Former Tea Party representative Allen West recently published a book which is supposed to explain his political ideology. Throughout the book, West refers to the nation’s founders, people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and others, in order to explain his beliefs. There’s only problem. Many of the quotes in West’s book, which supposedly can be attributed to the ‘founding fathers,’ are fake.
Supposed quotes, cited without context or source are used throughout West’s book.
West’s book, called ‘Guardian of the Republic,’ was recently scrutinized by a staff writer from the Palm Beach Post, who set out to verify some of the quotes in West’s book. As it turns out, many of the quotes attributed to various historical figures, are not real quotes, made by those figures.
When contacted for further information on the source of the quotes, West’s co-author, Michele Hickford declined to comment. West, who is currently promoting his book to Tea Party conservatives across the country, was not available for comment. Crown Publishing, who published West’s ‘spurious’ book, also failed to respond to questions about the dubious quotes that appear within the text.
Here’s something Abraham Lincoln didn’t say.
In his book, West claims that Abraham Lincoln said:
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
While this quote has been falsely attributed to Abraham Lincoln by numerous politicians and pundits, according to James Cornellius, Curator of the Lincoln Collection at the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the quote can’t be attributed to Lincoln.
West’s book includes false quotes from a variety of historical figures.
West book supposedly cites the words of 19th Century French observer of America, Alexis de Tocqueville. The book claims de Tocqueville wrote that democracy:
“can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result being that a democracy collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictator.”
Patrick Henry is similarly misquoted in West’s book. West claims that Henry said:
“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it’s an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”
According to Patrick Henry biographer and history Professor at Baylor University, Thomas Kidd, the quote cannot be attributed to Henry. Kidd also noted that the quote just started turning up recently, and seems to have gotten its start on the internet.
No bad book is complete without fake quotes from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
West would have been amiss to not include fake quotes from the first and third presidents of the United States, especially not after misquoting so many other historical figures.
In the book West claims that George Washington said:
“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, will be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans are treated and appreciated by our nation.”
Mary V. Thompson, Research Historian at Fred W. Smith Library for the Study of George Washington told the Palm Beach Post that the quote is not from George Washington.
Thomas Jefferson is misquoted in West’s text no less than four times. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation maintains a list of ‘spurious quotes‘ attributed to the third president of the United States. All four of the quotes from West’s text appear on the list, so even bare bones fact checking was obviously too much for West or his co-author.
What’s the point?
It’s not like our nation’s founders didn’t have anything quotable to say. The problem is that not much of what they said actually supports Tea Party ideology. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams, James Madison and so many other historical figures would despise today’s Tea Party conservatives.
In spite of all the Tea Party’s patriotic rhetoric, what they stand for bears no resemblance to the form of government envisioned by the founders of the United States. Their brand of religious extremism is exactly what our early political leaders sought to protect this nation against.
If you can’t find any real quotes from our founders to support your radical right wing agenda, you can just make some up. It’s most likely Allen West’s Tea Party followers will never know how many of the quotes he used in his book are fake. On the other hand, if your Tea Party relatives try to use one of these quotes at your next family gathering, at least you’ll have something to laugh about.