children, especially cripples. The plan was not reformatory nor purely charitable, and a moderate rent was charged for the cottages. In the St. Johnland cemetery is the grave of Dr. Muhlenberg, who died on 8 April 1877 in St. Luke's Hospital, New York City.

His ideal of the church was that it was missionary and evangelical as well as catholic with formal government and ritual; hence he called himself an evangelical Catholic and wrote the Evangelical Catholic Papers, which were collected and published by Anne Ayres in 1875-1877.


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Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

William Augustus Muhlenberg (17961877) was an American philanthropist and Protestant Episcopal clergyman, father of the Ritualist movement in Episcopal Church in the United States of America.


  • I would not live alway: I ask not to stay
    Where storm after storm rises dark o’er the way.
    • I would not live alway (published 1826), reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • That heavenly music! what is it I hear?
    The notes of the harpers ring sweet in mine ear.
    And, see, soft unfolding those portals of gold,
    The King all arrayed in his beauty behold!
    • I would not live alway (published 1826), reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

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