The Ten Cannots
William John Henry Boetcker (1873–1962) was an American religious leader and influential public speaker. Born in Hamburg, Germany, he was ordained a Presbyterian minister soon after his arrival in the United States as a young adult. The Rev. Boetcker was ordained in Brooklyn, New York, and quickly gained attention as an eloquent motivational speaker (he’s often regarded today as the forerunner of such contemporary “success coaches” as Anthony Robbins).
Rev. Boetcker is best remembered for his authorship of a pamphlet titled “The Ten Cannots” that emphasizes freedom and responsibility of the individual on himself. Originally published in 1916, it is often misattributed to Abraham Lincoln. [The error apparently stems from a leaflet printed in 1942 by the Committee for Constitutional Government. The leaflet bore the title “Lincoln on Limitations” and contained some Lincoln quotations on one side and the “Ten Cannots” on the other, with the attributions switched. The genuine Lincoln quotations may have been from an address on March 21, 1864, in which Lincoln said “Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.”]
There are several minor variants of the pamphlet in circulation, but the most commonly accepted version appears below:
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
You cannot build character and courage by destroying men’s initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.
Boetcker also spoke of 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.