Modern wisdom from old sources

In these sordid times of domestic and global discord and strident discourse, I think we too often forget the lessons the great men who founded this nation outlined for all of us to learn from.

I was reminded of this from a single sheet of yellowed paper, dated Aug. 6, 1993, that I uncovered during my efforts to downsize my possessions. This yellowed sheet of paper is titled: “Ten ‘Cannots’ by Abraham Lincoln.”

Our former president, one of the wisest ever to earn the office, listed the following gems of wisdom that are every bit as appropro in these troubling times as they were when Mr. Lincoln presided over the Civil War and all of its travails:

1. “You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.”

2. “You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.”

3. “You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.”

4. “You can’t lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.”

5. “You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.”

6. “You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.”

7. “You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.”

8. “You cannot establish security on borrowed money.”

9. “You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.”

10. “You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

Just think of how many of our economic, political and civil problems would slowly dissolve if all residents of the USA took Mr. Lincoln’s wise words to heart.


Since I’m suffering from a dearth of creative ideas for this column, let me continue with other wise quotes from our Founding Fathers. Former president Thomas Jefferson, left us with an abundance of wise words to contemplate. Such as:

• “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”

• “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

• “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

• “When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.”

• “Experience hath shown, that even under the best forms of government, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”

• “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

• “Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.”

• “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

• “The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that … it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.”


And, while I’m at it, I may as well add some wise words from our nation’s First Founder, Gen. George Washington:

• “When one side only of a story is heard and often repeated, the human mind becomes impressed with it insensibly.”

• “If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

• “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.”

• “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

• “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism.”

• “The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.”


Okay, enuf serious stuff. How about a week’s closer with a chuckle. A farmer died and surprised both his attorney and his family with the following disclosure in his last will and testament:

“I leave: To my wife, my overdraft at the bank. Maybe she can explain it. To my banker, my soul. He has the mortgage on it anyway. To my neighbor, my clown suit. He’ll need it if he continues to farm as he has in the past. To Farm Service Agency, my grain bin. I was planning to let it take it next year anyway. To my county agent, 50 bushels of corn to see if he can hit the market top with his own advice. I never could. To the junk man, all my machinery. He’s had his eye on it for years. To my undertaker, a special request. I want six implement, fertilizer and seed dealers for my pallbearers. They’re used to carrying me. To the weatherman, rain and sleet and snow for the funeral, please. No sense in having good weather now. To the grave digger. Don’t bother. The hole I’m in should be deep enough.”

Have a good ‘un.

Milo Yield


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User