Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Just the Facts

It seems there is a list of 10 "cannots" attributed to Abraham Lincoln that are making rounds on the Interwebs:

1. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
2. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong
3. You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
4. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
5. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence.
6. You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
7. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
8. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
9. You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
10. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they will not do for themselves.

When I read these on a friends blog, I thought to myself, "Lincoln didn't say that. I read those quotes in relation to FDR's policies in high school American History." Thanks, Coach Jesse Parker!

So, to be clear, Abraham Lincoln did not say these things. Rather, the quotes were published in 1942 by William J. H. Boetcker, a Presbyterian minister. He released a pamphlet titled Lincoln On Limitations, which did include a Lincoln quote, but also added 10 statements written by Boetcker himself.

Nevertheless, the advice is timeless. If Bible goers cannot get the world to respect its 10 commandments, getting them to follow these is a valiant alternative.

Yet I feel they are being invoked quite blindly. Almost as if it really means something to those posting it. Is it really wisdom by which they live by or a set of statements where a subset seems to contradict the current health care debate and conveniently align with their worldview.

First, I am allergic to those that are quite ready to cuddle up against falsely attributed quotes from Lincoln without thorough fettering of the source.

Second, it is as if the expected response is "ooohh, Lincoln said that... well he freed the slaves, so he must understand health care."


  1. I had no idea you had an allergy. I will be more careful.

  2. Good job, Brandon, for remembering your stuff from school. I'm impressed! I need to be better at checking things out.