Daniel Day Lewis won the Oscar, but the movie didn’t. He deserved it as best actor. He made the movie’s script seem believable. That took unmatched acting ability.
The movie is about the 13th Amendment, which gave slaves their liberty. It spins the yarn that Lincoln pushed it through the House of Representatives by means of backroom deals. If true, these were the most successful backroom deals in American history. Lincoln left no trace of his machinations in support of the amendment.
It was all about the lame-duck House in January of 1865. That House was about to be replaced by a totally Republican House in March. So, Lincoln would have gotten it through the House two months later without any deals.
Lincoln had refused to support the amendment when the Senate passed it in 1864. He was running for re-election, and he did not want to make it look as though he was for freeing the slaves. He desperately wanted to beat his old boss at the Illinois Central Railroad, George McClellan, just as he had beaten his fellow Illinois Central lawyer Stephen Douglas in 1860. The Civil War broke out over the issue of which Illinois Central employee would run the country. Lincoln wanted to make it clear that he was top dog.
All this did not stop the script writer from coming up with the story of Lincoln, the deal-doer. But Spielberg knew he had to hire a great actor to make this exercise in mythology plausible. So, he hired the greatest screen actor of our generation, who pulled it off. He hired an Irishman.
Top of the mornin’ to ya, Daniel!
I had hoped that Tommy Lee Jones would win best supporting actor for his portrayal of radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens. First, it was a great performance. Second, it showed Stevens as the uncompromising abolitionist that he really was. He, not Honest Abe, was the great emancipator of the Civil War.
The government of former General Lee’s state of Virginia gave a $3.5 million subsidy to shoot the movie in Virginia. That represents the triumph of both Lincoln’s politics and his economics. He spent his entire political career promoting government pork. As a Whig, he was a supporter of the Second Bank of the United States in the key year of 1832, the year that Congress failed to override Jackson’s veto of a bill to renew the Bank’s charter. He was a great believer in tariffs and federal handouts to the states. He announced this platform in 1832:
“Fellow citizens, I presume you all know who I am–I am humble Abraham Lincoln. I have been solicited by many friends to become a candidate for the legislature. My policies are short and sweet, like the old woman’s dance. I am in favor of a National Bank, I am in favor of the Internal improvement system, and a high protective tariff. These are my sentiments and political principles. If elected I shall be thankful; and if not, it will be all the same.”
He was elected in 1860. It would never be the same again.