A review of former congressman and Founding Father enthusiast Allen West’s new book has turned up a wide assortment of fake quotes attributed to Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other famous historical figures.
According to the Palm Beach Post, West’s “Guardian of the Republic,” which outlines his political philosophy and his “warrior code,” includes many quotes that have been described by historians as erroneous.
“Thomas Jefferson said it first: ‘A government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take it away,’” West wrote.
According to researchers at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in Charlottesville, Virginia, while that quote has appeared on coffee cups and t-shirts, it doesn’t appear in any of Jefferson’s writings. So many fake quotations have been attributed to the drafter of the Declaration of Independence, that the foundation felt compelled to create a “Spurious Quotations” list.
Three other fake Jefferson quotes in West’s book appear on the foundation’s list.
West is not alone in repeating debunked quotes. President Barack Obama — as a senator in 2005 — and John McCain — as a 2008 presidential candidate — are among those who have previously quoted George Washington as saying that “the willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by our nation.”
West includes that quote in his book. But the words aren’t Washington’s, according to Mary V. Thompson, a research historian with the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.
A quote attributed to Patrick Henry in West’s book didn’t come from the Virginian’s writings or speeches, says Henry biographer Thomas Kidd, a professor of history at Baylor University.
West quotes Henry as saying: “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”
Kidd described the quote as a new one that has gained popularity via the Internet.
“The thing that’s strange about that quote to me is it actually sounds like something that Henry might have said. I find it puzzling that it keeps getting used. You can find similar things that Henry has said that are actual quotes,” Kidd said.
Kidd added, “If we admire these people, then I think we should represent what they actually said.”
Asked to provide sources for the Jefferson quotes and some others in the book, West co-author Michele Hickford has declined comment and a spokeswoman for Crown Publishing has not responded.
West, who is currently touring to promote the book, could not be reached.
Tom Boggioni is based in the quaint seaside community of Pacific Beach in less quaint San Diego. He writes about politics, media, culture, and other annoyances. Mostly he spends his days at the beach gazing at the horizon waiting for the end of the world, or the sun to go down. Whichever comes first.
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