To the Editor:
In a letter to the editor, Frank Musial of McHenry served up a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.”
It sounds familiar, but it was never uttered or written by the 16th president.
The alleged quote actually came from “Lincoln On Limitations” – a pamphlet by William J.H. Boetcker, a Presbyterian minister. Although it contained some genuine Lincoln quotes, it also included 10 written by Boetcker.
Scholars have scoured the well-documented letters, speeches and documents by old Abe and were unable to find anything like it. Boetcker was indulging in an attack on the New Deal and trying to recast the first Republican president as a conservative businessman.
Over the years, many folks of all political persuasions have put words into Lincoln’s mouth in an attempt to shore up their positions. And being human, many of us fall hook, line and sinker for those that confirm our own prejudices.
But Lincoln spoke and wrote quite plainly for himself. He was the most gifted wordsmith among our national leaders, as well as the most beloved.
Those who try to equate the Civil War leader with the modern, far-right Republican Party have to ignore the simple fact, for his day and time, Lincoln was a liberal, as was his party.
They were opposed by the conservatives of his day, both southern rebels and northern Democrats – the very people who mirror today’s Tea Party.