Skip to comments.Lincoln Re-Examined
Posted on 11/30/2012 12:10:03 PM PST by Kaslin
Every schoolchild with enough smarts and curiosity to get beyond the latest video game of "Call of Duty" ought to go see "Lincoln," the movie, and check out the references and his own attention span. It requires patience, but it shows through dramatic action how a self-taught rustic from the deep backwoods had the emotional and intellectual discipline to overcome poverty and grow up to be a president to rank among the greatest.
This is not about the American Dream or a Horatio Alger story. (Does anybody remember him?) Nor is it mythmaking. It's made of sterner stuff than that. Although there are 16,000 or so books about Lincoln, and a famous movie with Henry Fonda as the young Lincoln, there's enough freshness in this late portrait to animate anyone eligible to watch a movie with the PG-13 rating.
To whet an appetite, there's the excerpt available on the Internet where the president, played by Daniel Day Lewis, explains his political philosophy to two young men working in the White House telegraph office. Lincoln recalls Euclid's 2,000-year-old dissertation on mechanical reasoning, the principle that "things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other." Euclid says it's "self-evident." Lincoln agrees.
Such nuggets of wisdom abound, along with references from Shakespeare and a bawdy story about a portrait of George Washington hanging in an outhouse to inspire relief for British soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Lincoln was a learned man, but he was earthy, too. He drew on deep learning and applied it widely. He talks in parables and finds a story to illustrate just about every situation and strategy.
In one scene, while he waits with his Cabinet for news of the shelling of Wilmington, N.C., he begins a story: "I heard tell once." The phrase so exasperates Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that he walks away, telling the president, "I don't believe that I can bear to hear another one of your stories right now." This is no marble president on a pedestal.
But Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" is an epic of sorts. It begins in the middle of things. The Civil War, though nearing the end, has been going on for four years. Lincoln is the old "war horse," but unlike Spielberg's earlier movie of that name, "Lincoln" has only one brutal battle scene.
The most poignant evocation of war shows Lincoln riding through a field of ripped and rotting corpses, and Lincoln takes off his stovepipe hat in homage to the dead, North and South and Americans all. This is not a hymn to "arms and the man" so much as a long mournful dirge played on the strings of banjos, fiddles and the keys of a parlor piano. It's as gritty and earthbound as the America of Mark Twain.
This "Lincoln" is not about heroism and ideals, but about reality and fighting for what's right, even when "right" is seen from two distinctly different points of view -- or, as Lincoln puts it, "the right as God gives us to see the right." If there was no room to compromise over slavery before the war, the struggles for compromise are not over afterward because the winds of war still blow. They merely change direction.
While every schoolchild knows that Abe Lincoln freed the slaves, not many that I've met actually know how he did it. Few seem to understand that the Emancipation Proclamation freed only the slaves in the 11 Confederate states. Fewer still know why Lincoln thought it crucial before he began his second term, and before the war was over, to enact the 13th Amendment to give all men equality under the law. That's the tight focus of the movie.
I watched "Lincoln" with two precocious teenagers, who in spite of their bravado and smarts leaned toward the screen to listen closely to Lincoln's complicated and legalistic explanation of why the country needed the 13th Amendment. They conceded they learned things they didn't know about both the law and Lincoln. (So did I.)
This is a talky movie. Compared to popular 3-D spectacles, it's muted and low-key. Many reviewers have written about how it's "relevant" today, and that Barack Obama could learn from Lincoln's cunning to keep from falling off the fiscal cliff. A knowing titter goes through audiences in Washington when Thaddeus Stevens, the radical Republican abolitionist from Pennsylvania, castigates Lincoln for his inability to win legislative compromise. "I lead," Lincoln says. "You ought to try it."
But it's about a lot more than relevance. It informs as it entertains, engages, enrages, champions, challenges and reminds once again how hard it is to bring about change in a democracy -- and do it with malice toward none.
What makes the tale so “fresh” is that the author of the book the movie is based on made up the whole story. Lincoln and Grant were busy running the war during those months. Republican abolitionists in Congress pushed through the 13th Amendment after his death as part of the reconstruction penalties on the defeated South.
The most boring and stupid film I’ve seen in ages. Lincolns politicization of slavery as a means to justify the killing of 750,000 Americans was the most despicable act in history. By today’s population equivalent, 750,000 equals 7 million.
And we think Obama is impeachable.
There is a lot of money in telling and re-telling the reconstructed Lincoln Fairy Tale. Ask Bill O’Really.
The 13th amendment doesn’t say anything about all men being equal. It prohibits slavery, a different issue. Lincoln, as President, had no Constitutional role in getting a Constitutional amendment passed by Congress and sent to the states. It was adopted by Congress on Jan. 31, 1865, before the end of his first term, but was not ratified until Dec. 6, 1865.
There was no “White House telegraph office.” The telegraph office was in Edwin Stanton’s nearby War Department, and Lincoln would walk over there to get the news.
What is the next book in the series? Killing Garfield or Killing McKinley?
The suspense is killing me.
They all miss the way it really is..
Abe will explain from "the other side."
You initiated a policy to tolerate the Marxist-Alinsky radicals and let them rant; not only has it not ceased but was constantly augmented by decades of infiltration and indoctrination. You now have two Americas. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half statist and half free; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.
Obama is a biological-ideological issue of the 1960s Marxist-Alinsky campus radical, psycho spoiled brats; to wit, the New Normal
The film skipped almost entirely the just end to the reign of this tyrant
That seems to be lost on some. The North did not invade the South to free the slaves. It invaded to prevent secession—and that’s economics, not morality.
No thanks. No Hollyweird re-write of history for me or my kids. We’ll get all our history from the writings of the times.
I don’t see overt or moderately suggestive political movies (ex I will not see Avatar)
What a menagerie.
Saw the other day, bargain matinee...many older people there. Heard one woman say to another on my way out, “We could use a real President now, someone like Lincoln”
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I agree with you completely. Slavery really had little to do with the war at the onset. While Lincoln abhorred slavery he thought it should be ended by the government buying slaves and sending them home. I assume every black person today is glad it didn’t come to that.
I don’t remember where I read it, but if I remember correctly, Lincolns’ rational was that the federal arsenals and forts located in the South were the property, bought and paid for, of the Federal government. Thus he felt the Federal government had the right to do anything in its’ power to retain or regain that property. This may sound hokey, but it was the reasoning he used.
The United States Congress wrote and passed the Thirteenth Amendment, also known as the Corwin Slavery Amendment. In a remarkable attempt to keep Southern States from leaving the Union, this 13th Amendment to the Constitution, was whittled out of the Crittenden Compromise of the second session of the Thirty-sixth Congress.
It would legalize slavery everywhere in the Union.
It was submitted to both houses of Congress on February 28, immediately approved, and submitted to the states for ratification on March 9, 1861.
Newly inaugurated President Lincoln signed the documents letter of introduction to the state governors, and asked for their approval.
Lincoln's involvement in this constitutional amendment extended far beyond simply endorsing it, which he did in his inauguration speech and letters to the governors.
Lincoln himself was the motivation behind its introduction in committee several months earlier, as was indicated by the senator who introduced it, William Seward.
Seward introduced the measure after being informed of it by Thurlow Weed, who conveyed it as a message from Lincoln. Following the proposal's introduction, Seward wrote to Lincoln to inform him of the result of his suggestion.
The following letter was documentation of that fact:
Letter from William Seward to Abraham Lincoln
Washington Dec. 26, 1860.
My Dear Sir,
Having been hurried away from home by information that my attendance here on Monday would be necessary, I had only the opportunity for conferring with Mr. Weed which was afforded by our journey together on the rail road from Syracuse to Albany.
He gave me verbally the substance of the suggestion you proposed for the consideration of the Republican members, but not the written proposition. This morning I received the latter from him and also information for the first time of your expectation that I would write to you concerning the temper of parties and the public here.
I met on Monday my Republican associates of the Committee of Thirteen, and afterwards the whole committee. With the unanimous consent of our section I offered three propositions which seemed to me to cover the ground of the suggestion made by you through Mr. Weed as I understood it.
First, that the Constitution should never be altered so as to authorize Congress to abolish or interfere with slavery in the states. This was accepted .
Thus, it is clear that William Seward first introduced the measure in committee at Lincoln's bidding.
Lincoln personally pushed the slavery amendment through congress. When he had arrived in Washington and just before his own inauguration, he immediately met with its House sponsor Thomas Corwin to devise a plan to get it through. The two met, decided to go with the original language of Seward's Senate proposal, and push the legislation through the House floor.
The New York Tribune reported at the end of the month that Lincoln was personally urging undecided congressmen to support the amendment.
As to his role in passing the amendment, eyewitness Henry Adams had the following to say in late March 1861:
“On the very morning of the 4th of March, the Senate passed the Amendment to the Constitution by exactly the necessary vote; and even then it was said in Washington that some careful manipulation, as well as the direct influence of the new President, was needed before this measure, so utterly innocent and unobjectionable, could be passed.”
Well before his inauguration, Lincoln was engaging in political maneuvering to frame the secession crisis in a way he saw as favorable to his own cause. His support of the measure was cited as the main reason for its success.
Finally, with Lincolns influence, the Corwin Amendment got through the United States Congress, and Lincoln endorsed it in his inaugural address on the 4th of March.
Three pieces of information come from this:
1. Lincoln was very interested in preventing secession, but not the eradication of slavery.
2. Once secession occurred, he used the issue of slavery to then blame the South...this despite his disregard of its existance via his support of the Corwin amendment.
3. The emancipation proclamation was important only as a tactical war tool and to rationalize the deaths of 750,000 people because of Union war actions.
This film should be flushed.
Read the ordinances of secession passed by the various southern states. A couple of them may not mention slavery as a primary cause of secession, but most do, loud and clear.
Sic Semper Tyrannis.
The more I learn about Lincoln, the more I despise him.
Well done. I will save this post.
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”—John Adams
The North launched the Civil War because it was judged to be in its economic best interest to do so. Everything else is mythmaking.
That is not true.
The Corwin Amendment stated that Congress could make no laws interfering w/ the domestic relations, ie servitude, w/i any state. In those states where slavery was illegal, it would remain illegal.
Its only trope to slavery was to re-inforce the Dred Scott Fugitive Slave Law, which Lincoln openly recognized as constitutional law.
The remainder of your post, while more or less accurate, is distorted by this untruth.
The Crittenden Compromise related to the expansion of slavery into the new territories opening in the west, primarily by extending the line established by the Missouri Compromise. Lincoln was opposed to the expansion of slavery into new territories. In any case, none of the 6 articles of compromise entertained the universal application of slavery.
What this episode actually demonstrates more than anything else was Lincoln's desparate attempt to prevent the coming war. By moving, or so he thought, slavery off the table he hoped to diffuse the secessionist movement.
Alas, the southern firebrands were intent upon secession and if necessary, war.
Miller, WL, "Lincoln's Virtues", Vintage, 2002, p. 435
Donald, DH, "Lincoln", Simon Schuster, 1995, p.268
Barrett, JH, "Life, Speeches, and Public Services of Abraham Lincoln", Moore, Wilstach & Baldwin, 1865, p. 200
...in the interest of accuracy.
I’m sorry. I should have said from Lincolns’ point of view.
You are partially correct. The South seceded legally because it was in their economic best interest to do so. The North invaded to prevent the secession because it was in their best economic interests to do so. Those are the historic facts which have been camouflaged by generations of LEFTIST revisionist historians.
The immorality of slavery is a separate issue which you and I probably agree on.
The legality of what the south did was a matter of speculation and debate long before they launched on that terrible course. And they knew it. They knew it and tabled the debate by force of arms and insurrection.
That insurrection compelled Lincoln to act in accordance with the law and his oath. THOSE are the historic facts which have been camouflaged by generations of LEFTIST revisionist historians.
The South did not invade the North. It left. The supposed moral superiority of the North is a fiction. As is the demonization of the South. We are all better off that slavery was abolished but mythmaking by the victor is no substitute for truth.
And the mythmaking of the losers is?
I’m from New Jersey.
I didn't say that it did. However, since you bring it up they most certainly did. Remember Gettysburg?
The supposed moral superiority of the North is a fiction. As is the demonization(sic) of the South.
Again, you're introducing things that no one is suggesting. Curious tactic that.
We are all better off that slavery was abolished but mythmaking by the victor is no substitute for truth.
And you've mentioned "mythmaking" several times, all without enumerating a single instance. Saying "The winners write the history" is another way of saying you can't handle the truth.
The South seceded because they perceived an economic benefit to so. The North decided to prevent the secession because of a perceived economic benefit. The cost of the war on both sides was much greater than either anticipated.
Since then, there as been a need to justify the carnage in religious and moral grounds and to diefy Lincoln.
It’s like tryng to convince someone that the Trojan War was fought over some chick with a pretty face. It probably had more to do with regional power, maritime shipping lanes and access to raw materials.
The south rebelled against the results of an election that signaled a national sea-change in attitude toward slavery. They lost an election and had a temper tantrum.
Slavery was being phased out amongst the civilized nations of the world but the southron slavocrisy reacted much like Øbongo does - instead of adapting to the changing circumstances, they doubled-down on their unholy investment.
The north reacted in self-defense. None of the rest of what you wrote has any relevance.
The days before Lincoln was sworn in the House and Senate passed a Constitutional amendment to ban constitutional amendments to ban slavery, Buchanan signed it the day before Lincoln was sworn in (same day it passed the Senate)... Lincoln said he wouldn’t fight it.
Only 3 states ratified it.
Money and power. That’s what wars are always fought over. If you want to believe otherwise, feel free.
As a radical marxist, Ozero WANTS to go over the cliff and begin final phase to destroy the Constitution and impose communism on a "transformed" America.
Does anyone in the GOP leadership realize the ongoing communist coup? (/rhetorical)
That arrogant pos thinks he knows everything and the sheeple buy his lies that are supported by the SRM hook line and sinker
I suggest you read Killing Lincoln instead of complaining about Bill O’Reilly
Who was complaining? I was just hoping he would make two largely forgotten Presidents better known (not that it will happen).
Then you've got even less excuse for buying into the Old South mythology.
If I had a nickel for everybody who thinks they've discovered bold new truths about the Civil War when they're just repeating what Southerners told themselves a century ago, I'd be a rich man.
And a lot of people are getting rich off retreading the old rationalizations as new discoveries -- DiLorenzo, the Kennedy Brothers, etc.
They also get their nickels from people who learned the old Southern mythology in school a half century ago, who've convinced themselves that they were taught something very different and only recently discovered the "truth" that they were actually spoon-fed in grade school.
So then what does the "SC" stand for?
Wait a minute...don't answer that.
Ah but you don’t understand. It can all be easily explained away as money and power. You needn’t look any further.
ad hominem (that’s Latin)
I don’t buy the mythology of the South anymore than the mythology of the North. Economics. Money. Power. That;s what wars are fought over. And Lincoln was not a god.
Oh, I thought it stood for Scientific Consultant, or semi-conductor, or supercharged. (that's Merkin)
Specifically, the wording of the Corwin Amendment was:
"No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State."
Upon a critical reading you will note that it forbade Federal interference in states with laws holding people to service.
Your comment that it did not legalize slavery everywhere was fallacious. Here is what you said: "In those states where slavery was illegal, it would remain illegal."
That is on its face not true. The amendment said no such thing.
In ratifying this Amendment, any prohibitive legal consequences for its practice were forbidden.
Thus it remained an option for each state to determine that issue themselves without fear of prohibition.
Should any state decide to reinstate slavery, as it could do so freely, then the Federal government could not interfere.
Simply put, if Indiana or Oregon decided by state law that wanted to reinstate slavery, then according to Corwin, there were no Federal regulations to deny that right.
More importantly, it is quite clear that Lincoln's alleged morality was mitigated by his need for political survival of the union.
In referring to the secession documents, you said:
“A couple of them may not mention slavery as a primary cause of secession, but most do.”
Actually that is not factual.
None of the original 7 and eventual 11 ordinances mentioned slavery as a cause of their decision to leave the Union.
However, four states published their reasoning in individual state decrees, which of course, were not legally representative of the state actions.
Therefore, any notion that these documents were formal, legal explanations is totally false.
"It would legalize slavery everywhere in the Union." That is not true.
The Corwin Amendment would not legalize slavery everywhere in the union. Only the states, acting on their own, could do so, which of course they could do anyway before the passing of Corwin.
The only purpose of Corwin was to re-ensure slave holding states that the Feds wouldn't come in and free their slaves.
Lincoln supported it because it made no material change to facts on the ground and yes, Lincoln desparately wanted to avoid a war.
Self defense to what?
2/21/1861 The U. S. Congress authorized the funding of 7 modern steam powered screw sloops of War. During the debate, congressional members openly discussed the need of these vessels for the upcoming war with the South.
Self defense? The Confederacy had no navy.
3/29/1861 Two weeks after the newspapers in the North caught on to the low tariff issue now being instituted in Southern ports, they began to inflame militant war fever with their aggressive editorials, and calling for war.
Self defense? Yes, economic self defense via the United States military.
That same day, Lincoln called another meeting of his cabinet. He asked them again for their views on sending a naval force to reinforce Fort Sumter. Again, all except one were certain it would initiate the war that they all wanted to avoid.
Lincoln introduced Gustavus Fox, still a civilian, who presented his Fort Sumter re-supply plan to the Cabinet. Under the plan, tugboats would pull troop and supply ships into the harbor. It was anticipated that Confederate gunners would resist and fire upon the fleet and therefore the US flag. This would mean that unarmed tugboats would be hit first, a strong political advantage.
Not seeking political advantages, Lincoln's cabinet pointed out that the fort had no value now with secession, and it wasn't worth starting a war over a useless fort.
Lincoln saw it differently. From his expedient perspective of military coercion of the South, Sumter was a prize to be maintained, and it could cripple and shut down the major Atlantic port of entry to the Confederacy. Rather than being of no value, as the secretaries maintained, in Lincoln's mind it was of value beyond measure.
By use of military coercion in Charleston Harbor, a success would lead to holding this vital harbor. If the naval venture failed, it would likely be due to Confederate fire on the flag of the United States. This would give the President the authority to invade the South.
He had seen a war intentionally instigated once before. As a Whig congressman during the Mexican War, he had seen President Polk send an armed force to the Rio Grande to provoke the Mexicans into a shooting war that Polk could blame on the Mexicans. Also, in conducting the war, President Polk ignored the Constitution and assumed some of the powers of Congress. And Polk did all this without getting impeached.
Lincoln likely realized that he could do the same sorts of things and get away with it.
After the meeting on this same day, Lincoln sent notes to the Secretaries of War and Navy: “I desire that an expedition, to move by sea, be got ready to sail as early as the 6th of April ”
These orders were all marked private. These instructions had been written the day before by ex-navy captain Fox who was acting under Lincoln, and without any legal authority.
Lincoln was also bypassing the chain of command, and the Constitution of the United States because he had instructed Seward to secretly take money from his office at the Department of State and to give the money to Fox to pay for the quasi-military invasion of Charleston and Pensacola harbors in April of 1861.
Some of our posting neighbors here like to cloud the issue by feigning historical revisionism bias. But they cannot refute that all of the historians cannot deny these points because they are well documented and commonly known.