This is interesting:
You can’t really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book, “The Assault on Reason.” It’s a sprawling, untidy blast of indignation, and annotating it with footnotes would be like trying to slip rubber bands around a puddle of quicksilver. Still, I’d love to know where he found the scary quote from Abraham Lincoln that he uses on page 88.
In a chapter entitled “The Politics of Wealth,” Gore argues that the ancient threat to democracy posed by rich people run amok has finally been realized under the man who beat him in the 2000 presidential race. Even Lincoln, Gore says, saw the age of Bush coming in 1864: “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, 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.”
The quote is a favorite of liberal bloggers, which is probably how Gore came across it. And as a description of how many on the left see the country seven years into their Bush nightmare, it’s pretty much perfect.
Too perfect, in fact. If you’re familiar with Lincoln’s distinctive way of expressing himself, you’ll hear the false notes the passage strikes. For one thing, Lincoln just wasn’t the “trembling” kind — or if he was, he kept his trembling to himself. Words such as “enthroned” and “aggregated” are a bit too fancy for his plain, unclotted prose, and the phrase “money power” suggests a conspiratorial turn of mind that would have been foreign to him. Indeed, these words don’t show up anywhere else in “The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln” (which, thanks to Gore’s Internet, are now searchable at http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/).
Make sure to read it all, as author Andrew Ferguson digs into why this popular quote used by Nutroots blogs has been falsely attributed to Lincoln.
Betsy Newmark writes in response:
As famed Lincoln biogapher, David Donald, once wrote, it’s been important since Lincoln’s death for public figures to “get right with Lincoln” even if that means borrowing our 16th president for your pet causes. As Ferguson points out, Gore isn’t the only one to fall for a phony Lincolnism. Nowadays, Lincoln is used by just about everyone to prove a point. Gays like to argue that Lincoln was gay. Depressives claim that he also suffered from melancholy. Supporters of the war in Iraq remind us of how bleak the possibilities of victory in the Civil War looked at key moments. Some libertarians have portrayed Lincoln as the origin of the big state government that denied citizens their rights. Yet such willingness to assume that Lincoln said what you wanted him to have said betrays more about the author than about Lincoln himself.
And isn’t there something, well, just icky about Dishonest Al using a quote by Honest Abe?