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Ten Cannots
Research for Online Investors

This article originally ran in MarketToday on 11/09/11

Eighteen years ago we took a family vacation on an eastern swing through the United States. Karen and I packed our four little girls in the mini-van and took to the highways. We visited Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home in Hodgenville, Kentucky. This was a welcome change for our daughters as we had spent much of this vacation underground.

Growing up on the flat prairie in Kansas, we had never seen underground caverns…and the Kentucky area had a hole in the ground at every turn!  We toured the Lincoln Birthplace grounds to visit the “birthplace” cabin

Abraham Lincoln's Birth Cabin

The cabin is housed inside a large Memorial Building to protect it from the elements.

Lincoln Memorial Building

A few hundred feet down the hill from the memorial is Sinking Spring.  This is where the Lincoln family went for water.  When you walk down the shaded steps to the spring you can just imagine drinking cool water in the heat of the summer.

Sinking Spring Lincoln Birthplace

After touring the site and letting the girls run off some energy, we visited the gift shop.  As a student of history and politics, I am always anxious to bring home some memorabilia.  I bought copies of the handwritten Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

These are framed and hanging in my office. One other document I bought was Lincoln’s “Cannots.” My memory is that these were sold as written by Lincoln. A cursory search on the internet informs me they were not. The “Ten Cannots” were written by William John Henry Boetcker around 1916. I am in good company in mistaken these as from Lincoln. Evidently the National Park Service did in the early 1990’s as did Ronald Reagan. The Gipper cited the “Ten Cannots” in his speech to the Republican National Convention in 1992.

Following are the Ten Cannots:

  1. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. 
  2. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. 
  3. You cannot help little men by tearing down big men. 
  4. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. 
  5. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. 
  6. You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money. 
  7. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. 
  8. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn. 
  9. You cannot build character and courage by destroying men’s initiative and independence. 
  10. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves. 

Mr. Boetcker was an ordained Presbyterian minister and was widely recognized as an eloquent motivational speaker.  It is interesting that he published the “Ten Cannots” in about 1916.  This was when Woodrow Wilson was president and tearing down the wall that kept government out of citizen’s lives.

Importance of Ten Cannots

As a democrat progressive, Wilson was committed to growing the government into a force for “improving” the lives of the governed.  His milepost accomplishments include passage of the Sixteenth Amendment to institute an income tax; this classifies him as the first president to institutionalize class warfare.

Wilson pushed for the Seventeenth Amendment to popularly elect Senators and thereby remove them from the control of state legislatures, which was ratified in 1913. In 1913 his party rushed through legislation to create the Federal Reserve on Christmas Eve, this took control of the nation’s currency from Congress and gave it to a Central Bank whose Chairman is appointed by the President.

In 1915, Wilson viewed “The Birth of a Nation” in the White House.  This silent film was controversial as it promoted a racist view of African American’s and held the Klu Klux Klan out as a heroic force.  Wilson supposedly commented the movie was “like writing history with lightening.  And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.”

After winning re-election in 1916 on a platform of keeping the U.S. out of the European War, Wilson asked Congress to declare War on Germany in 1917.  Spending on the First World War put the country into a depression in the late teens and the long history of inflating the money supply by the Federal Reserve was started under Wilson.  The Roaring '20's ensued followed by the Great Depression.  Does it sound familiar?

After the war, Congress passed and the states ratified the Eighteenth Amendment making prohibition the law of the land.  Not happy to just organize American’s lives, Wilson pushed for entry into the League of Nations in 1918.  In 1920 the Nineteen Amendment to the Constitution was ratified giving the right to vote to women.  His influence was diminished in 1919 when he suffered a stroke.  The Senate rejected membership in the League of Nations as too expansionist.  His wife protected him from being removed from office and his term as president ended with him in a wheelchair in 1921.

The information presented in this newsletter is based on generally available news releases, corporate filings, current events, interviews and the editor’s opinions.  It may contain errors and you should not make investment decisions based solely on what you believe you have read here.  Do your own research, it is your money.  If you lose it, it is your responsibility, not ours or your grandmothers!  The editor may or may not have a position in any securities discussed.  The editor may have held a position in a security earlier, or in the future.

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