Tuesday, February 24, 2009

fooling the people earlier

You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

Abraham Lincoln said that, right? Well, maybe, maybe not, but the first time we know the saying was ever attributed to Lincoln was August 26, 1887, in a political speech given by a man named Fred Wheeler in New York. I wrote about this here a couple years ago, and at greater length in an article for the Abraham Lincoln Association Newsletter.

This coming weekend, I'm giving a talk at the annual meeting of the Georgia Association of Historians about my efforts to track down old words and sayings. So this afternoon, taking a break after class, I was just fooling around on a new database--Gale's 19th Century Newspapers--and guess what I found.

The image might be hard to read. It's the Milwaukee Daily Journal, October 29, 1886. And on the front page, just under the date, is an article about another political speech, this one ending with

In the language of Abe Lincoln: "You can fool all the people a part of the time, or a part of the people all the time; but you can never fool all the people all the time."

How about that. I get to go to the conference with a brand new earliest date.

Like the 1887 date, this is probably not the first. My guess is that someone published an article or a book about Lincoln (and there was a LOT written about Lincoln in the 1880s) that put the words in Lincoln's mouth, like how Mason "Parson" Weems invented stories about George Washington.