Safire Correction on "Federalism"

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sat Jan 29 13:35:59 UTC 2000

In tomorrow's "On Language" column, William Safire asserts that the word
"federalism" was "coined in 1788 by Patrick Henry."  This appears to be a
well-researched assertion, perhaps derived from a search in the Library of
Congress's American Memory database, pointing to Henry's usage of
"federalism" on June 6, 1788.  Safire's citation improves upon the Oxford
English Dictionary's 1793 dating and the June 14, 1788 first use in the
Dictionary of Americanisms.

A search in the Accessible Archives database, however, yields an earlier
example of this word.  A December 26, 1787 "letter from a gentleman in
Salem" quoted in the January 16, 1788 issue of the Pennsylvania
Gazette, includes the following sentence:  "For before the federalism of a
HANCOCK, a BOWDOIN, a DANA, a KING, and many other illustrious characters,
who are members of the convention, anti-federalism must droop, and recoil
in silent shame."

Fred R. Shapiro                             Coeditor (with Jane Garry)
Associate Librarian for Public Services     TRIAL AND ERROR: AN OXFORD
  and Lecturer in Legal Research            ANTHOLOGY OF LEGAL STORIES
Yale Law School                             Oxford University Press, 1998
e-mail: fred.shapiro at               ISBN 0-19-509547-2

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