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Saturday, March 27, 2010

False Quotations

A unique feature of our textbook is the "Myths and Misinformation" box that appears in most chapters. Myths and misinformation often take the form of false quotations -- words that speakers or writers wrongly attribute to famous people. In his address to the House Democratic Caucus a week ago, President Obama said:
I have the great pleasure of having a really nice library at the White House. And I was tooling through some of the writings of some previous Presidents and I came upon this quote by Abraham Lincoln: “I am not bound to win, but I’m bound to be true. I’m not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live up to what light I have.”
Lincoln never wrote those words. In an article on the NPR website, I explain that the president's speechwriter made an all-too-frequent error in using a Lincoln "quotation" without checking it. Public figures of all kinds -- Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives -- have have passed along counterfeit Lincoln, usually without knowing it. President Reagan used the same 'bound to be true" line several times.

For anyone interested in following up, the Lincoln papers are searchable at these sites:
Nothing like the “bound to be true" line appears. So who actually invented the line? Apparently, it was someone writing in the early 20th century: