Noah Webster's Letter
to "President" Clinton
Noah Webster writing President Clinton? Well, not exactly. But in 1801 Noah Webster did write a letter on the Presidency which, when read today, certainly seems to most readers to be directed at the Presidency of Bill Clinton. See what you think.
(Noah Webster, authored the first American dictionary, and served as a soldier in the American Revolution and as a legislator in Massachusetts following the Revolution. He was one of the first Americans to call for the Constitutional Convention, was responsible for the copyright and patent protection clause in Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 8 of the Constitution, and was a leader in securing the ratification of the Constitution. Webster helped found Amherst College, was a leading textbook writer, and is titled "Schoolmaster to America" for helping set American education on a sound footing. He was born in 1758 and died in 1843.)
Noah Webster's Observations on the President's Views of Morality
Is it possible that you have adopted the opinion . . . that integrity in private life has no manner of connection with political character? . . . This opinion is now openly and unblushingly defended by a large proportion of your supporters.
Whatever may be the fact in regard to your opinions, of your practice the citizens of the United States must of right be competent judges. It is an unquestionable fact that in selecting men for the Executive offices of government, you have had no regard to their moral characters, nor to the estimation in which they are held by the moral and respectable part of their fellow-citizens. You have taken as your confidential advisers, and appointed to important places of trust, men who openly revile and hold in contempt the religious institutions of their country - men who openly blaspheme the name and attributes of God and Jesus Christ men who live in the habitual indulgence of the most detestable vices, as adultery and lewdness - men of desperate fortunes and suspected integrity - men who violate the laws and destroy the peace of their families by these and other atrocious crimes - men who aim to destroy the first and most essential duties of life by publicly reviling the ordinance of marriage and its consequent duties. In this practice, you have departed from the maxims which all nations have heretofore held sacred and opened a wide door for the entrance of every species of corruption and disorder in the Executive departments. . . .
However lightly you may think of this subject, all history is a witness of the truth of the principle, that good morals are essential to the faithful and upright discharge of public functions. The moral character of a man is an entire and indivisible thing - it cannot be pure in one part and defiled in another. A man may indeed be addicted, for a time, to one vice and not to another; but it is a solemn truth that any considerable breach in the moral sense facilitates the admission of every species of vice. The love of virtue first yields to the strongest temptation; but when a part of the rampart [defense] is broken down, it is rendered more accessible to every successive assailant. Hence, no man whose character is stained with habitual vices can possibly deserve and enjoy a full portion of confidence in a public office.
But a worse consequence, if possible, flowing from your practice of appointing profligate [immoral] men to office, is the encouragement it offers to vice. Nothing tends more to restrain men from open licentiousness than for public opinion to frown on immorality. . . . But when the most impious and scandalous vices are no objection against a candidate for office, what a flood of immoralities may we not expect from the removal of this powerful restraint on the vicious propensities of man! . . . Corruption of morals is rapid enough in any country, without a bounty [assistance] from government. And . . . the Chief-Magistrate [the President] of the United States should be the last man to accelerate its progress.
Noah Webster's Observations on the President's Not Telling the Truth
[W]hen [leaders] depart from the plain, strait path of justice, into the crooked, blind ways of intrigue and party policy, and instead of aiming with a single eye at the public good, consult their own private views and those of their friends, it is hardly possible for them not to cross their own track. The path of rectitude [honesty] is so broad and strait that the difficulty is not so much in keeping as in mistaking it. . . . [I]t is scarcely possible for a man of pure rectitude [honesty] of mind to fall into an inconsistency. This is remarked by judges of courts who have numberless opportunities to observe the hearts of witnesses. The witness who is under no bias and has a single view to truth, however ignorant of letters he may be, is never embarrassed to make his narration agree in all its parts. He tells a plain, strait, probable story, and no sophistry of the parties or their lawyers can make one part inconsistent with another.
Noah Webster's Observations on the President's Not Respecting the Law
When men of no principle observe others violating the laws with impunity [without punishment], they are emboldened to enter upon violations of the same or other laws; and who can calculate what immense mischief will result to society from the removal of those restraints which all nations, as well as our own legislature, have judged it expedient to impose on the licentious desires of men? Who will respect laws that are not enforced? Who will regard the administration of justice when the Chief-Magistrate [the President] strips . . . the law of its terrors, and disarms even legislation of its operative force, by annihilating the effect of its sanctions? . . .
If the Chief-Magistrate is induced to dispense with the execution of salutary [wise] laws for the sake of conciliating the favor of a party and securing a re-election, our quadrennial choice [four-year elections] of that officer will operate to enervate [weaken] the Executive powers of the government and be subservient to the purposes of ambition.
Noah Webster's Observations on the President's Appointments
[Y]ou represent it as a difficult thing, and one that excites anxious concern, to place the interests of your fellow-citizens in the hands of honest men, with understanding sufficient for their station. No, Sir, this is not the point of difficulty - honest men of understanding sufficient are to be found in multitudes in every town in the [nation]. The difficulty with you has been to select honest men with understanding sufficient from among your partizans; and this, in some places, is a thing of extreme difficulty. - Another thing equally embarrassing to you has been so to distribute offices as to reward your most faithful servants with the best places, and at the same time, give the least offence to those who could not be gratified. . . . In every nation, a disregard of the moral character of a candidate for office has accompanied the progress of national decline and been the prelude to great public calamities or total destruction.
Noah Webster's Observations on the President's Lack of Religious Sincerity
You . . . mention the subject of religion in a way calculated to remove from the public mind the impression that you are an infidel. . . . [I]t is a truth sanctioned in history that in the most profligate [immoral] ages and most corrupt states, that man has been most esteemed and confided in who has venerated religion and obeyed its injunctions. . . . In this particular, as in many others, we see no marks of great talents or sound intelligence - no proofs of a clear discernment of the nature of your duties and the danger of your station; but unequivocal evidence of vanity, self-sufficiency and extreme imprudence.