On the flight home yesterday I watched the movie 'Lincoln'. I was not impressed. By far, this was Steven Spielberg's weakest offering in some time. While historically accurate...to a good degree, about the workings on passing the 13th Amendment...I found the character portrayals stodgy and stiff. I also find it remarkable that Sally Field is being considered for anything other than a rotten tomato award. Her portrayal of Mary Lincoln was, at the very best, awkward.
Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens needs to go back to Men In Black. He looked very out of place in the period costume and his portrayal of one of the most powerful congressmen of the time was almost adequate. Hal Holbrook, one of the finest actors I've ever seen, was wasted in his part and I'm surprised he even took it. Daniel Day Lewis did a good job, but I couldn't help but think how old he looked from when I remember him in The Last of the Mohicans.
What bothered me the most was the movie droned on and on and on about the machinations behind the passing of the 13th Amendment. I hadn't done my homework and believed it was about the man's overall presidency and how he kept the Union together during the most trying of times. Boy, was I ever disappointed. No, it was about the importance of making sure slavery was abolished forever in the United States, once again focusing, and wrongly so, on slavery as the main reason the Civil War was fought. I had to shake my head and admit the revisionists of history have finally won. Everyone is having an orgasm over this movie and it has been nominated for more Academy Awards than any previous offering. It is just another testament to the stupidity the people of this nation has reached to fawn over a historical farce (concerning slavery) such as this one.
The South was almost completely agricultural, thanks to Whitney's cotton gin. With the transition from other crops to almost solely cotton, cheap labor was required and it was found in slaves. The North, on the other hand, moved to being an industrialized sector of the nation, with most of its people congregating in cities. What most fail to realize is the North's industry was the main consumer of the South's raw cotton, turning it into finished goods. In other words, both sides were making a tremendous amount of money on the backs of slave labor. So, those of you who sniff at the South and look at the North as the higher moral ground of the day...shut up. What happened was the North became more and more composed of different cultural groups who lived and worked closely together where, eventually, the economic attitudes changed over time. The South, however, held on to a distinct social order that was spread out across the rural countryside. Thus began the rift between the two.
While the subject of slavery was a cause for the war, it was not THE cause of the war. Slavery was mainly the poster child for State's rights over Federal power. Since the revolution up to the Civil War, there had been two major camps. One argued for greater State's rights while the other argued for greater Federal control. If one will take the time...which so many fail to do and just grab on to the first thing that comes out of some idiot's pie hole...and read the Articles of Confederation, the 13 states created a loose partnership with a very weak federal government. Would be that it twere today. When problems arose, the States realized a stronger 'fed' was needed, and thus the Constitutional Convention was held. It is important to note this convention was held in secret and did not include two of the most ardent supporters for State's rights...Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. These two strongly believed the States should have the right to decide if they were going to accept certain federal acts. The idea of 'nullification' came about, whereby States would have the ability to declare federal acts unconstitutional. The federal government denied the States this right. John C. Calhoun was another vehement supporter of nullification, but was unsuccessful in his support. Do you not see that nowhere was slavery in the mix here? Once the States saw what they believed was their own right of soveriegnty wasn't being respected, the move to secession began.
Slavery became an issue of divisiveness years later after the country began to expand from the Lousiana Purchase and then after the Mexican War. Several territories wished to join the Union, and the anti-slave and pro-slavery sides started to argue over whether or not States could join as Slave States or Free States. In 1820, the Missouri Compromise was passed that prohibited slavery in states from the former Louisiana Purchase, according to latitudinal guidelines, except in Missouri. The Wilmot Proviso, circa 1846, would have banned slavery in the new lands acquired after the Mexican War. This was shot down after much debate within the federal government!! Then there was the Compromise of 1850, created by Henry Clay and others to try and find a balance between Free and Slave that would accommodate both Northern and Southern interests. Further tensions were aroused with the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. This created two new territories that would allow them to use 'popular sovereignty' to determine what they would be. Pro-slavery Missourians caused the issue to come to a head when they began to pour into the new state of Kansas to force it into being a slave state. Soon, Kansas became a hot bed of violence. Lawrence, Kansas was the scene of several violent altercations between the two sides.
It was only then...ONLY...then, the north became more polarized against slavery. Sympathies began to grow exponentially for the abolitionist movement and against slavery and slaveholders. Some of the flash points for this was Uncle Tom's Cabin, the Dred Scott Case, John Brown's raid and the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act that held individuals responsible for hiding runaway slaves, even if they were located in non-slave states. Get it? The Federal government would file charges against people hiding slaves even if those people were in free states.
Then, there was the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The South believed Lincoln was anti-slavery but....MORE importantly, they believed he was more in favor of Northern interests and not an all inclusive president. Soon after his election, South Carolina issued its Declaration of the Causes of Secession. It states, and rightly so, that the Federal Government was not carrying out its obligation to return runaway slaves, per federal law, and that the government had violated its contract of upholding the interests of the state...rightly so. The election of Lincoln expedited the event, as he was perceived as anti-South. Before he was inaugurated, seven states had seceded from the Union: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.
The Civil War was not about slavery, per se. It was about economics...state's rights...overreaching federal control...unconsitutional actions by the government...and, slavery.
So, where are we today? We have an economic implosion coming our way. We have a violation of State's rights that is wafting over us with increasing waves of potential tyranny from an overreaching federal government that is taking more and more control over our shrinking liberties and freedoms. We have a president who believes more in the power of his pen and executive orders than he does in the sanctity of the highest law of the land...the Consitution of the United States...and is blatantly committing unconsitutional acts as if he is an emperor.
Abraham Lincoln was a great president...and a Republican. It was and is a good thing that slavery was abolished. No man or woman should be held in bondage. But to portray one of the darkest moments in our history as being so simplified as this movie makes it out to be is a travesty of historical perspective and accuracy. Spielberg should go back to science fiction or the holocaust. Maybe another 'Saving Private Ryan' type movie. He doesn't really excel in this type of film. His slanted views are too obvious.