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Old 07-09-2014, 01:30 PM
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Which president"could not tell a lie". Washington, or Lincoln?

The Pastor Weems story of the Cherry Tree attributed to President Washington the adage that he could not tell a lie. But in the past year or so, there have been two different TV commercials in which a character dressed as President Lincoln is portrayed as the truth-telling president. (Geico Insurance, and some other advertiser that has an explicable non-sequitur chase scene on a train, also involving Franklin.)

Googling /(name of president) "cannot tell a lie"/ produces 677,000 hits when Washington's name is entered, but 249,000 inserting Lincoln's name in the search terms.

So how did it happen that an attribute of one president has so widely become associated with another one?

Last edited by jtur88; 07-09-2014 at 01:31 PM.
Old 07-09-2014, 01:31 PM
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Well, his nickname was "Honest Abe" so it's not a huge stretch.
Old 07-09-2014, 01:34 PM
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Lincoln was known as "Honest Abe" since before entering politics. Here is an article about it.
Old 07-09-2014, 01:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtur88 View Post
The Pastor Weems story of the Cherry Tree attributed to President Washington the adage that he could not tell a lie. But in the past year or so, there have been two different TV commercials in which a character dressed as President Lincoln is portrayed as the truth-telling president. (Geico Insurance, and some other advertiser that has an explicable non-sequitur chase scene on a train, also involving Franklin.)

Googling /(name of president) "cannot tell a lie"/ produces 677,000 hits when Washington's name is entered, but 249,000 inserting Lincoln's name in the search terms.

So how did it happen that an attribute of one president has so widely become associated with another one?
Lincoln was "Honest Abe"

Washington was the cherry tree.
Old 07-09-2014, 02:25 PM
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The phrase "I cannot tell a lie" is one I associate with Washington and, specifically, the apocryphal cherry tree story (which young Lincoln himself was familiar with, IIRC). The attribute of scrupulous honesty is one I associate with Lincoln.
Old 07-09-2014, 02:34 PM
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Wasn't Lincoln known as "Honest Abe"?
Old 07-09-2014, 02:39 PM
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As mentioned in the article linked by puddleglum, Lincoln is associated with the story about walking miles to return incorrect change. Since my mother frequently used this story in admonishing us to make good if a clerk made a mistake in our favor, it was the first thing I thought of when I saw the thread title.
Old 07-09-2014, 02:47 PM
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Because they're the two non-modern presidents everyone knows, the wrong one is known as "Honest Abe," and seeing as the story is apocryphal at best, it doesn't really matter to most people which one it was, at least not enough that it's important to remember.
Old 07-09-2014, 04:07 PM
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And the commercials being currently run are Quicken Money commercials...with reference to the presidents for the $ bills they are on.
Old 07-10-2014, 12:15 PM
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Of course neither president hesitated to lie or at least be deceitful if he perceived it necessary to the public good. Washington put great store in spying and intelligence gathering skullduggery, and famously attacked the morning after Christmas. Lincoln once said he would hold any position that brought reunion, but hold it only so long as he thought it would work, and discard it as soon as it did not.

The difference between these men and other presidents is not that they never lied, but that the American public by and large has come to believe they practiced deception only when necessary for the public good, and never for personal gain.

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Originally Posted by Omar Little View Post
And the commercials being currently run are Quicken Money commercials...with reference to the presidents for the $ bills they are on.
By that measure, Lincoln is five times the president Washington ever was.
Old 07-10-2014, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by jtur88 View Post

Googling /(name of president) "cannot tell a lie"/ produces 677,000 hits when Washington's name is entered, but 249,000 inserting Lincoln's name in the search terms.

So how did it happen that an attribute of one president has so widely become associated with another one?
A huge portion of those hits aren't saying that the quote is about Lincoln, but rather retelling the Weems story about Washington and then talking about Lincoln.

Statistics don't hold up when dissected.
Old 07-10-2014, 12:59 PM
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By that measure, Lincoln is five times the president Washington ever was.
Wasn't there an episode of Bewitched where George Washington was upset that Lincoln was on a bigger bill until Samantha pointed out that it meant more people would see his picture than Lincoln's?
Old 07-10-2014, 01:06 PM
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Honest Abe, all right.
Old 07-10-2014, 03:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Sailboat View Post
Of course neither president hesitated to lie or at least be deceitful if he perceived it necessary to the public good. Washington put great store in spying and intelligence gathering skullduggery, and famously attacked the morning after Christmas. Lincoln once said he would hold any position that brought reunion, but hold it only so long as he thought it would work, and discard it as soon as it did not.
How is what you list above dishonest?
Old 07-11-2014, 03:24 PM
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Washington, in the story about cutting down his father's cherry tree. When asked if he cut it, he supposedly uttered the can't tell a lie line.
Old 07-12-2014, 11:44 AM
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How is what you list above dishonest?
In Washington's day, spying, even what we'd consider mere scouting, was considered dishonorable and ungentlemanly. And Lincoln's pragmatic flexibility could certainly be called deceptive by his opponents--and frequently was.

Understand that I hold both men in the highest regard and mean no insult to their memory.
Old 07-12-2014, 12:33 PM
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just incase no one mentions it

Honest Abe had an axe and was a rail splitter but he loved cherry trees and wandered around planting cherry seeds along with his pet ox.
Old 07-12-2014, 02:04 PM
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Richard Nixon.
Or, so he said.
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Old 07-12-2014, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by johnpost View Post
just incase no one mentions it

Honest Abe had an axe and was a rail splitter but he loved cherry trees and wandered around planting cherry seeds along with his pet ox.
No, no, that's Paul Bunyan Appleseed.
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