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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.



Category: Definitions

Government as defined in Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.

GOV'ERNMENT, n. Direction; regulation. These precepts will serve for the government of our conduct.

1. Control; restraint. Men are apt to neglect the government of their temper and passions.

2. The exercise of authority; direction and restraint exercised over the actions of men in communities, societies or states; the administration of public affairs, according to established constitution, laws and usages, or by arbitrary edicts. Prussia rose to importance under the government of Frederick II.

3. The exercise of authority by a parent or householder. Children are often ruined by a neglect of government in parents.
Let family government be like that of our heavenly Father, mild, gentle and affectionate.

4. The system of polity in a state; that form of fundamental rules and principles by which a nation or state is governed, or by which individual members of a body politic are to regulate their social actions; a constitution, either written or unwritten, by which the rights and duties of citizens and public officers are prescribed and defined; as a monarchial government, or a republican government.
Thirteen governments thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without the pretence of miracle or mystery, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.

5. An empire, kingdom or state; any territory over which the right of sovereignty is extended.

6. The right of governing or administering the laws. The king of England vested the government of Ireland in the lord lieutenant.

7. The persons or council which administer the laws of a kingdom or state; executive power.

8. Manageableness; compliance; obsequiousness.

9. Regularity of behavior. [Not in use.]

10. Management of the limbs or body. [Not in use.]

11. In grammar, the influence of a word in regard to construction,as when established usage required that one word should cause another to be in a particular case or mode.

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Notable Quotes

I have wondered at times about what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress.

Ronald Reagan

Founder's Quotes

In disquisitions of every kind there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasoning must depend.

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 31, January 1, 1788

Did You Know?

The members of the first Congress of the United States included 54 who were delegates to the Constitutional Convention or delegates to the various state-ratifying conventions. The number also included 7 delegates who opposed ratification.

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?
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A Book You Should Read

The 5000 Year Leap: The 28 Great Ideas That Changed The World, W. Cleon Skousen (National Center for Constitutional Studies, 1981)