Monday, December 1, 2003

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — When it comes to Abraham Lincoln, some of the people are fooled all of the time.

Remarks attributed to the quotable 16th president have popped up in everything from TV commercials to speeches by famous generals, presidents and even recent war protesters. Too often, they are phrases that Lincoln never uttered, say officials at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

“It’s simply Lincoln’s own status as a cultural exemplar that make these spurious quotations seem credible,” said Rodney Davis, co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College in Galesburg.

“He seems to provide validation for just about anything anybody wants to have validated, and if you can’t find a Lincoln quote, you make one up.”

Quotes by a minister, a poet and even an actor portraying Lincoln on an episode of “Star Trek” have been attributed to the president, according to Illinois state historian Thomas Schwartz.

The preservation agency has added a page to its Web site,, that exposes famous sayings Lincoln never uttered. Among them:

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

• “There’s no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. There’s nothing good in war except its ending.”

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

And then there’s this one: “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

Supposedly part of a September 1858 speech in Clinton, the sentence does not show up in the text printed in the local newspaper, Mr. Schwartz said. The best evidence available comes from two persons in 1910 recollecting that Lincoln said it in 1856.

Mr. Davis hopes the Web site, which also highlights fake Lincoln documents, will remind people “that there is such a thing as intellectual or scholarly honesty.”

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