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Lincoln and the Thirteenth Amendment
02-12-2016, 04:22 PM
Post: #36
RE: Lincoln and the Thirteenth Amendment
(02-11-2016 01:29 PM)Christian Wrote:  Well, I suppose all I can say is that I hope the movie generated enough interest in the topic to make people want to read my book and learn what the movie got right, what it got wrong, and where it relied on a source but without interrogating it for accuracy...

The signature line for my posts reads as follows: “So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history.” (Plutarch, Lives, Pericles, page 194, from “Familiar Quotations, John Bartlett,” Little, Brown and Company, 1951, page 1112).

You referenced in your question and answer session following your recent speech at the Lincoln cottage examples of dubious historical veracity from the movie “Lincoln.” You made particular reference to a historical contribution made by Senator John B. Alley in “Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time,” Allen Thorndike Rice, 1888, pp. 573-591. He did make some interesting observations regarding the character of Abraham Lincoln. In one passage at page 577, Senator Alley said: “In small and unimportant matters, Mr. Lincoln was so yielding that many thought his excessive amiability was born of weakness. But, in matters of vital importance, he was as firm as a rock.” On page 578, Senator Alley also stated: “No man was ever more thoroughly imbued with the conviction of the wickedness and cruelty of slavery than Mr. Lincoln.”

The Senator Alley text with which you object is contained on pages 585-86. However, it would appear that at least one highly-respected Lincoln scholar and authority, Doris Kearns Goodwin, decidedly disagrees with you.

“[Lincoln] assigned two of his allies in the House to deliver the votes of two wavering members. When they asked how to proceed, he said, ‘I am President of the United States, clothed with great power. The abolition of slavery by constitutional provision settles the fate, for all coming time, not only of the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come—a measure of such importance that those two votes must be procured. I leave it to you to determine how it shall be done; but remember that I am President of the United States, clothed with immense power, and I expect you to procure those votes.’ It was clear to his emissaries that his powers extended to plum assignments, pardons, campaign contributions, and government jobs for relatives and friends of faithful members. Brooklyn Democrat Moses F. Odell agreed to change his vote; when the session ended, he was given the lucrative post of navy agent in New York. Elizabeth Blair noted that her father had successfully joined in the lobbying effort, persuading several members.” (“Team of Rivals,” page 687)

Also in confirmation of just how important the securing of even a single vote on this issue was to Lincoln, there are the two following examples, with greater historical credence than that provided by Senator Alley, from the “Team of Rivals” book at pages 687 and 688.

“Congressman James M. Ashley of Ohio reintroduced the measure into the House on January 6, 1865. . . . Ashley learned that the Camden & Amboy Railroad could secure the vote of two New Jersey Democrats if Senator Sumner could be convinced to postpone a bill he had introduced to end the monopoly the railroad enjoyed. Unable to move Sumner, Ashley asked Lincoln to intervene. Lincoln regretfully replied that he could “do nothing with Mr. Sumner in these matters,” and feared if he tried, Sumner “would be all the more resolute.” (AL, quoted in JGN memorandum, January 18, 1865, in “Nicolay, With Lincoln in the White House,” pp. 171, 257 n11.)

“Both sides knew that the outcome would be decided by the thinnest of margins. ‘We are like whalers,’ Lincoln observed, ‘who have been long on a chase: we have at last got the harpoon into the monster, but we must now look how we steer, or with one ‘flop’ of his tail he will send us all into eternity.’ (AL, quoted in Nicolay and Hay, “Abraham Lincoln: A History,” p. 74.) On the morning of the scheduled vote, Ashley feared that the entire effort would collapse. Rumors circulated that Confederate Peace Commissioners were on the way to Washington or had already arrive in the capital. ‘If it is true,’ Ashley urgently wrote to the president, ‘I fear we shall [lose] the bill.’ The Democratic leadership would prevail upon wavering party members, arguing that the amendment would lead the commissioners to abort the peace talks. ‘Please authorize me to contradict it, if not true,’ Ashley entreated.

‘So far as I know,’ Lincoln promptly replied, ‘there are no peace Commissioners in the City, or likely to be in it.’ Ashley later learned that Lincoln, in fact, had been informed that three Peace Commissioners were en route to Fort Monroe, but he could honestly, if insincerely, claim that no commissioners were in the capital city. Without this cunning evasion, Ashley believe, ‘the proposed amendment would have failed.’”

Finally came the vote in the House of Representatives: “The floor was in tumult when Speaker Colfax stood to announce the final tally. His voice shaking, he said, ‘On the passage of the Joint Resolution to amend the Constitution of the United States the ayes have 119, the noes 56. The constitutional majority of two thirds having voted in the affirmative, the Joint Resolution has passed.” Without the five Democrats who had changed their votes, the amendment would have lost.” (“Team of Rivals,” page 689.)

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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RE: Lincoln and the Thirteenth Amendment - David Lockmiller - 02-12-2016 04:22 PM

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