Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Two Faces of Noah Webster:

Sometime late in his life in the 19th Century, Noah Webster, probably disenchanted with the mess of the French Revolution, became a pious Christian and promoted "Christian America" like ideas. For instance, as he wrote in 1832:

Our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New testament, or, the Christian religion.

But in an earlier era -- when the Constitution was being written and ratified -- Webster was a fervent Enlightenment rationalist who supported the French Revolution. And he argued the United States was not just founded on reason, but was an empire of reason.

Of all the memorable eras that have marked the progress of men from the savage state to the refinements of luxury, that which has combined them into society, under a wise system of government, and given form to a nation, has ever been recorded and celebrated as the most important. Legislators have ever been deemed the greatest benefactors of mankind—respected when living, and often deified after their death. Hence the fame of Fohi and Confucius—of Moses, Solon and Lycurgus—of Romulus and Numa—of Alfred, Peter the Great, and Mango Capac; whose names will be celebrated through all ages, for framing and improving constitutions of government, which introduced order into society and secured the benefits of law to millions of the human race.

This western world now beholds an era important beyond conception, and which posterity will number with the age of Czar of Muscovy, and with the promulgation of the Jewish laws at Mount Sinai. The names of those men who have digested a system of constitutions for the American empire, will be enrolled with those of Zamolxis and Odin, and celebrated by posterity with the honors which less enlightened nations have paid to the fabled demi-gods of antiquity.

But the origin of the AMERICAN REPUBLIC is distinguished by peculiar circumstances. Other nations have been driven together by fear and necessity—the governments have generally been the result of a single man’s observations; or the offspring of particular interests. IN the formation of our constitution, the wisdom of all ages is collected—the legislators of antiquity are consulted—as well as the opinions and interests of the millions who are concerned. In short, in it an empire of reason.

1 comment:

Our Founding Truth said...

In all free governments, that is, in all countries, where laws govern, and not men, the supreme magistrate should have it in his power to execute any law...That state which commands the heaviest purse and longest sword, may at any moment, lay its weaker neighbor under tribute; and there is no superior power now existing, that can regularly oppose the invasion or redress the injury. From such liberty, O Lord, deliver us!... Their constituents have the same, and if every objection must be removed, before we have a national government, the Lord have mercy on us.
Noah Webster October 17, 1787. "An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution

Doesn't sound like a rationalist to me. Just because a guy mentions reason as an authority doesn't mean he means its superior to God's Word.