The New York Times has an interesting piece on how Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” actually might be advancing the way the historians look at Lincoln with what the movie speculates about why Lincoln’s reasoning was on two different subjects. One of those being why Lincoln pushed so hard to get the 13th Amendment passed before the new Congress came in later that year. Here is an excerpt from the post about one of the ways the movie could be advancing the way we look at Lincoln.
The movie, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president, makes two especially interesting historical arguments.
The first is to explain why the passage of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, was overwhelmingly important to Lincoln in January 1865. The issue is not why passage was important; the movie explains that clearly enough. Instead, the problem is to explain the frenzied work to pass it in that month. As the historian Michael Vorenberg has observed, “No piece of legislation during Lincoln’s presidency received more of his attention.” Why the all-out effort in January, in a lame-duck session before a newly empowered pro-Lincoln Congress began? If Lincoln had waited until March, he could have called a special session of the new Congress, confident of having enough votes for House passage.
The question has long vexed historians. The movie’s answer is that Lincoln and his right-hand man in this work, Secretary of State William H. Seward, realized that the war might end at any time and that, when it did, any prospect for passing the amendment as a means to win the war would end with it.
This is an intriguing argument. But the book the movie cites as its main evidentiary source, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals,” does not make it.
The second argument is about the connection between the peace talks and getting the votes Lincoln needed for the 13th amendment. The full article is a great piece to read and I would recommend reading it if you like Lincoln or history.