i’m still on vacation**, so i’ll keep this short.

i’m a big daniel hannan fan! anybody who dislikes the e.u. is a-okay with me. (^_^) so over my r&r break here, i’ve been reading his latest (really great!) book: Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World.

here’s a passage from the first chapter that had me (nearly) leaping out of my hammock [pgs. 32-33 – links added by me]:

“Think about the most famous apologia for democracy ever uttered. On November 19, 1863, at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, President Abraham Lincoln, weak and lightheaded with an oncoming case of smallpox, made a speech that lasted for just over two minutes, and ended with his hope ‘that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’

“Those words have been quoted ever since, as the supreme vindication of representative government. Indeed, they are often quoted as proof of American exceptionalism. But the words were not Lincoln’s. Most of his hearers would have recognized their source, as our generation does not. They came from the prologue to what was probably the earliest translation of the Holy Scriptures into the English language: ‘This Bible is for the government of the people, for the people and by the people.’ The author was the theologian John Wycliffe, sometimes called ‘the Morning Star of the Reformation.’ Astonishingly, the words had first appeared in 1384.”

1384?! that is fr*ckin’ amazing!

or it would be, were it true. unfortunately, it seems as though the wycliffe connection might be an urban (or academic maybe?) legend.

eugene volokh posted about this in 2009 (see also here – make sure to click on the “show more” link). read the entire post @the volokh conspiracy for all the details:

“[T]hree sources … say that they’ve read the whole General Prologue and can’t find anything remotely similar to the ‘government of the people …’ quote.”

those three sources refer back to early twentieth century historians checking into the question of whether or not wycliffe wrote this “government of the people” thing in the prologue to his bible, so there have been some doubts about the authenticity of this claim for some time.

i did find this reference interesting:

“‘The phrase “of the people, for the people and by the people” is not original with Lincoln. There is a tradition that the phrase, “The bible shall be for the government of the people, for the people and by the people,” appears in the preface of the Wyclif bible of 1384, or in the Hereford Bible, or in a pamphlet of the period treating that version. See Notes and Queries, Feb. 12, 1916, p. 127.'”

so maybe wycliffe (or someone else?) wrote the phrase in the fourteenth century in a pamphlet and not in the prologue to the bible. -?-

dunno. i’d really like the phrase to be from medieval england! but if it’s not, it’s not. *sigh*

anybody got a copy of the wycliffe bible at home? (^_^)

see also 150 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln praised ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’ – but the words were not his

**not hbd chick

(note: comments do not require an email. wycliffe bible.)