A Review Of Lincoln

I just saw the Lincoln movie and read Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln. Thousands of books and movies have been written about him—more than any other human being.

The movie is magnificent—Daniel Day Lewis in the title role directed by Steven Spielberg—two of Hollywood’s real pros at their very best! The movie is based on a small segment of Doris Kearnes Goodwin’s, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. The focus is on the “political genius” part.

The movie depicts how Lincoln was able to cobble together the two-thirds majority necessary in the House to pass the 13th Amendment, outlawing slavery throughout the land. (The earlier Emancipation Proclamation had merely outlawed slavery in the 11 states of the South which had seceded. Slavery remained legal everywhere else.)

Lincoln’s challenge was to marry high moral vision to low political reality. How far does one compromise his values for the public good, and how far does one go to move others? Lincoln had to juggle several balls in the air at once to pass the Amendment. To acquire the votes of some pro-slavery Democrats, Lincoln used everything from idealistic charm to bribery. He needed to restrain the rhetoric of Republican abolitionists, mainly from the Northeast, in order to not scare off the converted Democrats. He also needed to solidify the support of the lukewarm Republicans, mainly from the Midwest, who fought the war to save the Union but cared less about slavery. They wanted to end the bloodshed immediately, and in order to do so, they were receptive to restricting slavery but not abolishing it entirely.

In making the ethical choice to completely abolish slavery rather achieve immediate peace, Lincoln sacrificed thousands more soldiers’ lives for what he deemed the greater common good—legal equality for all people, black and white.

To pull all of this off in just two and a half hours, Hollywood had to understate the difficulty of the real politics, but Lincoln’s mastery of leadership shines through in the film. I like to think the movie had no political agenda, but I see parallels between the extreme partisanship portrayed the film with that in today’s Washington.

The movie ends with the Second Inaugural Address, and Lincoln’s ethical basis for Reconstruction: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, …let us bind up the nation’s wounds… to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves…”

The South surrendered a month later, and Lincoln’s instructions to Grant for surrender terms were lenient, “Lay down your arms, go home, and let’s rebuild this country together.” Unfortunately, Lincoln’s assassination squelched the great voice of charity. His death may have been one of the worst defeats for the South, as President Andrew Johnson and the North ran roughshod.

A great nation should fight a hard war and grant an easy peace. Arrogance in victory only begets more hostility and frequently another war. An arrogant vindictive North poisoned Reconstruction, and 150 years later we still are still dealing with some of the fallout. The Versailles Treaty concluding WWI contained a similar yet more potent vindictiveness to the civil war conclusion, eventually sowing the seeds of WWII. Conversely, the Marshall Plan following WWII created allies and strong trading partners with our former enemies—Germany and Japan.

I always wonder, what if Lincoln had not been assassinated? Would he have had the political genius to overcome the tremendous bitterness from our country’s most horrible war and reconcile both sides to rebuild together?

Question: If Lincoln were President today, what would he be doing?

Share this post

13 thoughts on “A Review Of Lincoln

  1. Doug

    Since he was a Republican he and had a history of trying to unify the nation I would say he would probably be working really hard to solve the problems with the economy. I think he would embrace the health care reform. Although I do not think he would have caved on certain points like the current administration.

  2. mike mccaul

    If Lincoln had one (and only one, he had more) vision, it would be keeping the republic intact as a republic. Everything else to him was secondary to maintaining the republic. The Emancipation Proclimation was only passed to keep the French and Brittish out of the Civil War, and for no other reason. No one is sure how serious Lincoln really was about slavery, or ending it. Jefferson Davis said many times that slavery would eventually go away of its own accord. Robert E. Lee refused to have slaves, he said it was against Gods will to own another man, while Grants wife and family were slave owners. Ending slavery was a big political gain for Lincoln, but it also created many enemies both in the North and the South.

  3. Nick Bloom

    I saw the movie. It gave me the feeling of being right there as the most basic human freedoms were being redefined during a most treacherous period in our history. Getting Congress to agree on passage of a Constitutional amendment (again proving for the 13th time that the original Constitution was far from perfect) showed us that dysfunction was as alive and well in 1865 as it is today. I’m amazed that the 13th amendment was passed when it was as the Civil War was concluding amid so much discord and rancor. Our country has just concluded a major battle in a kind of civil war of ideology with its re-election of Barack Obama as President. The arc of history shows us that civil rights eventually wins, yet today, even as it was in 1865, there will always be those who want to maintain a rights advantage as the status quo at the expense of another human. If Lincoln were alive today maybe he’d be working towards equal pay for equal work and marriage equality.

  4. Josh Weaver

    Ron, rather ignorant remark considering Lincoln’s VP went on to be one of the worst presidents we’ve ever had. Anything you may have against Joe Biden could likely be said 10 fold about Johnson. If Lincoln were president today he wouldn’t be a Republican, I’ll tell you that much. The Republican party today is certainly not the party of Lincoln.

  5. Alan Szablewski

    My compliments on this great article. There are so many things that people are unaware of especially since I feel that there is too little emphasis on past history of our nation and the world. It is the fault of the politicians and many of the people that back them that cause the rift in Washington because they do not look at what is the common good for all.
    If Lincoln were alive today, I am sure that he would be working to try to get the political representatives to understand what is really important for the growth of our nation and the well being of all.

  6. John

    Abe would be inspiring those who have become soft and dependent on an overly generous government to take more personal responsibility for their personal and economic situations. Make it “cool” to work hard and be rewarded. At the same time he would be convincing those who already work hard and have accumulated the associated trappings that “stuff happens” and not all the poor are lazy incompetent moochers. We all need to roll up our sleeves and help each other out for a better country and world.

  7. John "Jack" Frost

    750.000 dead young men provide the Lincoln Legacy as we know it. This is not about freeing the slaves, this is the prevention of the dissolution of the United States of America. It is the same cultural division we have today. The cultural divisions, almost as serious as that of 1859, created by our current administration will not immediately lead to a dissolution, but the foundation has been laid that may very well lead to the same conclusion. Unfortunately, there has been a learning period since the end of the Civil War which are the benchmarks for inhumanity. From the day of the CarpetBaggers to the GESTAPO we have learned the applications of inhumanity. What would Lincoln have done. I am afraid I have little confidence in anything he would do just as I have little confidence in any current politician to do the right thing.

  8. Josh Weaver

    Mr. Frost, I don’t think you can lay blame for this division on the current administration. This divide has been growing since the pure political game that was the Clinton impeachment and I wouldn’t say either president since has done much to curtail that divide.

  9. John "Jack" Frost

    Josh, I always find your comments interesting. I don’t understand the “pure political game that was the Clinton impeachment” He was convicted in Federal Court in Arkansas of “Obstruction of Justice, which finished the job that the Congress failed to do.

  10. John Craychee Kiene Diesel Accessories

    Josh Weaver,
    I disagree with your reply to Jack Frost. I have seen 11 US presidents. All had pros and cons of various sorts. But the current administration is unquestionably the most divisive I have ever seen. By far. I believe you are correct in stating that the current divide didn’t start with the this administration, but it didn’t start with Clinton’s impeachment trial either (and in any case, I don’t see how that trial has anything to do with cultural divisiveness).
    Our current atmosphere of cultural divisiveness started with Lyndon Johnson and his Great Society. I happen to believe that Johnson, and the Democratic party at that time had good intentions in actually trying to help the poor and disaffected of the nation. However, in the years since, but especially during the Obama administration, Democrats have turned Johnson’s dream into a cynical power control strategy. It boils down to converting as many people (voters) as possible to government dependency—and thus, to loyal Democratic voters. This strategy has been very successful. It has resulted in a steady growth in the ranks of the poor who depend on government for their subsistence. While Democrats cover their actions with empty talk of helping the poor, they have done the opposite by growing an entire class of people who have little control over their lives or their future because they have grown up on—and are totally dependent on— the government teat. This is a cultural group that has been hugely expanded by Democratic policies—such as running radio ads encouraging people to enroll for food stamps—and has been isolated (divided) from the rest of society.

    Obama uses division between cultural groups as a major tactic in his political strategy. By constantly vilifying the rich—“they don’t pay their fair share” —he pits the poor against the rich—creating envy and hatred in those with less. He pits Hispanics against whites by telling them to “punish our enemies” (in an October 2010 Univision interview) and blacks against whites, for example by showing up at the Travon Martin scene and highlighting the racial aspect “If I had a son he would “look like” Travon”. Obama’s Democratic party and their followers rarely miss a chance to accuse others of racism just for disagreeing with them. I have seen that on this website where contributors, refer to those who express disagreement with Obama’s policies as “racists” and “haters”. It seems that on Planet Obama you either agree with him…or you’re a racist. That is cultural divisiveness.

    Obama attacks Christians to drive a wedge between them and non-Christians with the HHS mandate that church entities must provide abortion–inducing drugs and birth control to their employees against their most basic religious beliefs. Then he uses that same situation to allege a phony “war on women” by the church. More divisiveness. It never stops. Why? Simple—division is a central pillar of Obama’s quest for more and more power.

    Barack Obama talks about bringing people on opposite sides together but I have rarely, if ever, seen him do this. Instead, his standard operating procedure is to identify his perceived enemies and then try to isolate and, divide them. It has proven to be a highly effective political tactic, but it is terrible for our nation. So I believe Jack Frost is correct in blaming our nation’s cultural divide on Barack Obama and his administration.

  11. Skip Westmaas

    Just being a stickler for facts. Your statement “Thousands of books and movies have been written about him—more than any other human being.” begged me to check. TO be honest, I thought the answer was Jesus, and that may or may not be true depending upon the source. Either way, it does not appear to be Lincoln.
    Asking the question “who has the most books written about them”?
    According to the Google Books by biography
    George Washington 1,070,000
    Napoleon I of 652,000
    Jesus Christ 597,000
    Franklin Delano Roosevelt 568,000
    Peter the Great 565,000
    Abraham Lincoln 561,000
    Stalin of 548,000
    Alexander the great 515,000
    Winston Churchill 503,000
    JFk 368,000
    Mao 248,000
    Adolf Hitler 197,000

    According to WorldCat by biography

    Jesus Christ 10,873
    George Washington 8,019
    Napoleon 7992
    Abraham Lincoln 6152


Comments are closed.