Skip to comments.Learning from Lincoln: Both Onscreen and Off
Posted on 12/08/2012 8:28:33 AM PST by Kaslin
What is it about Abraham Lincoln that has captured the hearts and minds of the American public since his assassination nearly 150 years ago? After all, one could argue -- rather persuasively -- that our 16th president was the least qualified candidate ever elected to high national office; in fact, his public service record included just four terms in the Illinois state legislative, one unremarkable term in the House of Representatives, and two unsuccessful bids for the US Senate. In addition, he had virtually no executive experience and, as his contemporaries invariably pointed out, Lincoln seemed wholly unfit to lead the nation during the chaotic and consequential times in which he lived.
And yet whats so striking about Steven Spielbergs outstanding film Lincoln is the eponymous heros latent political acumen. Since his death in 1865, Abraham Lincoln has been immortalized as the Great Emancipator and The Rail-Splitter -- two larger-than-life epithets that continue to inspire our collective imaginations. But, as Spielberg sharply demonstrates (through the talented Irish-born actor Daniel Day-Lewis) Lincoln was, after all, a human being -- a man who struggled, fought and ultimately died for the one indispensable cause that meant everything to him: the right for a free people to govern themselves.
Historians such as Eric Foner and the late David Herbert Donald have written important and absorbing works about Lincolns life and legacy. His empathy, keen wit, good-humored temperament, and passion for storytelling are only a few of the amiable characteristics evinced in the film. But perhaps Lincolns greatest quality -- as painstakingly revealed in Doris Kearns Goodwins absorbing book Team of Rivals, on which the aforementioned movie is partly based -- was his ability to recognize and seize opportune political moments.
Far from being the country bumpkin and second-rate lawyer often depicted in the contemporary newspaper articles of his day -- Lincoln was in fact a shrewd and cunning politician. And this trait is manifested brilliantly in the film when he decides -- against the wishes of some of his most ardent supporters -- to pursue a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery.
At the very beginning of the movie, theres a seemingly inconsequential scene in which Secretary of State William Seward (ably portrayed by David Strathairn) attempts to convince his boss that mobilizing support for a 13th Amendment to abolish slavery was not only political suicide, but would be met -- inevitably -- with harsh and vigorous criticism from House Democrats. Lincoln, however, with his characteristic soft-spoken charm, replies coolly: I like our chances now.
While this conversation probably never actually took place (indeed, Goodwin makes no mention of it in Team of Rivals), it is a simple yet revealing response. This echoes Lincolns patience to wait for the appropriate tactical moment to announce his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to the general public in September 1862 (after the Union armys long-awaited victory at Antietam). He likewise, in this situation, understood the importance of timing. And with the 1864 lame-duck session in full swing (and the publics increasingly growing desire to finally settle the slavery question -- in Lincolns words -- for all coming time before the war ended and the Emancipation Proclamation became null and void), the 16th president recognized that now was the decisive moment to act.
Eschewing the initial advice of his supporters, he shrewdly rounded up the requisite votes (by any and all means necessary) from an unlikely coalition of former Whigs, conservative Republicans, and War Democrats. In the end, after several weeks of cajoling, lobbying and politicking, the amendment passed by a razor-thin margin of two votes in a Congress of 184 Representatives.
One need only spend a few hours watching Lincoln (a masterful and deeply engrossing film that I encourage all Americans to go and see) to understand why our 16th president was by all accounts a political genius.
And there is still much we can learn from him.
Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has reportedly invited Steven Spielberg to screen Lincoln in the U.S. Senate Chamber later this month. Perhaps this might just do some good, and impel Senate Republicans and Democrats to finally put aside their differences (at least until the looming fiscal cliff fiasco is averted) for the sake of the nation.
After all, given the grossly partisan antics weve seen thus far, it certainly cant hurt.
Lincoln had just as much experience as OBummer. Says something, doesn’t it?
“. . . one could argue — rather persuasively — that our 16th president was the least qualified candidate ever elected to high national office; in fact, his public service record included just four terms in the Illinois state legislative, one unremarkable term in the House of Representatives”.
Who is Daniel Doherty? Why is he writing in Townhall?
And he ascribes logical thinking to Reid?
This kind of numbness to the real situation is very harmful, very.
Abraham Lincoln was an inspiring and effective Executive who had an uncanny ability to get things done. That he was elected to the Presidency is astonishing. It is my belief that he was placed there by forces beyond anything that we can understand.
Ah, no. A whole lot more, plus life experience.
I do wish people would look at the complete picture here.
I do not think I’ll see this fluffy movie if this mind numbing result is going to happen to me or my family.
Lincoln has long been upheld as the model statesman, the leader from whom all leaders should learn. And they have. The use of war as a tactic for shoring up central power is a dominant theme in the century that followed his catastrophic civil war. In fact, every political leader in the world that seeks to crush rebellion and put down secessions looks to Lincolns example.
To study Lincolns legacy is to gain a greater understanding of what drives the despots of our own time. We are better able to see through the fog of propaganda. This is a very accurate portrayal.
Springfield, Ills, April 6, 1859
Messrs. Henry L. Pierce, & others.
Your kind note inviting me to attend a Festival in Boston, on the 13th. Inst. in honor of the birth-day of Thomas Jefferson, was duly received. My engagements are such that I can not attend.
Bearing in mind that about seventy years ago, two great political parties were first formed in this country, that Thomas Jefferson was the head of one of them, and Boston the head-quarters of the other, it is both curious and interesting that those supposed to descend politically from the party opposed to Jefferson should now be celebrating his birthday in their own original seat of empire, while those claiming political descent from him have nearly ceased to breathe his name everywhere.
Remembering too, that the Jefferson party were formed upon its supposed superior devotion to the personal rights of men, holding the rights of property to be secondary only, and greatly inferior, and then assuming that the so-called democracy of to-day, are the Jefferson, and their opponents, the anti-Jefferson parties, it will be equally interesting to note how completely the two have changed hands as to the principle upon which they were originally supposed to be divided.
The democracy of to-day hold the liberty of one man to be absolutely nothing, when in conflict with another man's right of property. Republicans, on the contrary, are for both the man and the dollar; but in cases of conflict, the man before the dollar.
I remember once being much amused at seeing two partially intoxicated men engage in a fight with their great-coats on, which fight, after a long, and rather harmless contest, ended in each having fought himself out of his own coat, and into that of the other. If the two leading parties of this day are really identical with the two in the days of Jefferson and Adams, they have perfomed the same feat as the two drunken men.
But soberly, it is now no child's play to save the principles of Jefferson from total overthrow in this nation.
One would start with great confidence that he could convince any sane child that the simpler propositions of Euclid are true; but, nevertheless, he would fail, utterly, with one who should deny the definitions and axioms. The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society.
And yet they are denied and evaded, with no small show of success.
One dashingly calls them "glittering generalities"; another bluntly calls them "self evident lies"; and still others insidiously argue that they apply only to "superior races."
These expressions, differing in form, are identical in object and effect--the supplanting the principles of free government, and restoring those of classification, caste, and legitimacy. They would delight a convocation of crowned heads, plotting against the people. They are the van-guard--the miners, and sappers--of returning despotism.
We must repulse them, or they will subjugate us.
This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.
All honor to Jefferson--to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.
Your obedient Servant
(Bolding added for emphasis)
Source for this reproduction of the letter is
Today's ". . . van-guard--the miners, and sappers--of returning despotism. . . ." appears to be the so-called "progressive movement," with its intent to plan, control, manage, and rule a people who, for over 200 years, claimed individual liberty and Creator-endowed life, liberty and rights as protected by their Constitution.
Abraham Lincoln was the epitome of honesty and Godliness. Also for these two rare virtues, he was loved and hated. He pondered every aspect of a problem, then he did the RIFHTR THING. His wit was unequaled then and now.He was tall in stature, and also literally towered intellectually over men. God sent him to us at a point in time the country needed him. President Lincoln served his God, and his country, well.
May God pleasse send us such a man as Abraham Lincoln today. AMEN
He put people who disagreed with him in prison and suspended Habeas Corpus.
The south (and the North, where the were slaves also) were very close to stopping slavery on their own.
His actions were nothing more than consolidating federal power over the individual states.
He was a tyrant.
The historical facts show that Lincoln did not establish liberty in America; he unleashed terror. Lincoln shredded the Constitution; ignored the courts; obstructed free and fair elections; criminalized speech; outlawed dissent; refused to honor existing treaties with Indian nations; proclaimed women and children, the sick, and the elderly legitimate military targets; and waged an unprovoked and illegal war, which killed more than 600,000 Americans.
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..
and here they all are. The ruling elite New Normal.
One need only spend a few hours watching Lincoln (a masterful and deeply engrossing film that I encourage all Americans to go and see) to understand why our 16th president was by all accounts
a political genius.
And there is still much we can learn from him.
On the other hand, that arrogant pos occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave a genius? Don't make me laugh
You judge the movie like some one who judges a book by the cover of the book
I will not spend a cent to see this movie. I’ve never liked Lincoln, and I despise most of those in the film industry.
I judge this movie by the reactoins like I judge many books and movies, as well as the reviews and previews.
Great find. Thanks for posting
Very well said
That is your opinion to which you are entitled. Nothing more
No one forces you to see the movie
Thank you me Lord.
And yours are something more?
Not at all
And why was Lincoln’s life worth one more penny than any of those boys he sent to certain death to kill their fellow Americans.
My goodness! Where did you get your education? From Obama? If ever anyone needed the Lord, you do.
Why not simply address the subject matter rather than make a personal attack ?
I do not think of Abraham Lincoln s a politician, a god, or even an idol of any kind. I think of him as a human being who, through his faith, rose above difficult times, rejection, the and stupidity of his peers to achieve through human trial and error the goals God had in mind for him. I also think of him as a kindred soul.
Your warped vision of Abraham Lincoln requires inquiry as to the source of your unworthy rant. The entire nation deeply mourned the untimely demise of a great and loved American. The tracks of his funeral train were lined with many thousands of his countrymen standing in silent honor of their valiant leader.
Are you kidding? Lincoln's entire presidency was one long train of "grossly partisan antics". What do you call a civil war in which one kills rather than persuades -- "statesmanship"?
He wasn't great and loved until after he was safely dead.
Interesting that there was a character who looked exactly like Ted Kennedy.
I had heard that speilberg apologized for Showing Republicans in a good light in the film when it opened in NYC but I cannot find the link to confirm this.
My unworthy rant rests with the 650,000 young men and boys in their graves. Your warped view simply rests on a single menacing monster most responsible for not allowing southern states to separate in peace. You clearly place greater value on paper of big government over the lives of people. The Jesus Christ I follow sees all people of equal value.
Freedom has never been free.
I, too, believe all people are born equal. Of course some of them were born black. The economy of the south depended on black slaves, who definitely were not treated equally.
The Civil War and President Lincoln’s emancipation paraoclamation ended slavery, and apparently the South will never get over it.
The Civil War rages on......
Only the absolutely largest plantations had slaves and were profitable. The average farmer picked his own damn cotton. The ENTIRE economy of the South did not depend on slavery. That is just bull$h1t. Only 15% of households had slaves. Feeding and housing slaves cradle to grave was an expensive proposition.
Apparently you know nothing....
I am not from the South. My family fought for the North, but yet I see the massive evil that was done. The Africans were sold by their own people and ended up far better off here regardless. Less than 10% of southerners owned slaves. Most people today are simply slaves to big government. Try living out from under government and find your property taken, be caged like a lower animal, or killed by a swat team. Lincoln did not start the war to end slavery but to expand his power and to him killing 600 or 6 million was of little consequence.
I don’t know how old you are, but I’ll wager 20 cents that you were educated in the government public school and left wing college. My 52 year old had a social studies textbook in high school which contained one paragraph on Abraham Lincoln! It was necessary to augment her education. Education is far worse now than it was in the 60’s. Most young younger people have very little knowledge of of U.S. history, much less good manners.