Speaking in New Hampshire on Friday, Republican presidential candidate and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul once again employed a debunked quotation attributed to founding father Patrick Henry.
"You see the Constitution wasn't written to give you stuff," Paul said. "It wasn't written to restrain you and tell you what to do. The Constitution was to tell your government what you can and can't do. It was to limit and restrict your government. But Patrick Henry said, he said 'it's not, the Constitution wasn't about restraining the people, it was about restraining the government, and making sure government didn't get too large.'"
Paul has cited this specific quotation at least two times in the past. As BuzzFeed News has previously reported, a scholar of Patrick Henry believes the quotation to be completely fabricated.
Here's Baylor professor Thomas Kidd, author of Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots:
Another widely cited "Henry" quotation is: "The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests." This is a more complex misquotation, because it sounds like something Henry might have said — maybe during the 1790s, after he opposed the Constitution's adoption, when he was hoping to restrict the new government's powers? The problem is that this quotation seems to have been entirely fabricated, and quite recently at that. The earliest reference I have found to this quotation is in two books published in 2003. But why create a bogus quotation when Henry actually said similar things about the need to restrain government? In any case, this is also frequently cited on social media sites and in political books. On Facebook the quotation has its own "common interest" page.
As noted before, the earliest use of the quote in Google Books is 1999.
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at email@example.com.
Megan Apper is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Megan Apper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.