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tion. The enterprising merchant, the thriving tradesman, the careful farmer, will be engrossed by the toils of their business, and will have little time or inclination for the unprofitable and disquieting pursuits of politics." It is not the industrious, sober husbandman who will plough that barren field: it is the lazy and dissolute bankrupt, who has no other to plough. The idle, the ambitious, and the needy will band together to break the hold that law has upon them, and then to get hold of law. Faction is a Hercules, whose first labor is to strangle this lion, and then to make armour of his skin. In every democratic state, the ruling faction will have law to keep down its enemies, but it will arrogate to itself an undisputed power over law.
NOAH WEBSTER, 1758–1843.
Noah WebstER was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, on the 16th of October, 1758, and graduated with much reputation at Yale College in 1778. He then engaged in the instruction of a school at Hartford, studying law at the same time, and was admitted to the bar in 1781. Not being encouraged to enter immediately on the practice of his profession, in consequence of the impoverished state of the country, he took charge of a grammar-school at Goshen, in the State of New York. Here he compiled his celebrated Spelling-Book, which he published on his return to Hartford in 1783; and soon after appeared his English Grammar, and a compilation for reading. All these works, particularly the Spelling-Book, have had
! It is a sad truth that many of our best citizens in all parts of the country live in the constant neglect of their political duties. They are eloquent upon the evils of misgovernment, and yet forget that they are accountable for a large share of the mischiefs by which they suffer in common with the whole country. There is no reason why, in a republican country, political contact should be repulsive, except in the very fact that those whose character would give respectability to our elections choose to stay away, and thus create the very difficulty of which they are so sensitive. Men may talk of ignoring politics, but in reality they cannot do it. The happiness and prosperity of the nation depend in a great degree upon the manner in which its government is administered, the laws which its corporations or legislatures enact, and the manner in which those laws are enforced. No man has any right to complain of bad rulers, municipal, state, or national, if he has done nothing to put better ones in their place. The refusal of men to take a few hours in the year from their daily business and give them to public interests, by attending the primary meetings where candidates are nominated for office, and then by going to the polls and voting for good men, is probably what Mr. Ames refers to when he says that our countrymen “are too sordid for patriotism.” (See Note 3, p. 131.) Of all countries in the world, ours, where every thing dopends on the popular will, is the least adapted to men who are indifferent to politics; for if the wise and the good neglect their political duties, the country will be ruled by the ignorant and the base.
a very wide circulation, and have done much to promote uniformity of language and pronunciation in our country. About this time he became a political writer, and his Sketches of American Policy, published in 1784; his writings in favor of the adoption of the Federal Constitution; in defence of Washington's proclamation of neutrality, and of “Jay's Treaty,” had great influence on public opinion, and were highly appreciated. In 1793, he established a daily paper in New York, devoted to the support of General Washington's administration,--a paper still published under the title of the Commercial Advertiser. In 1789, he was married to a daughter of William Greenleaf, Esq., of Boston. Mr. Webster removed to New Haven in 1798, and in 1807 entered upon the great business of his life, the compilation of The American Dictionary of the English Language. This work, which he was twenty years in completing, amidst various difficulties and discouragements, contains twelve thousand words, and between thirty and forty thousand definitions, are not contained in any preceding work. In the beauty, conciseness, and accuracy of its definitions, and in the department of etymology, it is superior to all other English dictionaries. The learning and ability with which he prosecuted the abstruse and difficult etymological investigations were generally acknowledged, both at home and abroad, and have laid the foundation of a wide-spread and enduring reputation. The last forty years of his life Mr. Webster devoted to literary pursuits, with an ardor rarely seen in any country, and especially in this. His study was his home, his books and pen his constant companions, and his knowledge, to the last, was constantly on the increase. After a short illness, with his faculties unimpaired, in the cheerful retrospect of a life of happy and useful employment, and with the fullest consolations of religion, he expired at New Haven on the 28th of May, 1843, in the eighty-fifth year of his age.” “It may be said that the name of No Ah WEBstER, from the wide circulation of some of his works, is known familiarly to a greater number of the inhabitants of the United States than the name, probably, of any other individual except the FAther of his Country. Whatever influence he thus acquired was used at all times to promote the best interests of his fellow-men. His books, though read by millions, have made no man worse. To multitudes they have been of lasting benefit, not only by the course of early training they have furnished, but by those precepts of wisdom and virtue with which almost every page is stored.”
1 His series of papers in support of Jay's Treaty were signed CURTIrs. * Mr. Webster's other publications were, Effects of Slavery on Morals and Industry, 1793; a collection of Papers on Political, Literary, and Moral Subjects, 1790, republished 1843; A Manual of Useful Studies, 1832; a work on Postilential Diseases, 1790; A Treatise on the Rights of Neutral Nations in War, 1802. “It has been said, and with much truth, that he has held communion with more minds than any other author of modern times. His learning, his assiduity, his piety, his patriotism, were the groundwork of these successful and beneficent labors.”—Goodrich's Recollections. * From the “Memoir” prefixed to his quarto Dictionary, by Rev. Chauncey A. Goodrich, D.D. It is at length announced that the great and long-promised Dictionary of that learned and veteran lexicographer, J. E. Worcester, LL.D., will be ready in October, 1859. It will be embellished with pictorial illustrations, and, as a whole, will, in fulness, in consistent orthography, and in correct orthotopy, be in advance, doubtless, of any thing of the kind we now have.
THE HART FORD CONVENTION.
Few transactions of the federalists, during the early periods of our government, excited so much the angry passions of their opposers as the Hartford Convention—so called—during the presidency of Mr. Madison. As I was present at the first meeting of the gentlemen who suggested such a convention; as I was a member of the House of Representatives in Massachusetts when the resolve was passed for appointing the delegates, and advocated that resolve; and further, as I have copies of the documents, which no other person may have preserved, it seems to be incumbent on me to present to the public the real facts in regard to the origin of the measure, which have been vilely falsified and misrepresented. After the War of 1812 had continued two years, our public affairs were reduced to a deplorable condition. The troops of the United States, intended for defending the seacoast, had been withdrawn to carry on the war in Canada; a British squadron was stationed in the Sound to prevent the escape of a frigate from the harbor of New London, and to intercept our coasting trade; one town in Maine was in possession of the British forces; the banks south of New England had all suspended the payment of specie; our shipping lay in our harbors, embargoed, dismantled, and perishing; the treasury of the United States was exhausted to the last cent; and a general gloom was spread over the country. In this condition of affairs, a number of gentlemen in Northampton, in Massachusetts, after consultation, determined to invite some of the principal inhabitants of the three counties on the river, formerly composing the old county of Hampshire, to meet and consider whether any measure could be taken to arrest the continuance of the war, and provide for the public safety. Many town meetings were held, and with great unanimity addresses and memorials were transmitted to the General Court then in session; but, as commissioners had been sent to Europe for the purpose of negotiating a treaty of peace, it was judged advisable not to have any action upon them till the result of the negotiation should be known. But during the following summer no news of peace arrived; and, the distresses of the country increasing, and the seacoast remaining defenceless, Governor Strong summoned a special meeting of the legislature in October, in which the petitions of the towns were taken into consideration, and a resolve was passed appointing delegates to a convention to be held in Hartford. The subsequent history of that convention is known by their report. The measure of resorting to a convention for the purpose of arresting the evils of a bad administration, roused the jealousy of the advocates of the war, and called forth the bitterest invectives The convention was represented as a treasonable combination, originating in Boston, for the purpose of dissolving the Union. But citizens of Boston had no concern in originating the proposal for a convention; it was wholly the project of the people in old Hampshire county,+as respectable and patriotic republicans as ever trod the soil of a free country. The citizens who first assembled in Northampton, convened under the authority of the Bill of Rights, which declares that the people have a right to meet in a so manner and consult for the public safety. The citizens ad the same right then to meet in convention as they have now; the distresses of the country demanded extraordinary measures for redress; the thought of dissolving the Union never entered into the head of any of the projectors, or of the members of the Convention; the gentlemen who composed it, for talents and patriotism, have never been surpassed by any assembly in the United States; and beyond a question the appointment of the Hartford Convention had a very favorable effect in hastening the conclusion of a treaty of peace. All the reports which have been circulated respecting the evil designs of that Convention I know to be the foulest misrepresentations. Indeed, respecting the views of the disciples of Washington and the supporters of his policy, many, and probably most, of the people of the United States in this generation, are made to believe far more falsehood than truth. I speak of facts within my own personal knowledge. We may well say, with the prophet, “Truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.” Party spirit produces an unwholesome zeal to depreciate one class of men for the purpose of exalting another. It becomes rampant in propagating slander, which engenders contempt for personal worth and superior excellence; it blunts the sensibility of men to injured reputation; impairs a sense of honor; banishes the charities of life; debases the moral sense of the community; weakens the motives that prompt men to aim at high attainments and patriotic achievements; degrades national character, and exposes it to the scorn of the civilized world.
ORIGIN OF LANGUAGE.
We read in the Scriptures, that God, when he had created man, “blessed them; and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea,” &c. God afterward planted a garden, and placed in it the man he had made, with a command to keep it, and to dress it; and he gave him a rule of moral conduct, in permitting him to eat the fruit of every tree in the garden, except one,
the eating of which was prohibited. We further read, that God brought to Adam the fowls and beasts he had made, and that Adam gave them names; and that when his female companion was made, he gave her a name. After the eating of the forbidden fruit, it is stated that God addressed Adam and Eve, reproving them for their disobedience, and pronouncing the penalties which they had incurred. In the account of these transactions, it is further related that Adam and Eve both replied to their Maker, and excused their disobedience.
If we admit, what is the literal and obvious interpretation of this narrative, that vocal sounds or words were used in these communications between God and the progenitors of the human race, it results that Adam was not only endowed with intellect for understanding his Maker, or the signification of words, but was furnished both with the faculty of speech and with speech itself, or the knowledge and use of words as signs of ideas, and this before the formation of the woman. Hence we may infer that language was bestowed on Adam, in the same manner as all his other faculties and knowledge, by supernatural power; or, in other words, was of divine origin: for supposing Adam to have had all the intellectual powers of any adult individual of the species who has since lived, we cannot admit as probable, or even possible, that he should have invented and constructed even a barren language, as soon as he was created, without supernatural aid. It may indeed be doubted whether, without such aid, men would ever have learned the use of the organs of speech, so far as to form a language. At any rate, the invention of words and the construction of a language must have been by a slow process, and must have required a much longer time than that which passed between the creation of Adam and of Eve. It is therefore probable' that language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God. We are not, however, to suppose the language of our first parents in paradise to have been copious, like most modern languages, or the identical language they used to be now in existence. Many of the primitive radical words may, and probably do, exist in various languages; but observation teaches that languages must improve and undergo great changes as knowledge increases, and be subject to continual alterations, from other causes incident to men in society.
Preface to Dictionary.
* Not only “probably,” but, to my apprehension, undoubtedly true; for to suppose that man without language taught himself to speak, seems to me as absurd as it would be to suppose that without legs he could teach himself to walk. Language, therefore, must have been the immediate gift of God.