"Of the People, by the People, and for the People"?

My earlier query about the antecedents of this phrase yielded this comment:

The prologue to John Wycliffe's English translation of the Bible, dated 1384, includes this observation:

The Bible is for the Government of the People, by the People, and for the People.

And indeed many sources, including The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations, so state.

This provenance, though, smacked of myth to me, and it appears likely that it is indeed a myth. I haven't checked the prologue myself, because it's long, the only version I could find was in a very bad font and not searchable, and the matter is too tangential to my article to track down. (The article is about Thomas Cooper, and I decided just not to mention the possibility that his earlier version might have been the indirect source for Lincoln's famous quote.) But here's what our reference librarian Stephanie Plotin reports:

[T]hree sources ... say that they've read the whole General Prologue and can't find anything remotely similar to the "government of the people ..." quote.

Thus, though I can't say from personal research that the attribution to the Wycliffe prologue is spurious, there seems to be at least good reason to doubt the attribution. Don't rely on it unless you can check it yourself.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. "Ciceronian or Jaffanese?"
  2. "Of the People, by the People, and for the People"?