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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

The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever...the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.

St. George Tucker, Blackstones Commentaries: With Notes and Rerence, (Philadelphia: Philip H. Nicklin, 1829), pp. 125-126

Founder's Quotes

It was painful for me, on a subject of such national importance, to differ from the respectable members who signed the Constitution: but conceiving, as I did, that the liberties of America were not secured by the system, it was my duty to oppose it.

Elbridge Gerry, 1787 (on his opposition to the Constitution)

Did You Know?

Daniel Jenifer of St. Thomas (1723-1790), a signer of the Constitution from Maryland, did not really take an active part in the development of the Constitution. He and the other delegate from Maryland oftentimes voted against each other. He did, however, campaign for the Constitution’s ratification and afterwards retired from public life.

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
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

Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America, Mark Levin, (Regnery Publishing, 2006)