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"Lincoln" legal mistake
03-01-2013, 06:51 PM (This post was last modified: 03-01-2013 06:55 PM by David Lockmiller.)
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"Lincoln" movie criticisms
(02-06-2013 05:17 AM)RJNorton Wrote:  Very interesting, Lindsey. Thank you for sharing this. There are several other things including the quote, "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” that may not be accurate. I researched that quote, and it comes from the reminisces of one single person 20+ years after the fact.

I consider there to be a serious problem regarding the "Lincoln" movie in its supposedly accurate depiction of historical events during the Civil War relating to Lincoln and the truthful portrayal of Lincoln's character by actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Last Sunday, he won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln.

I consider myself to be a defender of truth about Lincoln. It bothers me a good deal to see Lincoln's character to be falsely represented. When I first learned of the misrepresentations of historical fact and the highly-questionable portrayal of the character of Abraham Lincoln by watching the trailer of the "Lincoln" movie, I went to this website to find out what knowledgeable web site participants had written on the subject. I did not find much at that time.

I have not seen the movie "Lincoln" and I do not intend to see it. But I have seen the movie trailer, the interview that Tony Kushner had with Charlie Rose, and the 60 Minutes interview by Leslie Stahl with Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg. Without seeing the movie, I have concluded that the movie does not fit at all with my perception of Abraham Lincoln's character. In my opinion, Tony Kushner is a sort of "Carl Sandburg" of this time, i.e. a dramatist posing as a historian. In principle and in fact, I am against any fictional misrepresentation of Lincoln in terms of historical fact or character portrayal.

Recently, historical inaccuracy in the movie regarding the vote of the Connecticut congressmen on the Thirteenth Amendment was challenged by Joe Courtney, a congressman from Connecticut. There was even an editorial in the NY Times by Maureen Dowd in support of the importance of historical accuracy in movies, and in the Lincoln movie specifically. She wrote in her New York Times editorial of February 16, 2013, entitled "The Oscar for Best Fabrication": "Hollywood always wants it both ways, of course, but this Oscar season is rife with contenders who bank on the authenticity of their films until it's challenged, and then fall back on the 'Hey, it's just a movie' defense." In the editorial, Maureen Dowd added the information: "Spielberg has agreed to provide a DVD to every middle and high school that requests it."

Without any disclaimer as to historical accuracy, many current and future students of history who see this movie in school will presume that the movie presentation is historically accurate as to events and the portrayal of Lincoln's character.

The comment section to the Ms. Dowd's NY Times editorial had been cut-off by the time I read the editorial, so I wrote one of those N Y Times internal emails to Maureen Dowd. In my email, I wrote:

"Lincoln would never have said the words "God damn" to anyone - not even to argue for the passage of the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution. And, he most certainly would not have entered into the argument depicted with Mary about ending slavery. When the title of your movie is "Lincoln," it is presumed to be a historically factual movie.

I would suggest that the movie title come with an immediate disclaimer that the film is a 'historical drama - meaning not factual history' and signed by Director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner."

In my email I asked Ms. Dowd to publicize my recommended fix, but I have not received a response from her. [I did not really expect a response.] So, I presume that my well-meaning suggestion simply fell off into oblivion.

Last Sunday morning I watched "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" and the panel was asked their individual opinions regarding the Oscar awards to be presented that night. One of the panelists, who referred to the "Lincoln" movie, said of the acting by Daniel Day-Lewis: "You really did think that you were watching Lincoln."

Well, this comment was "the straw that broke the camel's back" for me. Again, I went to this web site and did more research on the posted comments regarding the "Lincoln" movie, especially looking for comments made by Roger Norton, a Lincoln expert who I greatly admire and respect. I found the following comment posted by him and this comment made by him in response to the Connecticut vote issue has prompted this posting.

RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake
“Very interesting, Lindsey. Thank you for sharing this. There are several other things including the quote, "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” that may not be accurate. I researched that quote, and it comes from the reminiscences of one single person 20+ years after the fact." (Emphasis added)

Roger did not identify the source consulted by him in questioning the veracity of this quote used verbatim in the movie, but I presume it to be from "Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln" (first published in 1885) in the chapter authored by John B. Alley (pages 585-86).

In all of my Lincoln readings, I have never come across the two words "God damn" being used together by Abraham Lincoln. In the movie, the actor portraying Lincoln uses the words "God damn" on two occasions.

In the occasion from the movie trailer referred to in Roger’s quote immediately above, Lincoln uncharacteristically pounds his fist in anger on the table at a meeting of his cabinet and says in a loud voice (also uncharacteristic):

"I can't accomplish a God damn thing of any human meaning or worth until we cure ourselves of slavery and end this pestilential war."

In contrast, compare the alleged Lincoln words in this instance used by the movie actor with the words Lincoln undoubtedly spoke in his second inaugural address a few months later, as commented upon by Frederick Douglass: "I heard Mr. Lincoln deliver this wonderful address. It was very short; but he answered all the objections raised to his prolonging the war in one sentence -- it was a remarkable sentence." (Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln" at page 191.)

"Fondly do we hope, profoundly do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war shall soon pass away, yet if God wills it continue until all the wealth piled up by two hundred years of bondage shall have been wasted, and each drop of blood drawn by the lash shall have been paid for by one drawn by the sword, we must still say, as was said three thousand years ago, the judgment of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

On the second occasion in which the actor portraying Lincoln uses these same words in this short movie, the actor's lines are as follows and the discussion on 60 Minutes by Leslie Stahl with Lincoln historian Doris Kearns Goodwin follows immediately thereafter:

Lincoln: For everyone's god damn sake. I should've clapped you in the madhouse.
Mary: Then do it. Do it. Don't you threaten me, you do it this time. Lock me away.

Lesley Stahl: When the movie starts their second child has already died, Willie. And she has been in the deepest of mourning. As I had heard, she basically closeted herself upstairs in the White House and is this true, Doris, stopped mothering the younger child, Tad?

Doris Kearns Goodwin: "The most terrible thing that Mary did after Willie died was she couldn't bear being with Tad, her youngest son, because he reminded her of Willie's absence. It's as if both Willie and Tad died after Willie died. Lincoln had to become both mother and father to Tad after Mary turned away. And he had to take over not only the country, in leading the country, but take over that little kid at the same time."

In point of fact, instead of bitter, reproachful argument on the subject of Willie’s death as depicted in the scene from the movie, Lincoln attempted to console his wife in her time of deep grief as much as he could. Elizabeth Keckley (Mary's closest confidante) observed the following scene:

"Mrs. Lincoln was inconsolable. In one of her paroxysms of grief the President kindly bent over his wife, took her by the arm, and gently led her to a window. With a solemn, stately gesture, he pointed to the lunatic asylum, saying: 'Mother, do you see that large, white building on the hill yonder? Try to control your grief, or it will drive you mad, and we may have to send you there." ("Lincoln Talks, a Biography in Anecdote," by Emanuel Hertz, page 662)

John B. Alley noted that President Lincoln even permitted Mary, as a matter of consolation, to conduct séances at the White House in a useless attempt to reach the spirit of her dead son. (Reminiscences at page 191.)

"At the time he lost his little son, to whom he was greatly attached, Mrs. Lincoln sought consolation and comfort from the spiritualists, and I think she did believe in spiritualism."

Leslie Stahl in her national 60 Minutes broadcast on the "Lincoln" movie began with these words: "The film is filled with things about our 16th President that we, who are not Lincoln scholars, did not know."

What will people learn about the accurate portrayal of Abraham Lincoln's character and his relation to historical events by watching this short “Lincoln” movie? It seems to me that the film may be filled with things that Lincoln scholars themselves also did not know, because they did not happen.

As Roger stated: "There are several other things . . . that may not be accurate." I have not read any other critical comments regarding the "Lincoln" movie that have been made by a Lincoln scholar. I believe that other members of the Lincoln Community (i.e., Lincoln scholars and knowledgeable students of Lincoln) should point out and document as flaws in the "Lincoln" movie, either as to historical facts or the accuracy of the portrayal of Lincoln's character.

All movies are now digitalized. It would be but a small effort and easily done to insert in all digital copies of the movie, immediately following the movie title, a disclaimer to the effect that the movie “Lincoln” is a “historical drama - meaning not factual history” and the disclaimer should be electronically-signed by Director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner.

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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Messages In This Thread
"Lincoln" legal mistake - Lindsey - 02-05-2013, 09:52 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 02-06-2013, 05:17 AM
"Lincoln" movie criticisms - David Lockmiller - 03-01-2013 06:51 PM
RE: "Lincoln" movie criticisms - Gene C - 03-01-2013, 08:40 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - LincolnMan - 02-06-2013, 08:51 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 02-06-2013, 09:33 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - HerbS - 02-06-2013, 09:43 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - HerbS - 02-06-2013, 04:19 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Rob Wick - 02-06-2013, 06:51 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 02-07-2013, 02:26 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - HerbS - 02-10-2013, 02:08 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Jim Garrett - 02-14-2013, 06:06 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - ELCore - 02-18-2013, 07:23 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 02-19-2013, 05:12 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - LincolnMan - 02-19-2013, 08:12 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 03-02-2013, 05:10 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - HerbS - 03-02-2013, 09:41 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - LincolnMan - 03-02-2013, 05:25 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - L Verge - 03-02-2013, 07:28 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - LincolnMan - 03-03-2013, 07:21 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Gene C - 03-03-2013, 09:20 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - LincolnMan - 03-03-2013, 09:42 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Jim Page - 03-03-2013, 11:08 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Gene C - 03-07-2013, 05:06 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 01-20-2014, 01:43 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Anita - 01-20-2014, 02:30 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 01-20-2014, 03:06 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - L Verge - 01-20-2014, 02:36 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 01-20-2014, 04:14 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - L Verge - 01-20-2014, 06:36 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 01-21-2014, 07:46 AM

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