Lincoln Reaction Paper
- Pages: 3
- Word count: 678
- Category: Lincoln
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The award winning movie Lincoln is one of the most acclaimed films of the year. It depicts the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, focusing on his efforts in getting the 13th amendment passed. While it shows some of the personal aspects of the president’s life, such as his relationships with his wife and two sons, it focuses on the political battle to secure enough votes to free the African American population. Unfortunately, many historians have pointed out that that aspect of the movie may very well be completely inaccurate.
The majority of the film focused on Lincoln pushing members of the house to vote for the passage of the amendment through personal favors and promises as well as negotiations and extensive convincing. Initially, I was a bit surprised that such a highly held president could have resorted to such tactics to get what he wanted before remembering the game of politics. I was however more surprised to learn that all of this effort on Lincoln’s part may never have happened. According to Harvard University’s Professor David H. Donald, who has done extensive research on Lincoln and his life, there is no evidence that any members of Congress changed their votes on the Thirteenth Amendment because of Lincoln’s actions. In fact, some New Jersey Democrats could have been persuaded to vote for the bill if Lincoln could persuade Senator Charles Sumner to drop a bill to regulate the Camden and Amboy New Jersey railroad, but Lincoln chose not to intervene.
Furthermore, Lincoln had stated that he did not support equality for blacks and white, contrary to popular belief. In the first Lincoln-Douglas Debate in Ottawa, Illinois on September 18, 1858, Lincoln stated, “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people . . . . I as much as any man am in favor of the superior position assigned to the white race.” There is further evidence showing that Lincoln did not think that slavery was unconstitutional. Even though in the movie, one of the reasons Lincoln supported the passage of the amendment was to end the Civil War, it seems that that may have been his only motivation.
I did however, find the relationships that Lincoln held with his family interesting. The element of the first lady being mentally unstable was something that added an intriguing aspect to the movie. Since I did not know this about the first lady, I was taken aback and surprised that the Lincoln in the movie did not try to help his wife, but instead threatened to have her locked up and frequently fought with her, usually regarding their children. Lincoln’s oldest son was not seen for the most of the movie, but when he was seen, he was trying to convince his father to let him join the war effort as a soldier. Lincoln had had his son sent away from the war by schooling him, even though his son wanted desperately to fight for his country. Lincoln took his son to visit the hospital where injured soldiers went to be treated, exposing him to the graphic side of war. While I found this cruel, I understand the motivation and thought process behind it. On the contrary, he was very playful and loving with his younger son. In the movie he frequently let him into meetings he was having with other politicians, played with him, and spent quality bonding time with him.
Overall, I thought the “Lincoln,” was interesting as a whole, even though it got boring at points and was not completely truthful. I would have much rather seen a movie that showed the real Lincoln. I also would have preferred if there was a bit more in the movie about his death.