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Constitutional Glossary

The Constitution was written in the English of its day. Given that English, unlike Latin, is a living language, the meaning of many words has evolved in the intervening 225 plus years. Accordingly, in order to understand to original intent of the Framers, one must appreciate the words as they meant at the time of their use. Our Constitutional Glossary provides a collection of words used in the Constitution and their definitions as compiled in Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the American Language (New York: Published by S. Converse and printed by Hezekiah Howe - New Haven)

Webster's 1828 dictionary is the closest contemprary dictionary to the time of the writing of the Constitution and, therefore, provides us the most accurate representation available of the Constitution's words and their meaning.

Note: This is not a 100% complete listing but rather an arbitrary selection of what we believe to be significant words. Additionally, it is a work in progress and will be expanded as time permits.

Go to the Constitutional Glossary

 

Notable Quotes

Johnson. Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it.

Boswell, Life of Johnson (1780)


Founder's Quotes

God grant, that not only the love of liberty, but a thorough knowledge of the Rights of Man, may pervade all the nations of the earth, so that a philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its surface and say, "This is my country."

Benjamin Franklin, letter to David Hartley, December 4, 1789.


Did You Know?

John Hancock was elected Governor of Massachusetts nine times.


A Government of Laws...

In the government of this Commonwealth, the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers, or either of them; the executive shall never exercise the legislative or judicial powers, or either of them; the judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them; to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men.

Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, A.D. 1780


Term Limit Congress
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A Book You Should Read

Why Government Is The Problem (Essays in Public Policy), Milton Friedman, (Hoover Institution Press, 1993)