American Lexicographer, Textbook Pioneer, English Spelling Reformer, Political Writer, Editor and Author
Noah Webster, fully Noah Webster, Jr.
American Lexicographer, Textbook Pioneer, English Spelling Reformer, Political Writer, Editor and Author
Tyranny is the exercise of some power over a man, which is not warranted by law, or necessary for the public safety. A people can never be deprived of their liberties, while they retain in their own hands, a power sufficient to any other power in the state.
The Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government... and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence.
Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of her honor.
The cultivation of the religious sentiment represses licentiousness?inspires respect for law and order, and gives strength to the whole social fabric.
When a citizen gives his suffrage [his vote] to a man of known immorality he abuses his trust [civic responsibility]; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor; he betrays the interest of his country.
In democracy ... there are commonly tumults and disorders... Therefore a pure democracy is generally a very bad government. It is often the most tyrannical government on earth.
In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed... No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.
In the lapse of two or three centuries, changes have taken place which in particular passages ... obscure the sense of the original languages... The effect of these changes is that some words are ... being now used in a sense different from that which they had ... [and thus] present wrong signification or false ideas. Whenever words are understood in a sense different from that which they had when introduced? mistakes may be very injurious.
It is alleged... that religion and morality are not necessary or important qualifications for political stations. But the scriptures teach a different doctrine. They Direct that rulers should be men who rule in the fear of God, able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness.
It is the sincere desire of the writer that our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the bible, particularly the New Testament or the Christian religion.
A pure democracy is generally a very bad government, It is often the most tyrannical government on earth; for a multitude is often rash, and will not hear reason.
All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.
Another source of power in government is a military force. But this, to be efficient, must be superior to any force that exists among the people, or which they can command; for otherwise this force would be annihilated, on the first exercise of acts of oppression. Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealous will instantly inspire the inclination to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive
Being educated in a religious family under pious parents, I had in early life some religious impressions, but being too young to understand fully the doctrines of the Christian religion, and falling into vicious company at college, I lost those impressions... [I] fell into the common mistake of attending to the duties which man owes to man before I had learned the duties which we all owe to our Creator and Redeemer... I sheltered myself as well as I could from the attacks of conscience for neglect of duty under a species of skepticism, and endeavored to satisfy my mind that a profession of religion is not absolutely necessary to salvation. In this state of mind I placed great reliance on good works or the performance of moral duties as the means of salvation... About a year ago, an unusual revival of religion took place in New Haven... and [I] was led by a spontaneous impulse to repentance, prayer, and entire submission and surrender of myself to my Maker and redeemer... I now began to understand and relish many parts of the Scriptures which before appeared mysterious and unintelligible, or repugnant to my natural pride... In short, my view of the Scriptures, of religion, of the whole Christian scheme of salvation, and of God?s moral government are very much changed, and my heart yields with delight and confidence to whatever appears to be the Divine will... In the month of April last I made a profession of faith.
But what is tyranny? Or how can a free people be deprived of their liberties? Tyranny is the exercise of some power over a man, which is not warranted by law, or necessary for the public safety. A people can never be deprived of their liberties, while they retain in their own hands, a power sufficient to any other power in the state.
But while property is considered as the basis of the freedom of the American yeomanry, there are other auxiliary supports; among which is the information of the people. In no country, is education so general--in no country, have the body of the people such a knowledge of the rights of men and the principles of government. This knowledge, joined with a keep sense of liberty and a watchful jealousy, will guard our constitutions, and awaken the people to an instantaneous resistance of encroachments.
Corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded.
Dancing is an excellent amusement for young people, especially for those of sedentary occupations. Its excellence consists in exciting a cheerfulness of the mind, highly essential to health; in bracing the muscles of the body, and in producing copious perspiration.....The body must perspire, or must be out of order.
The principles of genuine liberty, and of wise laws and administrations, are to be drawn from the Bible and sustained by its authority. The man, therefore, who weakens or destroys the divine authority of that Book may be accessory to all the public disorders which society is doomed to suffer.
The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities; and for this reason, the heart should be cultivated with more assiduity than the head.
It is an object of vast magnitude that systems of education should be adopted and pursued which may not only diffuse a knowledge of the sciences but may implant in the minds of the American youth the principles of virtue and of liberty and inspire them with just and liberal ideas of government and with an inviolable attachment to their own country.
Such are the mistakes of reformers; and such have been the illusions of the enthusiastic friends of the revolution. Their imagination has been warmed with the belief, that the sequestered position of America, would exempt her citizens from the troubles which harrass Europe; that a general diffusion of knowledge, and superior attainments in policy, would enable them to form constitutions of government, less defective than any which have preceded them; and that their public virtue would secure a faithful, uncorrupt, and impartial administration. Whenever a doubt has been suggested, respecting the duration of a free republic, it has been repelled by one general answer, that the system of representation, supposed to be a modern improvement in free constitutions, is calculated effectually to obviate the evils which other states have experienced, from legislatures consisting of popular assemblies.
It is worthy of observation, that nations sometimes begin their political existence, as young men begin the world, with more courage than foresight, and more enthusiasm than correct judgment. Unacquainted with the perils that await their progress, or disdaining the maxims of experience, and confident of their own powers, they expect to attain to supereminent greatness and prosperity, by means which other nations have found ineffectual, and bid defiance to calamities by which others have been overwhelmed . . . Nations, like individuals, may be misled by an ardent enthusiasm, which allures them from the standard of practical wisdom, and commits them to the guidance of visionary projectors. By fondly cherishing the opinion that they enjoy some superior advantages of knowledge, or local situation, the rulers of a state may lose the benefit of history and observation, the surest guides in political affairs; and delude themselves with the belief, that they have wisdom to elude or power to surmount the obstacles which have baffled the exertions of their predecessors.
Experience is the best instructor—it is better than a thousand theories. The history of every government on earth affords proof of the utility of different branches in a legislature. But I appeal only to our own experience in America. To what cause can we ascribe the absurd measures of Congress, in times past, and the speedy recision of whole measures, but to the want of some check? I feel the most profound deference for that honorable body, and perfect respect for their opinions; but some of their steps betray a great want of consideration—a defect, which perhaps nothing can remedy, but a division of their deliberations.
But men are ever running into extremes. The passions, after a violent constraint, are apt to run into licentiousness; and even the reason of men, who have experienced evils from the defects of a government, will sometimes coolly condemn the whole system.