Over the last seven days Dr. Ben Carson has been going around on various media and endorsing something he claimed Daniel Webster said in support of Carson’s rather robust interpretation of the Second Amendment. Fact checkers quickly discerned that the Webster he must have had in mind was Noah Webster, he of the dictionary fame, who expressed himself in just such a way in an 1787 pamphlet.
If only that were the end of the story.
You see, Dr. Carson’s just come out with a little book offering his interpretation of the Constitution. Entitled A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties, it’s a concise commentary on his understanding of America’s foundational document. I happened to come across a copy today, and as I suspected that his comments during the past week were motivated in part by a desire to push his book, I took a look at the index.
In his book Dr. Carson makes reference to both Noah and Daniel Webster (within a few pages of each other, no less). Moreover, in his book (as opposed to the interviews), he correctly attributes the quote in question to Noah Webster. He then quotes a remark Daniel Webster offered on June 1, 1837, that several political websites have picked up. That Webster was no libertarian is besides the point.
Here’s the Daniel Webster quote:
I apprehend no danger to our country from a foreign foe. The prospect of a war with any powerful nation is too remote to be a matter of calculation. Besides, there is no nation on earth powerful enough to accomplish our overthrow. Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter. From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government — from their carelessness and negligence — I must confess that I do apprehend some danger. I fear that they may place too implicit a confidence in their public servants, and fail properly to scrutinize their conduct, — that in this way they may be made the dupes of designing men, and become the instruments of their own undoing. Make them intelligent, and they will be vigilant — give them the means of detecting the wrong, and they will apply the remedy.
And there you have it. Dr. Carson got wrong in interviews what he had right in his book, although it’s clear that the quote in question was a talking point for him. Now Noah and Daniel Webster can both take a bow. 🙂