I would like to offer you a couple of tips today regarding the sharing and forwarding of quotes from the nation’s Founding Fathers.
A few examples I have come across lately, shared by friends of mine on the social media:
“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” This was attributed to George Washington. Who never wrote nor uttered it.
Another: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” To which I replied: “The thing about quotes from the Internet is that it’s hard to verify their authenticity.” (Abraham Lincoln)
Because this quote is dubious as well.
A quick tip: If you can understand a quote by our Founding Fathers without furrowing your brow and feeling a headache coming on, then, good gravity, man, Google that sucker before sharing or forwarding.
Those guys wrote funny. They did not use simple declarative sentences and verbs of ‘be’ to express themselves. They did not traffic in simple tautologies. Generally, if a Founder wrote it or uttered it for public consumption, it’s going to make your head hurt reading it.
Another example of another often-shared pearl attributed to President Abraham Lincoln: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
Let’s compare that turn of phrase to something that can actually be attributed to Mr. Lincoln, from his Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in 1859:
From the first appearance of man upon the earth, down to very recent times, the words “stranger” and “enemy” were quite or almost, synonymous. Long after civilized nations had defined robbery and murder as high crimes, and had affixed severe punishments to them, when practiced among and upon their own people respectively, it was deemed no offence, but even meritorious, to rob, and murder, and enslave strangers, whether as nations or as individuals. Even yet, this has not totally disappeared. The man of the highest moral cultivation, in spite of all which abstract principle can do, likes him whom he does know, much better than him whom he does not know. To correct the evils, great and small, which spring from want of sympathy, and from positive enmity, among strangers, as nations, or as individuals, is one of the highest functions of civilization.
You feel that?
It’s not quite the kind of pain you feel when you’ve eaten an ice cream too quickly, but it’s close. It is how you felt when you first read Portia’s mercy speech. And it is how, generally, reading the notions of our Founders is actually like.
How about this Faulkner-esque bunch that actually can be attributed to President Washington? GO GET YOUR ADVIL NOW:
Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?
I think this part of my point has been made. I did want to add as well this: Most of what our Founders offered for public consumption was written down. This is because electronic recording devices had not been invented yet, so there were no sound bytes. Just letters, speeches, treaties, and the occasional historic founding document.
This means that it should be rather easy to figure out if a quote from one of them is full of rat-poop. And, if a friend of yours is sharing it on the Faced-book?
Yeah. Probably rat-poop. Just sayin’. (Research is SO EASY these days.)
In other news:
From bathroom door to urinal to sink and back to bathroom door, I have just witnessed a person take the fastest and most weirdly urgent piss ever.