"...and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot satisfy all of the people all the time”? I have seen it attributed to John Lydgate, Abe Lincoln and PT Barnum.

  • 1
    The initials FDR might provide the answer. Jan 5, 2017 at 13:16
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    @Peter: It was described as Abraham Lincoln's homely axiom in 1902. FDR was only 20 years old then, so it's not likely he'd have been the source (unless we set store by the trivial switch from fool to satisfy). Jan 5, 2017 at 13:35
  • I am told that Mark Twain had the quote (apparently from someone else, and using "fool") in "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", but I've never read the story to confirm that.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 5, 2017 at 13:56
  • This link contains a little info, for the scholars.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 5, 2017 at 22:30
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    And let's not forget You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can make a damn fool of yourself any old time. -- Laurence Johnston Peter
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 5, 2017 at 22:33

2 Answers 2


The actual quote is:

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

It is is most often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but this is disputed:

This is probably the most famous of apparently apocryphal remarks attributed to Lincoln. Despite being cited variously as from an 1856 speech, or a September 1858 speech in Clinton, Illinois, there are no known contemporary records or accounts substantiating that he ever made the statement. The earliest known appearance is October 29, 1886 in the Milwaukee Daily Journal. It later appeared in the New York Times on August 26 and August 27, 1887. The saying was repeated several times in newspaper editorials later in 1887. In 1888 and, especially, 1889, the saying became commonplace, used in speeches, advertisements, and on portraits of Lincoln. In 1905 and later, there were attempts to find contemporaries of Lincoln who could recall Lincoln saying this. Historians have not, generally, found these accounts convincing.



John Lydgate of Bury, England, 15th century, monk and poet.

  • 4
    And here's my favorite Lincoln quote from Goodreads: "Don't believe everything you read on the Internet."
    – Laurel
    Feb 6, 2019 at 7:04
  • Yep, numerous sources on the web attribute the quote to Lydgate.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 26, 2021 at 23:53

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