Historical Quotes are often tricky business. After being burned by a Lincoln quote a few weeks back, I decided to take a look at a few famous quotes that I see over and over again.
Some historical myths are tough to beat. Castro played for the Senators (nope), Paul Revere said the British are coming, (More likely “the Regulars are coming”), Columbus proved that the Earth was round (about 1,500 year late), Pocahontas and John Smith were lovers (nope), and George Washington’s teeth were made of wood (they weren't, I've seen them).
Most of these are easy for me to correct for my students, and even most adults are open to learning the truth behind these. However, if you correct a Lincoln quote or someone similar; you are a jerk. Let’s look at two today and see if we can find the origin.
“Beer is proof that God wants us to be happy” – Ben Franklin
It is well established that I love Ben and I even named my son after him. He is quotable and pretty funny. He is also easy to verify because he was a printer and had Poor Richards Almanack. (The k was later dropped) This quote I see on shirts, stickers, and in about every bar I've been to. Even my student's parents love to quote this one to me when they hear I love Ben. I decided to check to see if Ben actually said this. After a little more digging than I am proud of, I found it. It was in a letter addressed to André Morellet in 1779, and here is what Benjamin Franklin actually did say:
“Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”
Beer? No. Wine? Maybe. Rain? Most likely.
Sorry everyone. If it makes you feel any better, I still think Ben would kick back more than his fair share of beer at the Junto.
Now I’ll examine the Lincoln quote I got burned on the other day after I “quoted” him.
"You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you can not fool all the people all the time." - Abe Lincoln
I’m pretty sure it wasn't said by Lincoln, because I cannot verify it anywhere. I couldn't find it in any of Lincoln's printed addresses. While a great quote, Lincoln didn't say it. I think people think he did say is because it sounds…. "Lincolnesque."
Wait, what about this gem?
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” — Abraham Lincoln
Yeah, I like this quote also. As much as I'd love for Abe to have said it, You better check out Adlai Stevenson in 1952, not Abe Lincoln in 1863.
Sorry to be that guy. Just take a second and double check any Lincoln quote that you may hear. It seems he is getting more than his fair share of post-mortem quotes.
Author : Coach Ketcham
Teacher, Lover of U.S. History. None of my thoughts are deep, and spelling and grammar are rarely double checked.