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"Lincoln" legal mistake
03-07-2013, 02:17 PM (This post was last modified: 03-07-2013 02:26 PM by David Lockmiller.)
Post: #36
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake
(03-02-2013 06:10 AM)RJNorton Wrote:  First of all I would like to welcome David Lockmiller to the forum. Some members here were posters on the defunct Abraham Lincoln Online Friends of Lincoln Mailbag and will remember David as being an integral part of the discussions there. Welcome aboard, David!

I believe the parts of the movie which I was referring to have now been mentioned by the posts above. I think, with Abraham and Mary Lincoln, it's sometimes difficult to get at the absolute truth. Neither of them kept a diary. Although we have plenty of letters, when it comes to conversations, language, mannerisms, etc. we often have to rely on the recollections of others. These recollections do not always agree with each other. Many of the recollections were made many, many years after the fact.

One example would be Lincoln's voice. I have a book entitled "Abraham Lincoln: Public Speaker" by Waldo W. Braden. Chapter 8 is entitled "Penetrating and Far Reaching: Lincoln's Voice." Although many of the "ear witnesses" do say something like "high-pitched," not all do. It's not unanimous. So what Daniel Day-Lewis tried to emulate is simply what the majority of folks thought. I am sure there are probably some people from Lincoln's time who, had they seen the movie, would say, "No, that's not the way he sounded at all."

The movie is partly based on Goodwin's book. In her book she uses a variety of sources, some quite obscure. Are her sources accurate? In some cases, there is no way of telling. If a conversation was reported by one single individual, how can we tell if it's accurate when there is no other source? I don't think we can.

As far as I know Elizabeth Keckly is the sole source for the conversation about the big white building. Did she remember it correctly? We really have no sure way of knowing. I had not previously been aware that Mary turned away from Tad after Willie's death. That was new to me. Maybe someone who knows more than me can expound upon that.

Regarding the "clothed in immense power" quote, the only source I see for this are the reminisces of Congressman John B. Alley published in "Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time" collected and edited by Allen Thorndike Rice. Goodwin used an 1886 edition.

The two House members who are supposed to have heard this remark are not named either in Goodwin's book or Rice's. Goodwin writes, "He (Lincoln) assigned two of his allies in the House to deliver the votes of two wavering members. When asked how to proceed he said (see above quote)." Unless I am missing it, Alley doesn't even say if he is one of the two Congressmen present for the remark.

When I researched that quote I found that the Fehrenbachers did not even think it was worthy enough to include in their excellent book. This made me wonder about the accuracy of other quotes in the movie. How much of what Lincoln says in the movie is based on dubious sources?

In truth I agree with both David and Liz. I thought it was a terrific movie....I absolutely loved it and along with many in the theater gave it a standing applause at the end. I did this despite having some misgivings on the historical accuracy. I wish I didn't feel that way; so my opinion on the movie is "divided," but I still loved it (if that makes any sense!). Do we "nit-pick" too much? I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion on that, and there will never really be a consensus. I agree that it is important that the movie stay true to Lincoln's actions, thoughts, and character. In some respects it may not have, but I still loved the movie anyway. If the inaccuracies in the movie do divert the audience from Lincoln's true character, then I disagree with that. I doubt we can reach a consensus as to what degree this happens. What is "nit-picking" to one person may be serious movie flaws to another. I think we should respect both views.

I am NOT a movie critic. So, David and Liz, if you are disappointed in this posting, please know that critiquing a movie is not something I am good at doing. I did not take part in the "Killing Lincoln" analysis. I didn't know what to say - I just loved the production although articulating why is hard, if not impossible, for me to do. As a teacher I rarely assigned my students essays as I myself am poor at writing them and didn't know how I could possibly justify assigning a letter grade to what the students wrote. Most of the teachers on my old staff were far better at writing essays than I was.

Plutarch wrote: “So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out truth of anything by history.” (“Lives,” Pericles, page 194)

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

The 60 Minutes piece made reference to an early meeting in the movie-making process arranged by Doris Kearns Goodwin in New York in 2006 with a number of Lincoln scholars, Director Steven Spielberg and movie playwright Tony Kushner.

In a recent newspaper article entitled “Is 'Lincoln' the real deal?” written by Rebecca Keegan for the Los Angeles Times (November 28, 2012), she states: “[T]here's another group whose opinion matters — historians.” The article itself was an interview with Lincoln biographer James McPherson and was conducted shortly after he had seen Steven Spielberg's biopic on Lincoln. James McPherson is a professor emeritus at Princeton University, a Civil War historian, Lincoln biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Battle Cry of Freedom."

At the outset of the interview, McPherson stated that previous movies on Lincoln “tended to reflect a romanticized Lincoln, almost a mythologized Lincoln.” McPherson’s overall opinion on the “Lincoln” movie was that it “comes closer to reality.”

In response to the reporter’s first question regarding the Lincoln voice utilized by actor Daniel Day-Lewis, McPherson gratuitously added a comment of a different nature at the end of his response: “Lincoln rarely if ever used profanity, and some of the dialogue calls for him to do that. I thought that was a bit jarring.” Later in the interview, McPherson observed: “This movie reflects a fairly sympathetic reading of Mary Todd's character, although there are allusions to her going off the rails in 1862.” And in his response to the reporter’s question on Lincoln’s son Robert, McPherson states: “I'll tell you one thing that bothered me — I thought it was out of character when Lincoln slapped Robert.”

Based on the text of her own book on Lincoln, “Team of Rivals,” I am of the opinion that Doris Kearns Goodwin also considers the scene of Lincoln slapping his eldest son to be “out of character” and fictitious. At the time the alleged incident occurred, Robert Todd Lincoln was a grown man and a recent graduate of Harvard University. In her book, ”Team of Rivals,” there are two references under the heading “Lincoln, Robert Todd – Lincoln’s relationship with”:

“Very different in temperament, Lincoln and his eldest son never seemed to develop a close relationship. During Robert’s childhood, Lincoln had been absent for months at a time, traveling the circuits of both politics and law. At sixteen, Robert entered boarding school in New Hampshire, and he was a student at Harvard when his father became president. ‘Thenceforth,’ Robert noted sadly, ‘any great intimacy between us became impossible. I scarcely even had ten minutes quiet talk with him during his Presidency, on account of his constant devotion to business.’” (“Team of Rivals,” page 541)

“Good Friday, April 14, 1865, was surely one of Lincoln’s happiest days. The morning began with a leisurely breakfast in the company of his son Robert, just arrived in Washington. ‘Well, my son, you have returned safely from the front,’ Lincoln said. ‘The war is now closed, and we soon will live in peace with the brave men that have been fighting against us.’ He urged Robert to ‘lay aside’ his army uniform and finish his education, perhaps in preparation for a law career. As the father imparted his advice, Elizabeth Keckley observed, ‘his face was more cheerful than [she] had seen it for a long while.’” (“Team of Rivals,” page 731)

Another Lincoln scholar who was interviewed regarding his impressions of the “Lincoln’ movie was Professor Allen Guelzo, director of the Civil War studies department at Gettysburg College. He is the author of “Civil War and Reconstruction” and important studies of Abraham Lincoln's religious views and the emancipation proclamation. The Daily Beast (David Frum) interviewed him for the article entitled “A Civil War Professor Reviews 'Lincoln'” (Nov 27, 2012).

According to this article, Professor Guelzo served not only as author of the young-adult companion book to the movie (also called Lincoln), but as a “Content Consultant” for the Spielberg film. In the article, Professor Guelzo characterizes the two brief battlefield scenes in the “Lincoln” movie as “little more than contrived interjections of emotional commentary.”

Professor Guelzo expressed in this article some concern that as an acknowledged “content consultant” on the movie that he would be held to account for some of the mistakes in history contained therein:

“The book tries to tell the real story of passage of the 13th Amendment, but where Tony Kushner’s extraordinary, beautiful screenplay was concerned, not all of my suggestions were adopted. Not all of my advice was taken. And with my name up there on the credits (albeit nine minutes into the scrolling list), I know I’m going to be held to account for some of the bloopers.”

“For a few weeks, I haven’t known quite how I would respond. But yesterday at Gettysburg*, Steven Spielberg provided the eloquent answer. ‘It’s a betrayal of the job of the historian,’ he asserted, to explore the unknown. But it is the job of the filmmaker to use creative ‘imagination’ to recover what is lost to memory. Unavoidably, even at its very best, ‘this resurrection is a fantasy ... a dream.’ As Spielberg neatly put it, ‘one of the jobs of art is to go to the impossible places that history must avoid.’

(* Steven Spielberg delivered the Dedication Day Address at the National Soldier’s Cemetery in Gettysburg on the 149th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.)

One of the Lincoln scholars who met with Doris Kearns Goodwin, Director Steven Spielberg and movie playwright Tony Kushner in 2006 to consult about the movie content was Professor Michael Burlingame, author of the prestigious Lincoln Prize two volume work “Abraham Lincoln: A Life.” Professor Burlingame is now the chairman of the Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois-Springfield.

According to him, he had a specific purpose when he met with Director Spielberg and playwright Kushner regarding the content of the movie.

In an interview article entitled “Experts on Abe weigh in on new movie” written by Kris Kitto for the publication “The Hill” (November 12, 2012), this eminent Lincoln scholar was quoted regarding his plea to the movie makers to realize an accurate movie portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln:

“I was invited to meet with Spielberg along with several other Lincoln specialists … five years ago. My mission was to insist that Mrs. Lincoln be portrayed accurately. I had to point out that she physically abused him, that she padded payrolls and expense accounts, that she accepted bribes and kickbacks, and that Lincoln was constantly worried that she’d do something to humiliate him— and she did. So I’m interested to see how her portrayal came out.”

In the movie trailer, Mary Todd Lincoln chastises President Lincoln for his failure up to that time to secure passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.

One might justifiably presume that both Director Spielberg and Playwright Kushner understood what Professor Burlingame conveyed to them in 2006 regarding the true character of Mrs. Lincoln. And, one might also justifiably presume that both Director Spielberg and Playwright Kushner read and carefully considered important, relevant material from Professor Burlingame’s work on the subjects of the Emancipation Proclamation and the passage of Thirteenth Amendment. In Professor Burlingame’s chapter entitled “The Emancipation Proclamation (September-December 1862)“ there is this unequivocal entry regarding Mary Todd Lincoln’s opinion of the Emancipation Proclamation at the time Lincoln signed the Proclamation:

“On January 1, 1863, after Lincoln spent a sleepless night, his wife, who (according to her eldest son) ‘was very much opposed to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation,’ inquired ‘in her sharp way, “Well, what do you intend doing?”’ He replied: ‘I am under orders, I cannot do otherwise.’” (“Abraham Lincoln: A Life,” Volume Two, pages 468-69.)

Contrast Mary Todd Lincoln’s words with Lincoln’s own account of events that same day and decide for yourself who was for and who was against the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation:

“When Lincoln viewed the engrossed copy of the Proclamation that the State Department had prepared, he noticed a technical error in the wording of the closing subscription and ordered that it be corrected. While that task was being carried out, he presided over the traditional New Year’s reception at the White House. According to Noah Brooks, the ‘press was tremendous, and the jam most excessive; all persons, high or low, civil, uncivil, or otherwise, were obliged to fall into an immense line of surging, crowding sovereigns [i.e., citizens] . . . .’

“After three hours, Lincoln returned to his office, exhausted from shaking hundreds of hands. When he began to sign the corrected copy of the Proclamation, his hand trembled. ‘I could not for a moment control my arm,’ he later recalled. ‘I paused, and a superstitious feeling came over me which made me hesitate.’ Had he made a mistake? He wondered.354 But swiftly regaining his composure, he told Seward and his son Frederick: ‘I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper.’ He added that ‘I have been receiving calls, and shaking hands since nine o’clock this morning, till my arm is stiff and numb.’ He feared that if his signature appeared shaky, some people would think he had reservations. So, with renewed firmness, he said: ‘any way, it is going to be done!’ Slowly and carefully he wrote out his full name in a bold, clear hand. Smiling, he looked up and observed softly: ‘That will do.’”355 (“Abraham Lincoln: A Life,” Volume Two, page 469.)

It should be noted at this point that the quotation by Daniel Day-Lewis in the movie trailer regarding the importance to Lincoln of the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment legislation is somewhat apocryphal according to Doris Kearns Goodwin.

“When Joshua Speed next came to visit [following Lincoln’s signing of the Proclamation], Lincoln reminded his old friend of the suicidal depression he had suffered two decades earlier, and of his disclosure that he would gladly die but that he ‘had done nothing to make any human being remember that he had lived.’ Now, indicating his Emancipation Proclamation, he declared: ‘I believe that in this measure . . . my fondest hopes will be realized.’” (“Team of Rivals,” page 501)

And, why would the “Lincoln” movie makers unnecessarily distort and misrepresent historical facts? Maureen Dowd in her opinion column questioned this reality. One Lincoln scholar informed them that the roll call on legislation at that time was made in alphabetical order. Why would the same people who take the trouble to record the actual ticking of Lincoln’s own pocket watch, divert from accurate history in this respect?

Altogether, I think that this is enough evidence to “prove” my stated proposition in my previous posting: “[T]he film may be filled with things that Lincoln scholars themselves also did not know, because they did not happen.”

"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, 10:52 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 02-06-2013, 06:17 AM
RE: "Lincoln" movie criticisms - Gene C - 03-01-2013, 09:40 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - LincolnMan - 02-06-2013, 09:51 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 02-06-2013, 10:33 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - HerbS - 02-06-2013, 10:43 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - HerbS - 02-06-2013, 05:19 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Rob Wick - 02-06-2013, 07:51 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 02-07-2013, 03:26 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - HerbS - 02-10-2013, 03:08 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Jim Garrett - 02-14-2013, 07:06 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - ELCore - 02-18-2013, 08:23 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 02-19-2013, 06:12 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - LincolnMan - 02-19-2013, 09:12 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 03-02-2013, 06:10 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - David Lockmiller - 03-07-2013 02:17 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - HerbS - 03-02-2013, 10:41 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - LincolnMan - 03-02-2013, 06:25 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - L Verge - 03-02-2013, 08:28 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - LincolnMan - 03-03-2013, 08:21 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Gene C - 03-03-2013, 10:20 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - LincolnMan - 03-03-2013, 10:42 AM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Jim Page - 03-03-2013, 12:08 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Gene C - 03-07-2013, 06:06 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 01-20-2014, 02:43 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - Anita - 01-20-2014, 03:30 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 01-20-2014, 04:06 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - L Verge - 01-20-2014, 03:36 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 01-20-2014, 05:14 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - L Verge - 01-20-2014, 07:36 PM
RE: "Lincoln" legal mistake - RJNorton - 01-21-2014, 08:46 AM

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