Noah Porter was the editor of the 1864 Webster’s Dictionary. Curiously, he graduated from Yale in 1931 as a member of the infamous Order of the Skull and Bones. After graduation he was a Congregational minister (1836-1846) until becoming a professor of moral philosophy and metaphysics at Yale. He rose to be Yale president in 1871-a post he held until 1886. Porter died in 1891 at age 75 in New Haven, Conn.
In most cases, a dictionary is merely a compendium of word usage. We can expect words like table, chair, glass, tree and beaver-words devoid of political implications-to be defined in keeping with their common usage. However, Joel Rorie, a self-taught lexicographer, has uncovered what can only be described as a dictionary conspiracy.
Prior to 1864, there were two dictionaries that enjoyed equal marketshare in homes, classrooms and libraries, The Dictionary of the English Language (Joseph Worcester) and Webster’s Dictionary (Noah Webster). By 1830, Webster charged Worcester with plagiarism and that began what became known as the “Dictionary War.” The “war” lasted until Worcester’s death in 1865. Though the plagiarism charge was dismissed early in the “war,” subtle maneuvers indicating Webster had friends in high places gave Webster’s dictionaries distinct market placement advantages. By the time Worcester died at 81 years of age, Webster’s was “America’s dictionary.”
. . .
I now move to expound on what I’ve discovered, and enter into evidence these two dictionaries [Websters 1844 and 1864]. To begin with, words are very important in describing government; for instance, the definitions of Federal, Confederation, State, E Pluribus Unum, Congress, Alliance, Democracy and Union to speak of only a few. I will first brief you on each one, then select just a few quotes directly from the two dictionaries by way of comparison.
Federal was changed from denoting a confederacy to acquire a national meaning, Confederation remaining the same except for the second part: “The United States are sometimes called the Confederation.”
Hmm! Wonder why they left that out? State was changed from an Independent Political body to a national dependent (and later editions further reduced the states down to nothing but “territorial units”).
E Pluribus Unum (our motto) was changed from “One composed of many… many States confederated” to “One government formed of many States.”
Congress was changed from “The assembly of the Delegates of the Several States” to “The assembly of senators and representatives of the people of a nation.”
Alliance remained otherwise the same, but struck out had been that part stating, “A confederacy.”
Democracy was changed to mean the same as “a Republic,” and Union had acquired a new meaning, no longer “States United” but a consolidated, single body.
Now for the Quotes
Congress [from Webster’s 1844 edition (Retained until 1864)]: The assembly of delegates of the several British colonies in America, which united to resist the claims of Great Britain in 1774, and which, in 1776, declared the colonies independent. 3. The Assembly of the delegates of the several United States, after the declaration of independence, and until the adoption of the present constitution, and the organization of the government in 1789. During these periods, the congress consisted of one house only. 4. The assembly of senators and representatives of the United States of America, according to the present constitution or political compact, by which they are united in a “federal” republic; [“federal” meaning a confederacy; see below] the legislature of the United states consisting of two houses, a senate and a house of representatives. Members of the senate are elected for six years, but the members of the house of representatives are chosen for two years only. Hence, the united body of senators and representatives for the two years, during which they hold their seats, is called one congress. Thus we say the second session of the sixteenth congress [and have a clear understanding that the parties making up that Congress were delegates from their respective States to a “political compact” entered into by “the several United States” assembled in a “federal republic” (Note: All this was in the 1844 definition by Noah Webster).
Here we move to the 1864 edition…
Congress [post 1863]: 5. The assembly of senators and representatives of the people of a nation especially of a republic, for the purpose of enacting laws, and considering matters of a national interest, and constituting the chief legislative body of the nation [no longer “the several States,” but one nation and one citizenry instead of the independent Citizens of the several States].
E Pluribus Unum [pre 1864]: One composed of many; the motto of the United States, consisting of many States “confederated.”
E Pluribus Unum [post 1863]: One out of many; one composed of many; – the motto of the United States, as being one government formed of many independent States.
Federal [pre 1864]: 1. Pertaining to a league or contract; derived from an agreement or covenant between parties, particularly between nations. 2. Consisting in a compact between parties, particularly and chiefly between states or nations; founded on alliance by contract or mutual agreement; as a federal government, such as that of the United States.
Federal [post 1863]: 1. Pertaining to a league, contract, or treaty; derived from an agreement or covenant between parties, especially between nations; constituted by a compact between parties, usually governments or their representatives. 2. Specifically composed of states or districts which retain only a subordinate and limited sovereignty, as the Union of the United States, or the sonderbund of Switzerland; constituting or pertaining to such a government, as the Federal Constitution; a Federal officer; friendly or devoted to such a government.
About this time a second book-bearing cat dashed up, laying before me another dictionary that supported our findings with what the Merriam Webster Company had done. The newcomer wished to participate in the efforts of our group, as he too was fresh out of the bag bearing information of similar kind and believing it needed to be entered as corroborating evidence.
Since the emerging practice in America was to manufacture new definitions and let many natural meanings just pine away and out of existence, this cat bore proof of the whole process in a collection of dictionaries he had obtained while researching the issue. Bragging of his volumes he stated that, in 1864, absolutely no other dictionary in the world carried the same definitions as this edition above cited, while pointing out that even the Merriam Webster Company had, for 36 years, stuck with the original and true definitions, and only after the appearance of that corrupt edition did other dictionary companies follow the trend. “Yep!” Meowed the two cats together, “We are out of the bag.”
“May I see the one you have in your paw?” I asked. Turning to the word “Federal,” I read what this new company having just begun in 1890 had put in their 1895 edition. The book is titled “A Standard Dictionary of the English Language (1895).”
Federal: Of or pertaining to, or founded upon and organized by, a compact or act of union between separate sovereign states; as (1) by a league for common interest and defense as regards external relations, the internal sovereignty of each member remaining unimpaired, as the Hanseatic League or the Germanic Confederation; or (2) by a permanent act of a union founded on the consent of the people duly expressed, constituting a government supreme within the sphere of the powers granted to it by that act of union, as the United States of America. The constitution of the United States of America is of a very different nature from that of the Germanic Confederation. It is not merely a league of sovereign States for their common defence against external and internal violence, but a supreme federal government or compositive State acting not only upon the sovereign members of the Union, but directly upon all its citizens in their individual and corporate capacities. Wheaton Elements International Law section 52 p. 78…
From 1776 to 1789 the United States were a confederation; after 1789 it was a federal nation [note: in 1776 and 1789 the words confederal and federal were synonyms].
“Paw that 1930 New Gresham English Dictionary over to me?” I asked. Opening it to the word “federal,” there I read, FEDERAL: Fed’er-al, a. [Fr. federal, fr. L. foedus, foederis, a league or treaty, seen also in confederate; akin to fidus, faithful, fides, faith. FAITH] Pertaining to a League, covenant, or contract, particularly between states or nations; united in a federation; confederated; founded on alliance between several states which unite for national or general purposes, each state retaining control of its home affairs, civil and criminal law, &e. (a federal republic) – n. One who upholds federal government.
Note that this dictionary was not influenced by the Merriam Webster company but retained the true etymology as historically laid out by all the earlier lexicographers. There are others also that unfailingly stuck with the truth in America. For instance, as late as 1947, the Winston Dictionary College Edition states:
Fed-er-al: pertaining to, or of the nature of, a compact or union of sovereign states, which agree to delegate certain specific governmental powers to the new state or government thus formed; 2, of or pertaining to an agreement or alliance between sovereign states which, for certain purposes, agree to act together;
Federal, 1, designating, or pertaining to, the government of the United States as distinguished from that of any State; 2, during the American Civil War, favoring the North: Federal Reserve Bank, any one of twelve district banks established in the United States by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, to cooperate with the Federal Reserve Board in Washington in regulating and aiding the member banks of each respective district: Federal, n. during the American Civil War, a supporter of the North.
Notice the Federal Reserve Bank and the Federal Reserve board are mentioned here, but that is another cat and another bag.
Moving on to the Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, Federal : 1. archaic: of or relating to a compact or treaty; 2 a: formed by a compact between political units that surrender their individual sovereignty to a central authority but retain limited residuary powers of government; b: of or constituting a form of government in which power is distributed between a central authority and a number of constituent territorial units; c: of or relating to the central government of a federation as distinguished from the government of the constituent units.
Notice that the original meaning is given as “archaic,” a modern admission that the definition is still true, but has been archived. The difference between such an archived word and other terms relegated to obscurity (whatever they described having become disused, thus naturally fading from the language) is that “federal,” plus additional entries already mentioned, and here I’ll quote Mr. Cat, “have been arrested right out of common usage and detained without counsel into the ‘archaic’ vault by iconoclastic sophists, to be replaced at their whims with captious and fallacious utterances.”
Since the trend is now all “Porterized,” it’s unlikely that an American will find any modern dictionary sticking with the true meanings of these words. For instance, the New World Edition’s Federal : 1. of or formed by a compact; specifically designating or of a union of states, groups, etc. in which each member agrees to subordinate certain specified common affairs. 2. designating, of, or having to do with a central authority or government in such a union; specifically designating of, or having to do with the central government of the U.S. [Central authority?].
Federalize [pre 1864 Webster]: To unite in compact, as different states; to confederate for political purposes.
Compare that with the 1965 Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary:
Federalize [post 1863]: 1. to unite in or under a federal system 2. to bring under the jurisdiction of a federal government.
And then see the New World Edition:
Federalize : To unite (states, etc.) in a federal union. 2. To put under the authority of a federal government.
Federalized [pre 1864]: United in Compact.
Federalizing [pre 1864]: Confederating
Federate [pre 1864] Leagued; united by compact, as sovereignties, states or nations; joined in confederacy; as, federate nations or powers.
Federate [post 1863 (1978 New World Edition)]: to league together… United by common agreement under a central government or authority… to unite in a federation.
Federation [pre 1864]: The act of uniting in a league. 2. A league; a confederacy.
Federative [pre 1864]: Uniting: joining in a league; forming a confederacy. State [pre 1864]: 5. A political body, or body politic; the whole body of people united under one government, whatever may be the form of the government. More usually the word signifies a political body governed by representatives; a commonwealth; as, the states of Greece; the States of America….
State [Post 1863]: 9. In the United States, one of the commonwealths or bodies politic, the people of which make up the body of the nation, and which under the national constitution, stand in certain specified relations with the national government, and are invested, as commonwealths, with full power in their several spheres, over all matters not expressly inhibited. [Notice the emphases on “national government” and the term, “invested as,” note that each of them is a commonwealth; which meaning, by the way, of commonwealth, was also changed in the 1864 edition.]
State [1978 New World Edition]: …any of the territorial and political units that together constitute a federal government, as in the U.S. State [Webster’s 10th Collegiate Dictionary, 2001]: 7: One of the constituent units of a nation having a federal government
State-hood : The condition of being a state; esp: the status of being one of the states of the U.S. [note: the origin of this term was at that time when new State Constitutions were written by the Generals who held military forces over the defeated Constitutional States having tried to hang onto the original “Federal” Government. I should also add that those 1864 definitions would determine the political conditions in such new “States” no longer in possession of their formerly sovereign governments, each having become a “territorial unit,” the newly applied sophist definition of a State].
State right-er : one who advocates strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitutional guarantee of states’ rights. (See States’ Rights this edition).
Clues to the Conspiracy
You may want to note that the term, “State(s),” as in the organic Constitution, is something quite different from its altered application in the “14th Amendment” of 1868. And the word Congress-before all that “reconstruction” legerdemain-would also have gained another meaning, in this so-called amendment, from what it had in the Constitution’s main body, i.e., if we are to believe that revised dictionary of 1864.
A historical brief ought to be prepared to help us understand the lexicographer behind those many falsified definitions, that we might determine whether or not Porter made such changes properly and legitimately. Porter worked with Merriam Webster Company from the start, when they bought out the rights to continue Noah Webster’s works after the latter had died in 1843.
Looking at all dictionaries from 1847 (the first Merriam Webster edition), and taking into account the fact that Noah Porter was on the staff maintaining former definitions as laid out by Noah Webster-even through the 1863 version with no changes whatsoever until 1864-we see that the argument over States rights had peaked, and tyranny-minded men at that time were left with no other means of winning but by the sword and pistol.
Since Noah Webster, in all of his efforts to define these key words having to do with understanding our government, maintained that we had a confederation, no editing was called for. Everyone except those lusting for inordinate power considered the States sovereign-separate entities administered by their respective governments and duly authorized to maintain themselves thus. The “delegated” (delegated was also a word changed in the 1864 edition) “Congress” was a body of representatives beholden to these States, and therefore not a nation.
We should also take note that when such words were falsified, Noah Porter and the Merriam Webster Company stood alone in the whole English-speaking world as to these new meanings. All lexicographers including Samuel Johnson, Boags, Walker and even Joseph Worcester maintained that “Federal” meant a league or compact (Compact was also changed) and, therefore, a confederacy.
Noah Webster and the entire realm of lexicography, along with Porter, had been in agreement on the definition of “Federal.’ But, in 1864, Noah Porter and the Merriam Webster company sent the people of the United States into an obscurity of meanings and concepts.
The Final Clue
Although a book could be written on this subject, I offer but one final item for consideration here which, rather than my conclusion, is more of a question. “Why did the 1864 ‘American edition’ make these changes while the same staff left alone the previous definitions and did not alter them in the “London edition published the same year?”
Yes, that’s right, the “American edition” alone had been reconstructed; London and all of the other English-speaking countries received their 1864 editions with the proper definitions intact, though both the American and the London compilations came from the same staff. Not until 1877 was England presented with the false definitions.
So, if you like what you’ve learned here, next time you see a cat, treat it well and open that big can of tuna; rub him on top of the head as he purrs his way through it, for one never knows if it’s a cat-out-of-the-bag or just another scaredy-cat.
Oh! And here comes Detective Felix just now, toting a bag labeled “Socialism and the 80th Congress.” More clues.
Written by Joseph Rorie for The Idaho Observer ~ December 1995