I should just lay off. I know. I have a trip to prepare for, and I shouldn’t dwell on this. But I can’t help it.
The other day I sparred with a guy, “Grand Old Partisan” (Michael Zak), who scolded readers of his who had written to tell him things about Abraham Lincoln he evidently didn’t want to hear. Here’s what Zak wrote:
Not content to recycle the same-old same-old absurd insults (dictator, tyrant, warmonger, racist and so on), some of these ranters cite bogus Lincoln quotes floating around the internet, such as:
“I have no intention of interfering with slavery or freeing the slaves. The white race is supreme and blacks will never marry whites, serve on juries or vote. This is my firm belief.”
Of course, Abraham Lincoln never said this or wrote this or even thought this.
I then showed Zak that although Lincoln had of course never uttered those words in that particular order, he did indeed believe in all those things — and presumably it’s the substance of the quotation, rather than the peculiarities of syntax, that would be of interest to a scholar, or even just to the average person. Lincoln said precisely these things in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates and in his First Inaugural.
Instead of admitting his error, Zak thinks the important thing is that Lincoln never used this precise sentence order. Here’s the comment that inspired this post:
If Thomas Woods has indeed admitted that the alleged Lincoln quote was bogus, then my dispute with him on this point is at an end.
Being placed within quotation marks implies that Abraham Lincoln spoke or wrote those words, as stated. These sentences, as stated, are nowhere to be found in Lincoln’s writings or speeches, which means that it is a bogus quote. One may indeed claim, though others may disagree, that the alleged quote is a paraphrase or summary of Lincoln’s words or beliefs, but the alleged quote is not actually a quote, meaning it is a bogus quote.
That is a ridiculous enough response that I could just leave things right here. But of what conceivable significance is it that although Lincoln believed every sentiment expressed in that quotation, and said these things quite explicitly, he never used that particular word order?
Thus the Lincoln paraphrase that has Zak so angry has the president saying, “The white race is supreme and blacks will never marry whites, serve on juries or vote.” Lincoln’s actual words?
I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races; that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say, in addition to this, that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And in as much as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
Wow, big difference!
How could anyone consider this a victory, when from the beginning I acknowledged that the original quotation was obviously a paraphrase? In fact, this alleged quotation floating around the Internet, which Zak was at pains to refute, cannot be found anywhere on the Internet except in his original post, in my refutation, and in posts about my refutation! He obviously invented it on the basis of what he remembered some of his readers’ complaints about Lincoln to be.
So he proves that his own invented quotation was never said by Lincoln, and thinks it’s of no real importance that Lincoln did in fact believe all those things. He triumphantly announced to his readers that his invented quotation had never been uttered by Lincoln, with the obvious implication that these sentiments were not Lincoln’s.
Had he actually meant to say, “Although this particular word combination was never used, I grant that Lincoln held these odious views,” he would have done so. No honest person could have done otherwise.
Obviously, having been caught in an embarrassing error, he’s simply trying to come up with post hoc rationalizations of his position.
Bear in mind Zak actually said Lincoln never “even thought this.” So by “thought,” Zak doesn’t mean what the rest of the human race means, which is “Lincoln never even held these concepts in his mind, much less supported them.” Zak is trying to tell us that he meant, “Lincoln never had a mental experience in which this order of words passed through his mind.” Of what significance to anyone is this trivial insight?
OK, this completely gratuitous smash is now over. See you in Philadelphia.