Conservatism/Liberalism Follow-up

05 February 2011

For grins, I went to Webster's 1828 dictionary to look up the words liberalism and conservatism after writing recent Word For Thought articles about them.  His 1828 dictionary is much more reflective of Webster's Christian character than modern dictionaries that carry his name.  I found these insights (the emphasis is mine):

Liberal (Liberalism was not present)

1. Of a free heart; free to give or bestow; not close or contracted; munificent; bountiful; generous; giving largely; as a liberal donor; the liberal founders of a college or hospital. It expresses less than profuse or extravagant.

2. Generous; ample; large; as a liberal donation; a liberal allowance.

3. Not selfish, narrow or contracted; catholic; enlarged; embracing other interests than one's own; as liberal sentiments or views; a liberal mind; liberal policy.

4. General; extensive; embracing literature and the sciences generally; as a liberal education. This phrase is often but not necessarily synonymous with collegiate; as a collegiate education.

5. Free; open; candid; as a liberal communication of thoughts.

6. Large; profuse; as a liberal discharge of matter by secretions or excretions.

7. Free; not literal or strict; as a liberal construction of law.

8. Not mean; not low in birth or mind.

9. Licentious; free to excess.

Liberal arts, as distinguished from mechanical arts, are such as depend more on the exertion of the mind than on the labor of the hands, and regard amusement, curiosity or intellectual improvement, rather than the necessity of subsistence, or manual skill. Such are grammar, rhetoric, painting, sculpture, architecture, music. &c.

Liberal has of before the thing bestowed, and to before the person or object on which any thing is bestowed; as, to be liberal of praise or censure; liberal to the poor.

Conservative (Conservatism was not present)

a. Preservative; having power to preserve in a safe or entire state, or from loss, waste or injury.

Notice that the political meanings so often used today were not present in Webster's definitions in 1828.   Generally speaking, Webster found the good in these words.  My how times change.

I thought these were interesting enough to share.



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