Samuel F. B. Morse, the painter-scientist, is the Morse family member best known to generalists. But even though he and his two brothers all attended P.A., it is their father, Jedidiah, who figures most prominently in the history of Andover, Andover Theological Seminary, and, as a result, American missionary work. Appropriately, Jedidiah was a geographer. He had the whole world in his head, if not in his hands, and he intended it to be conquered for Christ.
As the American Revolutionary War ended, Jedidiah was graduated from Yale with the class of 1783, after which he pursued theological studies with Jonathan Edwards Jr., son of the famous one. The young grad also continued with his “Day School" for "Young Misses" in New Haven, an enterprise he had started to finance his final year of college.  There, struggling to teach them geography without a textbook, he created his own in manuscript form, which the students copied out. Enlarged and printed in 1784, this document became his Geography Made Easy, acknowledged to be the first geography textbook printed in America. In 1789 he published a second book, American Geography. After Yale adopted it, his reputation was made. Years later, S.F.B. Morse, who friends and family called by his second name, Finley, was nicknamed “Geography” at Yale. All this is despite the fact that Jedidiah, the "Father of American Geography," essentially copied William Guthrie’s Geographical Grammar (1770) “almost in toto for his information on the non-American world” and "drew heavily” on John Pinkerton’s Modern Geography (1802) for later editions. 
In any case, the young Jedidiah had other ambitions. In 1786, he made a first foray into political activism, debating David Daggett, a New Haven attorney, on the question of whether sumptuary laws ought to be revived in the United States. Morse, who still powered his hair and dressed in the old-fashioned way, in knee breeches, silver-buckled shoes, and "odd gloves with the fingers cut off"  -- argued the affirmative side, and his position was printed along with Daggett's in the New Haven Gazette, and the Connecticut Magazine.  Three years later, he realized another of his goals: he took a pulpit, in Charlestown (now part of Boston). The Revolution had left ministers in a precarious position, however. He would not enjoy the prestige of Andover's Reverend Phillips. Men of the cloth were no longer considered to be the sole arbitrators of morality; nor were they going to be supported by taxes any longer. In the name of individual liberty, all laws protective of religious institutions were being abolished, giving people the freedom to go to the church one's choice or not to go to church at all.
The dangers of religious pluralism were dramatized by one of our first American novelists, Charles Brockden Brown, whose first novel, Wieland (1798) is narrated by Clara Wieland, sister of Theodore Wieland, a deranged, doomed religious fanatic. In Clara's view, the roots of Theodore's problem lay with their father, who had devised his own religion and let his children do the same: “Our education had been modeled by no religious standard," she writes a friend in this epistolary fiction. "We were left to the guidance of our own understanding, and the casual impressions which society might make upon us… It must not be supposed that we were without religion, but with us it was the product of lively feelings, excited by reflection on our own happiness, and by the grandeur of external nature. We sought not a basis for our faith, in the weighing of proofs, and the dissection of creeds.”  The novel's other dramatized concern was America's abandonment of religion altogether, leading Brown to cast Theodore Wieland as a domestic missionary, one who “had imbibed an opinion that it was his duty to disseminate the truths of the gospel among the unbelieving nation."  His efforts came to little: “His exhortations had sometimes a temporary power, but more frequently were repelled with insult and derision." He didn't blame himself, however. "The license of savage passion, and the artifices of his depraved countrymen, all opposed themselves to his progress.” 
1. W.S., “The Family Papers of Jedidiah Morse,” The Yale University Library Gazette, Vol. 10, No. 3, January 1936, 52.
2. See James A. Field, "Near East Notes and Far East Queries," in The Missionary Enterprise in China and America, edited by John K. Fairbank (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974), 29 .
3. Richard J. Moss, The Life of Jedidiah Morse: A Station of Peculiar Exposure (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1995), ix.
4. Moss, 29. f.n. 32. New Haven Gazette, and the Connecticut Magazine, October 5, 12, 1786. The debate took place Sept. 13 , 1786.
5. Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland; or, The Transformation; edited with an introduction by Fred Lewis Pattee (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1926), 22. The first edition was published in 1798 in New York by H. Caritat.
6. Brown, 10.
7. Ibid., 12.