Another famous man handed to the Right

Welcome to the ranks of the deplorables, Noah Webster.

In the century following the Revolutionary War, Webster’s American Spelling Bookbecame so ubiquitous in the newly formed United States—selling an estimated hundred million copies—that its sales were outpaced only by those of the Bible. “To diffuse an uniformity and purity of language in America, to destroy the provincial prejudices that originate in the trifling differences of dialect,” wrote Webster in the preface of the speller, “is the most ardent wish of the author.”

Webster hated the French with a passion and even started a daily newspaper in 1793 in part to combat French influence over the U.S. The American Minerva promoted a pro-Federalist and pro-American agenda while also documenting the atrocities carried out by the Jacobins. Following a speaking tour in the American South, he was horrified by the dialect of his countrymen, citing their pronunciation of common words as repugnant and criticizing their schoolrooms as disgraceful or nonexistent.

By the time Webster began writing his dictionary in the early 1800s, public interest in his vast linguistic project had waned, and so he found fresh energy from a new source: God. While working in his study in 1808, Webster said he spoke with God, falling to his knees and confessing his sins. From that day forward he was a devout Calvinist and a born-again Christian, and his understanding of the dictionary shifted to incorporate his newfound evangelism. He became convinced of the literal truth of the book of Genesis and the Tower of Babel, believing that all humans had spoken the same language at the beginning of time.

One might question whether Webster’s zeal for national uniformity was truly right-wing.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is that that’s how they’ve decided to portray it.

6 Responses

  1. One might question whether Webster’s zeal for national uniformity was truly right-wing. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that that’s how they’ve decided to portray it.

    I know next to nothing about the personal beliefs of Daniel Webster, but if upon further review I find out that he was a raving anti-Catholic Calvinist and loathed French Catholic counter-revolutionaries as equally as he detested the French Jacobins, I would say that matters quite a bit – especially on a blog named for Louis de Bonald.

  2. Being a raving anti-Catholic Calvinist wouldn’t hurt his Rightist credentials. Good right-wing authoritarians should abhor what they believe is religious error. It would certainly be a defect, Reaction-wise, if he thought no better of Catholic counter-revolutionaries than atheist revolutionaries.

    Most people are neither pure revolutionaries nor pure counter-revolutionaries. In the past, the Left’s strategy was to demoralize the Right by using this ambiguity in most people to claim all the “great men” for themselves. Now the strategy has switched, and they posthumously cast out those deem insufficiently pure. I think this will ultimately be good for morale on the Right, so I do what I can to give these efforts extra visibility.

  3. Must we really stretch ourselves to claim as allies all dead men hated by the Left? Are not the holy men and women raised to the altars – the Saints, Blesseds and Venerable Servants of God – more than enough?

    The reason the Left’s ‘canonization’ of great men of the past worked so well is that, for the most part, a lot of these men truly were the Leftists of their day – forerunners of our present Masters. Now that Current Year Leftism has embraced iconoclasm it hardly makes sense to try to claim their spurned secular saints for ourselves, anymore than it would have made sense for the Mohammedans to claim the Eastern Saints for themselves during the reign of Emperor Leo III the Isaurian.

  4. @donnie

    Agreed but it is enlightening to see how the Overton Window moves left and left, so even the leftists are considered right wing because they are not leftist enough. Bonald, I appreciate this kind of posts.

  5. Rectification of names is a core and vital reactionary project.

    _Uniformity_ of names to erase regional differences is a left wing project.

    Rectification of names tend to result in uniformity of names, but these two projects have different and opposed intents. Rectification of names preserves, rather than erasing, regional differences by rightly naming them.


    “Noah Webster’s History of the United States (1832) is distressingly typical of most U.S. history textbooks published before the Civil War. Webster, of dictionary fame, once told the black minister and abolitionist leader Amos G. Beman that “wooly haired Africans” have “no history, & there can be none.” Webster dismissed Africans as nonentities and elevated puritans, especially Connecticut puritans, to the level of founding fathers. His book made only passing mention of colonies (later states) below Mason-Dixon and completely ignored slavery. History, for Webster, was the record of his puritan forbearers, and no others. The standard of whiteness-in-history had been set.”

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