A New Look at “You Can Fool All of the People”

By David B. Parker

In the winter 2003 issue of this newsletter, Thomas F. Schwartz, in one of his “Lincoln Never Said That” columns, wrote on one of the best known of the alleged Lincoln quotations: “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. Schwartz’s article traced the claim that Lincoln made the “fool all the people” statement at a speech on September 2, 1858, in Clinton, Illinois, during the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. Contemporary accounts do not record the words, but nearly a half-century later, several people said that they heard Lincoln make the remark on that occasion. A second claim, from a single source, was that Lincoln made the statement at the 1856 Republican Party Convention in Bloomington, Illinois. Schwartz characterized the claims as “tenuous.”

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