by: the Common Constitutionalist
There is a list of ten statements beginning with “You cannot …” that are popularly attributed to Honest Abe Lincoln.
The 10 “Cannots” are simple in their brilliance.
However, Lincoln didn’t write them. They were authored in 1916 by the Rev. William J. H. Boetcker, a Presbyterian clergyman and pamphlet writer.
In 1942 the Committee for Constitutional Government, a lobby backed by the newspaper publisher Frank Gannett, distributed hundreds of thousands of copies of a leaflet with an authentic Lincoln quote on one side entitled, “Lincoln on Limitations.” On the reverse was a list of Boetcker’s maxims, properly attributed in a footnote.
Somehow, Boetker’s words came to be ascribed to Lincoln. In 1949 an Ohio congresswoman, Frances P. Bolton, read them as Lincoln’s into the Congressional Record. Look magazine reprinted them with the suggestion that “Its about time for the country to remember.”
Attempting to correct the record, Rep. Stephen M. Young inserted into the Congressional Record, in 1950, an article from Harper’s magazine, written by a Lincoln scholar, Albert A. Wolman, listing most of the ”Ten Cannots” and other material falsely attributed to Lincoln.
The 10 Cannots:
1)You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
2)You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
3)You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
6)You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
7)You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
8)You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
9)You cannot build character and courage by taking away men’s initiative and independence.
10)You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.
Maybe this should be the new “Contract with America”?