Quote on voting doesn’t tally as Mark Twain

AAP FactCheck December 19, 2019

The Statement

In the aftermath of the United Kingdom’s election some disillusioned voters have sought solace with a purported quote by US author and humourist Mark Twain

The December 13, 2019 post by UK-based Facebook page North Coast Cars features an image of Twain and a quote which reads, ÔÇ£If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.ÔÇØ 

The post, shared by Australian users, has attracted more than 130 shares and 80 reactions.

Some Facebook users have sought solace in a quote attributed to Mark Twain following the UK election result. 

The Analysis

Twain, who was born Samuel Clemens, is regarded as one of America’s greatest writers and is best known for the novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)  and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) based on the adventures of young boys on the Mississippi River. 

AAP FactCheck has previously investigated several quotes misattributed to Twain, including quotes about kindness and evidence.

Dr Matthew Seybold, assistant professor of American Literature and Mark Twain Studies from New York’s Elmira College, told AAP FactCheck the quote didn’t correspond with Twain’s general respect for democratic elections.

ÔÇ£He was cynical about representative government, sure, and about the intelligence of the electorate, and about the influence of moneyed interests in buying elections. He was pretty sure democracy would eventually be rolled back in the United States and elsewhere,ÔÇØ Dr Seybold said.  

Mark Twain is best known for the novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 

ÔÇ£But that wasn’t because he thought elections were ineffectual. He was a consistent advocate for voting rights, including suffrage for women.ÔÇØ

Twain wrote about voting, including the power of the people and women’s suffrage, but the quote on voting being rigged does not appear in www.twainquotes.com, a site which aggregates the author’s maxims, quotations and various opinions.

Barbara Schmidt, a researcher, writer and consultant for Mark Twain related projects and also www.twainquotes.com owner, told AAP FactCheck the quote does not appear in ÔÇ£any of Mark Twain’s known worksÔÇØ. 

The quote also does not appear in an archive of Mark Twain writings by the University of Virginia or an online archive of his letters by the Mark Twain Project

A spokesperson for Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut told AAP FactCheck in an email that ÔÇ£as with so many quotes attributed to Twain, this isn’t hisÔÇØ. 

The quote has also been previously attributed to anarchist, feminist and political writer Emma Goldman

US fact checkers, Snopes and CheckYourFact have investigated the Twain-attributed quote and traced its possible origin to a 1976 newspaper column by Robert S. Borden in The Lowell Sun

Borden, writing about the US electoral system, said: ÔÇ£Has it ever dawned on the editors that the attitudes of the 70 million projected non-voters may be very consistent with the reality that the concept of voting and electing representatives is basically dishonest and fraudulent. If voting could change anything it would be made illegal!ÔÇØ

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post to be false. According to Mark Twain experts from New York’s Elmira College, www.twainquotes.com, and The Mark Twain House & Museum, there is no evidence the famous US author said or wrote the quote about voting. 

False – The primary claim of the content is factually inaccurate. 

First published December 19, 2019, 13:44 AEDT

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