Friday, June 8, 2012

Did Abraham Lincoln Really Say That???

From Snopes (the most trusted scholarly source): "However, the source is fraudulent: Hertz was taken in by a forgery." And there you have it - incontrovertible proof that it's fraudulent!

A couple of my Facebook friends doubted the authenticity of a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln (in a letter to a Col. Elkins), including one who's willing to accept any “evidence” that discredits leftist ideas, and another who sincerely seeks the truth...but nonetheless drew his conclusions rather hastily.  Here's the disputed quote:

"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."

Snopes cites only one source (Merrill Peterson's "Lincoln in American History") to substantiate the allegation that the letter to Col. Elkins is fraudulent. Although it would be interesting to see what evidence he uses to support this claim, the point is that the burden of proof is certainly on Peterson (and my Snopes-trusting friends). Now, there’s a William F. Elkin, with whom Lincoln was a close friend, and I’ve heard it argued that Nash misspelled his name. So, those with the time to investigate this allegation might wish to take this into account. 

Further, it's worth pointing out that this disputed quote resonates with much of what Lincoln indisputably said: e.g., "Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is superior to capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."  So, if Lincoln did not write this allegedly forged letter, he did so in his heart (okay, very cheesy).

None of this is to say that Snopes is a bad source.  I just believe that, in this particular case, they were lazy in their research.