We’ve all seen how a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. For example, a quote taken out of context can convey a message not intended by the original source.
I’ve been writing about The Federalist Papers on the internet for 20 years. I feel that it is important the readers know my qualifications. I never planned on studying and writing about The Federalist Papers and the US Constitution. My plan was to teach finance. However, God had a different plan for me.
In 1989, I graduated from St Paul College as an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. In 1990, I graduated from the University of Iowa, College of Business, finishing my senior year on the dean’s list. As I continued at the UI, studying for my MBA in finance, I worked as a freelance ASL interpreter at the University of Iowa and Iowa University Hospitals and writer for Media Research. (I summarized the three daily major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) newscasts and emailed them to Washington, D.C., before the following morning.)
Then, in 1992, I became very sick. The days, weeks, and months of recovery were long. To fill time, I got cable TV and saw C-SPAN for the first time. This was the fall of 1994 and I became fascinated by the political arguments, which led me to decide to study The Federalist Papers. I wanted to know precisely what the Constitution says and what it means.
I started reading The Federalist Papers for my own information. My goal was to understand exactly what they said. As I worked to understand them, I realized that my sickness gave me something special—time. I couldn’t work or attend school, so I could devote unlimited time to understand every sentence in the Papers. And I could use the skills I’d learned to be an ASL interpreter to rewrite each sentence, making it easier to read. After rewriting each paragraph, I would write a one-sentence summary of the paragraph, which became a subtitle in my editions of the Papers. I spent one month using my interpreting, studying, and writing skills to rewrite and fully understand Paper Number 1. I found the discussion so riveting that I began studying Paper Number 2.
The discussions in The Federalist Papers are so interesting and pertinent to the issues our country is facing today. I wanted to share the information. And I realized that my “translation” of The Federalist Papers would be welcomed by people who wanted to understand what they said but didn’t have the time that I had to study them. After years of work, my first translation—The Federalist Papers: In Modern Language—was published in 1999.
But my work wasn’t done. Most popular novels are written at 5th-grade (or less) reading level. My translation was college reading level. I wanted to get it down to 10th-grade reading level. I went back to studying and writing. My second translation—The Federalist Papers Modern English Edition Two—was published in 2008. (Before this edition was published, a constitutional scholar compared every Paper to the original text to make sure my translation was accurate.)
Then, in 2010, I published the book I was looking for in 1994—the book that makes it easy to find out what The Federalist Papers says about each clause in the U.S. Constitution, The United States Constitution Annotated with The Federalist Papers in Modern English.
This has nothing to do with my qualification to write about The Federalist Papers, but there’s just a bit more about myself that I want to share. I am a Webster, a distant cousin of Noah Webster, who wrote the first dictionary so people would understand exactly what the Constitution means, and Daniel Webster, who wrote about the Constitution. The Constitution seems to be in the Webster DNA. And three of my eighth great grandfathers are Miles Standish, John Alden, and Dr. Samuel Fuller, who signed the Mayflower Compact. Honestly, if I’d known this in grade school, I might have paid more attention in history class, which I never enjoyed.
Mary E. Webster
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