The Bible in America

History From its founding in 1816, the American Bible Society has grappled with the task of making the Word of God available to Christians and churches in America. From its earliest days, it has worked to provide scriptures to the men, and later women of the military, to local and international bible societies, and to translate the Holy Bible to other languages used by peoples in the United States so that they could not only possess scripture, but could understand its importance in their own lives.

Leaders Starting with a leader of the American Revolution, Elias Boudinot, John Jay, first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and going right down to the most recent president Lamar Vest, The American Bible Society has always been led by “true believers” in the Bible cause.


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John Cotton Smith

President of the American Bible Society, 1831-1845

Church Affiliation: Congregational

Portrait of John Cotton Smith

State legislator (1793-1800), Congressman (1800-1806), and Governor (1813-1817) of Connecticut, John Cotton Smith served first as a Vice President of ABS before being selected as its president in 1831. He served until his death.

He was descended from famous Puritan ministers. His father, Cotton Mathers Smith, a Puritan minister, moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut and was pastor at Sharon for fifty years. Smith was proud of his Puritan roots and allowed religion to play a role in his governing. He would become the last Federalist to serve as Governor.

John Cotton Smith lead the American Bible Society at a period of enormous growth for the organization. According to the Bible Society Record, “The income from the first ten years had gradually increased from $35,000 to $54,000 and the distribution from 7,000 to 81,000 copies of God's Word. Then the second ten years closed, the receipts had arisen to $104,899 and the distributions to 221,000 copies. At the close of the third ten years (coinciding with Smith's death) the amount was $197,367 with a distribution of 483,870 copies... In 1816, when the Bible Society was founded, our population numbered about 8,500,000, and has since been augmented to 20,000,000. Abroad, too, the changes in the world's condition were not only numerous, but favourable to the Society's operations. On our own continent the power of Spain, with her bigoted policy, had come to an end, and many thousand Bibles and Testaments (in Spanish) had been circulated and sent to her emancipated colonies by the American Bible Society...Governor Smith, having been permitted to behold all these glorious triumphs of the Bible, and cheered by the animating prospects of future success, after a short illness closed his honourable, useful, and pious life and labours, at the good old age of eighty-one years, on the 7th of December, 1845.”

Black and White Portrait of John Cotton Smith

John Cotton Smith was born 12 February, 1765 in Sharon Connecticut. He graduated from Yale in 1783 and was admitted to the bar in 1786

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