Phony quotes attributed to Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis)

Spielberg’s film follows 56-year-old Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, from January of 1865 until his death in April. The portrait on the left was taken in 1864.

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These quotes have no primary sources but they have been falsely attributed to Lincoln through the years.

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Unproven Quotations Attributed to Abraham Lincoln
The Internet is loaded with quotes which Abraham Lincoln never said. Lots of quotes are attributed to Abraham Lincoln but cannot be verified. On this page I have attempted to compile a list of some of the most common misnomers.“Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled or hanged.”

“If I knew that I had eight hours to chop a tree down, I would spend the first six sharpening my axe.”

“The philosophy taught in the classroom in this generation will become the philosophy of the government in the next generation.”

“I am a slow walker but I never walk back.”

“Those who look for the bad in people will surely find it.”

“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them friends?”

“I don’t know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”

“In the end it is not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.”

The Ten Cannots

“I will prepare and some day my chance will come.”

“A friend is someone who has the same enemies you have.”

“Good things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.”

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

“I care not much for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.”

“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.”

“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

“I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”

“If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”

“If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”

“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

“A nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.”

“A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade.”

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”

“The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its people.”

“No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.”

“No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.”

“The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.”

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

“Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.”

“Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.”

“All that loves labor serves the nation. All that harms labor is treason to America.”
Lincoln is often credited with saying, “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” Lincoln allegedly said it in a speech in Clinton, Illinois, on September 2, 1858. In 1905 two newspapers, the Chicago Tribune and the Brooklyn Eagle, gathered testimony to see if Lincoln really said it. The evidence was conflicting and dubious in some particulars. No contemporary accounts of the text of the Clinton speech contain this utterance. However, tradition still attributes the quote to Lincoln, and it has remained a favorite in popular usage.

Below is a letter that is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln. It purportedly was written to his son’s teacher. However, there is no source for it. It is bogus. It is a thoughtful letter, but it wasn’t really Abraham Lincoln who wrote it.

————————————————-

“He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just and are not true.
But teach him if
you can, the wonder of books…but also give him quiet time to ponder the
eternal mystery of
birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers on a green hillside.

In school, teach him it is far more honorable to fall than to cheat…
Teach to have faith in
his own ideas, even if everyone tells him he is wrong. Teach him to be
gentle with gentle people
and tough with the tough.

Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone
getting on the bandwagon…
Teach him to listen to all men; but teach him also to filter all he hears on
a screen of truth,
and take only the good that comes through.

Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad…Teach him there is no
shame in tears.
Teach him to scoff at cynics and to be beware of too much sweetness…Teach
him to sell his brawn
and brain to highest bidders, but never to put a price on his heart and soul.
Teach him to close
his ears to a howling mob…and stand and fight if thinks he is right.

Treat him gently, but do not cuddle him, because only the test of fire makes
fine steel. Let
him have the courage to be impatient.. Let him have the patience to be
brave. Teach him always to
have sublime faith in himself, because then he will have faith in humankind.

This is a big order, but see what you can do. He is such a fine little
fellow my son!”
Additionally, there is a purported Lincoln letter to William F. Elkin. Lincoln allegedly wrote, “We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood…It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country…corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war.”

The authenticity of Lincoln’s words has been questioned by many. In Merrill Peterson’s Lincoln in American Memory,” the author states, “(John) Nicolay immediately repudiated the prophecy, first spotted in 1888, as ‘a bold, unblushing forgery.’ He was correct, though this did not end its use. It was quoted by respected journalists, like Henry Demarest Lloyd, by clergymen, and by congressmen, and it even found its way into The Lincoln Encyclopedia published in 1950.”

It can be added that the alleged letter from Lincoln to Elkin is not included in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln which is considered the most definitive source of Lincoln’s writings.

Several good single volume sources of genuine Lincoln quotes are: (1) Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln compiled and edited by Don E. Fehrenbacher and Virginia Fehrenbacher. (2) A Treasury of Lincoln Quotations edited by Fred Kerner. (3) Of the People, By the People, For the People and other Quotations from Abraham Lincoln edited by Gabor S. Boritt. (4) Abe Lincoln Laughing: Humorous Anecdotes from Original Sources by and about Abraham Lincoln edited by P.M. Zall.

The sketch of Lincoln at the top of the page is by John Nelson Marble

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