The Ten Cannots

I read a number of blogs daily. One of my favorites is the Bayou Renaissance Man. He is an expatriate South African, former soldier, and minister now living in Louisiana. The text below is taken from his blog and is worthy of comment and dissemination. It you like, please drop by his blog and say, “Hello.”

Thoughts before the election #1


Today I’d like to introduce you to William J. H. Boetcker (1873-1962). He was a Presbyterian minister, renowned for his motivational public speaking, and had the knack of putting important truths into concise, easily-grasped points.

Among his most famous ideas are the ‘Ten Cannots’, dating from 1916. They’re often attributed – mistakenly – to Abraham Lincoln.

  • You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
  • You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
  • You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
  • You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
  • You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
  • You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
  • You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
  • You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
  • You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.
  • You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.


I think the ‘Ten Cannots’ say a great deal about our present society, particularly its emphasis on ‘big government’ and ‘handouts’ and ‘welfare’ and suchlike. I don’t believe in any of them. If a given candidate (or political party) has a position that contradicts most of the ‘Ten Cannots’, the odds are that I can’t support them. If the positions of all candidates (or parties) contradict the ‘Ten Cannots’, I’ll have to vote for the person or party who contradicts the fewest of them, on the principle of choosing the lesser of the evils confronting me.

Boetcker also coined the ‘Seven National Crimes’:

  • I don’t think.
  • I don’t know.
  • I don’t care.
  • I am too busy.
  • I leave well enough alone.
  • I have no time to read and find out.
  • I am not interested.


These may or may not apply to our politicians, but they sure apply to us as voters! We should be asking ourselves whether we’re guilty of any of these attitudes: and, if so, we should try to change that.