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The Constitution

The Constitution

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This category houses blog entries about the definitions of words as they were used at the time of the Founding, The purpose is to familiarize users with what certain words meant during the time of the Founding.

One of the most difficult issues in all of philosophy is how meaningless notations, such as sounds or physical marks (letters) acquire meaning and thereby become words that appear in a dictionary. The purpose of this category is not to address that issue but rather a more mundane one - to simply present the meanings of selected terms as they existed at the time of the Founding. By doing this we can assist the reader to get closer to what Jefferson's admonition in our Welcome message - to get as close as possible to the meaning intended at the Founding thru the words used by the Founders.

To do this we'll provide the definitions of the selected terms in this category as they appeared in Noah Webster's 1828 First Edition of An American Dictionary of the English Language.

In 1828, at the age of 70, Noah Webster published his American Dictionary of the English Language in two volumes containing 70,000 entries, as against the 58,000 of any previous dictionary. There were 98,000 copies printed, at only $.15 for the two volumes. At first, the book sold in huge proportions, but after raising the dictionary price to $15 the book sold poorly and all copies were not bound up at the same time; the book also appeared in publisher's boards; other original bindings of a later date are not unknown.

It's importance is that it is the most significant dictionary closest in time to the Founding of the United States.

We believe that readers will be surprised and entertained by this exercise, but, most importantly, gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the words of the Founding documents and what they meant at the time.

Note: There is a link on each definition to the same term as defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition which provides the most comprehensive definition of the term. As the OED definitions are very extensive, including historical examples of the word as used, these PDF files tend to be large files.


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Notable Quotes

Government has come to be a trade, and is managed solely on commercial principles. A man plunges into politics to make his fortune, and only cares that the world shall last his days.

Emerson, Letter to Thomas Carlyle, October 7, 1835

Founder's Quotes

The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; is their right and duty to be at all times armed.

Thomas Jefferson, 1824

Did You Know?

Jared Ingersoll (1749-1822), a signer of the Constitution from Pennsylvania, served as Attorney General of Pennsylvania from 1790 to 1799, and also as city solicitor of Philadelphia from 1789 to 1801. He ran as the vice presidential candidate under George Clinton in the election of 1812 against James Madison and Elbridge Gerry and lost. He then served as the presiding judge of the district court of Philadelphia from 1821 to 1822.

A Government of Laws...

Article V - Amendment Process - United States Constitution

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Term Limit Congress
Do you support a Constitutional amendment to term limit members of the Senate and House of Representatives?
Do you support a Constitutional amendment to term limit members of the Senate and House of Representatives?
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A Book You Should Read

The Bill of Rights: Original Meaning and Current Understanding, Eugene W. Hickock, Jr. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991)