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  • Writer's pictureMary Webster

Easy to Read Federalist Papers: Nobody Reads the Bible in it's Original Language

If you want to fully understand the US Constitution, the Federalist Papers are the answer. But the message is important, not the exact words. The English language has evolved over the past 250 years. Even the meanings of words (and spelling) has changed. The easy to read modern English translation of The Federalist Papers allows nearly everyone to understand the original intent of the US Constitution.

Mary E. Webster is a professional translator who got her AAS degree from St. Paul College. She’s worked as a translator both in the community and at the University of Iowa. The imperative for all translation assignments is to convey the exact message. She used Webster's Third International Dictionary to learn and correctly use 18th-century words. This was the skill and resources she brought to translating The Federalist Papers, which took nearly four years of work.

Even The Federalist Papers discuss the problems with using language to convey a message:

"...New laws are written with the greatest technical skill and passed after long deliberations. Yet they are considered as more or less obscure and equivocal until their meaning is ascertained by a series of discussions and adjudications.

"Obscurity comes from (1) the complex­ity of the subjects, (2) human imperfections, and (3) the medium [i.e. words, sentences] used to convey men’s ideas.

“Humans use words to express ideas. Clear expression requires well-formed ideas and the appropriate words. But no language has words and phrases for every complex idea. And many words have several meanings. Therefore, the definition of even a precise subject can be inaccurate because words are inaccurate. This unavoidable inaccuracy grows worse as the subject becomes more complex or novel.

“When God, Himself, talks to mankind in our language, His meaning—brilliant as it must be—is made dim and doubtful by the cloudy medium through which it is communicated.

“There are three sources of vague and incorrect definitions: (1) indistinctness of the subject, (2) the brain’s imperfections, and (3) the language’s inadequacies. When the constitutional convention worked to define the boundary between federal and State jurisdictions, it must have experienced all three problems.”

Federalist Paper #37 [paragraphs 11-12], The Federalist Papers: Modern English Edition Two

As you can tell from the above quote from my translation. the text is much easier to read than the original text of The Federalist Papers.

Let me show you. Here is the original text:

"...All new laws, though penned with the greatest technical skill, and passed on the fullest and most mature deliberation, are considered as more or less obscure and equivocal, until their meaning be liquidated and ascertained by a series of particular discussions and adjudications. Besides the obscurity arising from the complexity of objects, and the imperfection of the human faculties, the medium through which the conceptions of men are conveyed to each other adds a fresh embarrassment. The use of words is to express ideas. Perspicuity therefore requires not only that the ideas should be distinctly formed, but that they should be expressed by words distinctly and exclusively appropriated to them. But no language is so copious as to supply words and phrases for every complex idea, or so correct as not to include many equivocally denoting different ideas. Hence it must happen, that however accurately objects may be discriminated in themselves, and however accurately the discrimination may be considered, the definition of them may be rendered inaccurate by the inaccuracy of the terms in which it is delivered. And this unavoidable inaccuracy must be greater or less, according to the complexity and novelty of the objects defined. When the Almighty himself condescends to address mankind in their own language, his meaning luminous as it must be, is rendered dim and doubtful, by the cloudy medium through which it is communicated. Here then are three sources of vague and incorrect definitions; indistinctness of the object, imperfection of the organ of conception, inadequateness of the vehicle of ideas. Any one of these must produce a certain degree of obscurity. The convention, in delineating the boundary between the federal and state jurisdictions, must have experienced the full effect of them all." Federalist Paper #37

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Some Federalist Paper books by Mary E. Webster

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