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Lincoln - the Movie

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Jason Dumont

on 22 May 2013

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Transcript of Lincoln - the Movie

The Civil War is nearing its end...
To many, it is obvious that the Union (north) will defeat the Confederacy (south), and the country will be united once again.
However, that does not necessarily mean that slavery will completely end. Lincoln, in a nutshell: President Lincoln issued the "Emancipation Proclamation" two years ago, which says that all slaves are free.

Did this mean anything? No. The South doesn't care what Lincoln says. The North doesn't have slavery anyways.

However, when the war ends, it might mean something. Then again, it might not. This is what the movie is about... Does the Emancipation Proclamation mean anything? President Lincoln isn't sure if a president has the power to declare slavery illegal. The only way to know for sure that slavery is 100% illegal is if Congress makes an Amendment to the Constitution that says it's illegal.

Over the course of this movie, Lincoln is going to do his best to make sure that happens. The movie begins with two black soldiers who are fighting for the Union (north). The soldier on the left is happy just to meet Lincoln. The soldier on the right wants to make sure Lincoln knows that the rights of African-Americans need to continue evolving. Two white soldiers approach and clearly are starstruck in meeting Lincoln. They love him so much that they've (sort of) memorized his famous Gettysburg Address from the year before. The black soldier (who is more directly affected by the speech) shows that he too knows it. Getting reelected wasn't difficult for Lincoln. The North loved him and the South could obviously no longer vote, since they said they weren't part of the country.

Lincoln has earned what we call "political capital" Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln: Mary Lincoln suffered from severe headaches, described as migraines, throughout her adult life as well as protracted depression. During her White House years, she also suffered a head injury in a carriage accident, after which her headaches seemed to become more frequent. A history of mood swings, fierce temper, and public outbursts throughout Lincoln's presidency, as well as excessive spending, has led some historians and psychologists to speculate that Mary suffered from bipolar disorder. When she realizes that Abe wants to work on getting Congress to approve a Constitutional amendment banning slavery, she begs him not to.

She is against slavery as well, but his reelection proved how popular he was, and she doesn't think he should waste that power trying to pass an amendment that is impossible. Tad was the fourth and youngest son of Abraham and Mary Lincoln. The nickname "Tad" was given to him by his father who found Thomas "as wriggly as a tadpole" when he was a baby. Tad was known to be impulsive and unrestrained, and did not attend school. He had free run of the White House, and there are stories of him interrupting Presidential meetings. Tad outlived his father, but died at the age of 18. Thomas "Tad" Lincoln (April 4, 1853 – July 15, 1871) Tad took a strong interest in his father's work, and was particularly fascinated with the war as well as with slaves. In this scene, you see that he has fallen asleep by the fireplace looking at old-fashioned "slides" or photographs of slaves. William H. Seward (1801 – 1872) Seward was an American politician from the state of New York.
He served as the governor of New York, United States Senator and the United States Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.
He was a determined opponent of the spread of slavery in the years leading up to the American Civil War. He was a dominant figure in the Republican Party in its formative years, and was widely regarded as the leading contender for the party's presidential nomination in 1860.
Denied the nomination, he became a loyal member of Lincoln's wartime cabinet.
He later arranged the United States' purchase of Alaska. In this scene, Lincoln tells Seward (his Secretary of State and top adviser) that he plans on trying to get the "No Slavery" amendment (which would be the 13th Amendment) passed in Congress.

Seward explains why this is a bad idea: A. Amendments need to be approved by 2/3 of Congress... Lincoln can count on some Republicans, but not all of them, and he can't count on Democrats at all.
B. They tried to get the amendment passed just months earlier, and failed.
C. In the election that just happened, lots of Democrats lost their seats in Congress. The Amendment will have a better chance with the new Republican congressmen that replace them. This couple comes from Missouri to ask Lincoln for help with a personal matter. (We don't care about that.)

What we care about is how they, as regular folks in the west, feel about the slavery issue.

The wife tells Seward that they want the 13th Amendment passed because Lincoln has said that it would end the war. BUT if the war ended, they wouldn't care about freeing the slaves. Suddenly Seward realizes why Lincoln is in such a hurry to get the amendment passed: They both know that the war is very close to ending, and once it's over, there won't be enough support to end slavery once and for all. Francis Blair Francis Blair was a prominent (important) member of the Republican party, and so he took it upon himself to advise Lincoln. After Lincoln's re-election in 1864 Blair thought that his former close personal relations with the Confederate leaders might aid in bringing about a cessation of hostilities.
In this scene, Blair is trying to convince Lincoln to let him go south and try to negotiate a peace treaty with Confederate President Jefferson Davis. 1791 – 1876 Executive Branch = The President
+ The Vice President
+ various departments The head of each department (usually called a "Secretary") is part of the President's "Cabinet". These people serve as advisers. Lincoln chose his cabinet to be a "team of rivals". Many of them disagreed with him about many things, but he thought it was best to hear different opinions. This scene is complicated... The Secretary of War is explaining the upcoming attack on Wilmington, which will likely lead to the end of the war. This cabinet member says that the Emancipation Proclamation has already ended slavery, so why bother with the amendment? The Secretary of the Interior wants to know why Lincoln is so focused on getting the 13th Amendment passed even though the war is about to end. Lincoln explains that no one can say for sure if the Emancipation Proclamation is legal. The Constitution gives Lincoln "war powers". What are the powers? Who knows?? Lincoln made up the powers based on what he thought they needed to be to do his job as President. Power #1: He could claim Southerners' property, A.K.A. slaves Problem #1 This suggests that Lincoln agrees that slaves are "property" Of course he doesn't, but if that's what it takes, then whatever Problem #2 A country at war can claim the property of another country... Lincoln doesn't consider the "South" (or Confederate States of America) to be a real country. He says that they are still part of the United States. He isn't fighting "the South"... He isn't fighting states in the South... He is fighting rebels in the states in the South. By saying that slavery is illegal, he is basically changing the laws of each individual state in the south, which isn't something a President is allowed to do. He knows he's done something he isn't supposed to do, but he felt that "the war demanded it" and that his "oath demanded it" After the war ends, his "war powers" will be gone, and the black people may return to slavery A Constitutional amendment banning slavery is the only way to guarantee this won't happen Congressman James Ashley An abolitionist (someone actively trying to end slavery) The other Republican Congressman are suspicious of what Lincoln is trying to do... Why now? Congressman Thaddeus Stevens one of the most influential members in the history of Congress
a witty, sarcastic speaker and flamboyant party leader
a STRONG advocate against slavery... you'll see why later These are the 3 "scoundrels" that Seward has hired to, ahem, bribe the House Democrats who lost their jobs. They are not to bribe the Congressmen with money, but rather with new jobs. When the Congressional debates begin, the Democrats immediately bash the idea of ending slavery. (One more reminder: today's Democrats are completely different from 1860s Democrats. Meanwhile, our three scoundrel friends are at the Congressional debate, trying to figure out which Democrats they think can possibly be convinced to vote for the amendment. Robert Todd Lincoln "Rob", "Robbie", "Bob", "Hey you" 1843 – 1926
Future lawyer, future Secretary of State
In the movie, he's in college and hates that his parents won't let him fight in the war These are the Confederate leaders that are coming north to discuss a peace treaty. Lincoln agreed to let them come, but he's going to delay, delay, delay as long as possible. Why? Party at the White House... Something that still happens today because the President sometimes has to butter up Congressmen and other important people Reconstruction Lincoln meets with Congressman Thaddeus Stevens
He tells him that he needs to lower his expectations about the future of freed slaves
Stevens wants slaves to have full & complete rights (voting, marriage, whatever).
They also discuss "Reconstruction" (how the country will look after the war). Stevens wants to take away all the property of slaveholders and give it away to the freed slaves We see that the North has won another huge battle, and the end of the war is coming. In this scene, Democrats realize this as well, and they hope it means they'll have more support against the amendment.
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