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Araceli Nunez

16 May 2017

Mrs. Terry

U.S. History, B3

Lincoln. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perf. Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones.
DreamWorks, 2012. DVD.
The film Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg, is an American film covering Lincolns

drawn-out, arduous journey to abolish slavery in every American state. Prior to his next goal, the

passing of the thirteenth amendment, Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, a

factor which further divided the Union from the seceded states. The emancipation is proposed to

free all slaves in both the North and South. In this 2012 historical film, renowned actor Daniel

Day-Lewis plays the 16th president, while actress Sally Field plays his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln.

The two struggle with their marriage when the pressure to pass the emancipation proclamation

hovers over them as well as anxiety as their son Robert joins the war. Lincoln is a great film

portraying the difficult decision to create a slave-free America with the unity of the country at


The movie begins in a muddy war scene in which two black soldiers are speaking to

President Lincoln, pondering about how many years it would take their white counterparts to be

able to tolerate a black colonel or president. The two walk away from the scene as another pair of

soldiers, this time white, capture Lincolns attention as they recite the beginning of Lincolns

Gettysburg Address. Later in January of 1865, Lincoln begins stressing over the lack of support

over the 13th amendment as the Civil War looks like it is going to come to an end soon. He

begins to look for representatives who are willing, for whatever reason, to pass the 13th

amendment. Two people, presumably a couple, come to visit Lincoln to speak about a local issue

in their part of Missouri however William Seward, the secretary of state, intercepts the

conversation and asks the Mrs. if she would vote for the thirteenth amendment if the war

concluded by the end of the month. Mrs. Jolly gives a negative answer, stating that she felt as

soon as the war ended then there would be no need to abolish slavery. This was how many

people supporting the proposal actually felt during the Civil War, the most important thing for

many Americans was to stop the endless killing of their sons.

A large issue for Lincoln is not only that the American publics priority lies in returning

their boys home but that even if all of the Republicans voted for the 13th amendment, then the

obstacle would be to get to the abstaining Democratic votes. To better the chances, his

administration suggests waiting for a majority Republican congress to take place. However,

Lincoln refuses to let the amendment be passed after the end, or the anticipated end, of the war.

At this point in the war, Union victory is seemingly unlikely but still out of reach and has

become a key factor influencing both Republican and Democratic voters. One strong influence is

Francis Preston Blair, the founder of the Republican party. Lincoln and Blair compromise a deal

in which, in exchange for his support, Blair asks that Lincoln allow him to immediately begin

peace negotiations with the Confederate states. Although he is reluctant to negotiate with the

Confederates because he is aware that they will not give up slavery, President Lincoln sticks with

the negotiation as he desperately needs the support. Another group which the sixteenth president

seeks approval from is the radicals, led by Thaddeus Stevens who believes in enfranchisement of

black men and full racial equality. However, he is persuaded to present a moderate position, that

argues for the representation of only legal equality, not actual equality. Stevens is also revealed

to have a biracial wife in the end.


Although being a president and ending civil war and slavery might are the top priorities

for Lincoln at this time, his family is also struggling. Mary and Abraham Lincoln are still

mourning the death of their son Willie who lost his life three years prior. Mary is also worried for

the presidents life as she believes a carriage incident was part of a plan to assassinate him. To

add onto the familys plate, their son Robert returns from Harvard stating that he wants to be of

use now and not years later after he has finished studying to become a lawyer. As he is insistent

to join the war effort, Robert finally enters but his father places him under the command of

Ulysses S. Grant, where he thinks it will be safer.

Returning to the politics of life, a rumor about a Confederate peace delegation is in

Washington almost puts a brief stop to the voting on the amendment. Nevertheless, Lincoln

watches his words carefully and vaguely denies the rumor and the voting commences. The final

vote passes the amendment by two votes and it is a joyous outcome for both Republicans and the

now former slaves of America. Later the president and Stevens do meet with Confederate

delegates as planned for negotiations but there was not a successful outcome. A few months

later in April, Lincoln is shot one night at the theatre while with his wife and dies the next

morning. The closing scene is Lincoln giving a speech. Lincolns presidency is a major turning

point in U.S. history as he saved the morale of the country and abolished slavery, giving more

truth behind the words of the constitution.

Lincoln gave great insight to a process many citizens are unaware of or overlook.

Although Lincoln was not portrayed as the racist he truly was, the one who believed in shipping

blacks off to Haiti, Liberia and other places that were not America, he was seen as a bit of a

radical for even promoting the abolition of slavery. The fact that Lincoln in his mind never felt

blacks and whites could ever be more than legally equal, gives a great deal of speculation as to

why he pushed so hard for it and the movie helps clear most of it up. He was disgusted, just as

his father was but not quite in the same way, by slavery. He also wished for the war to end even

if it was not as prioritized as the end of slavery. The film serves as a great tool for analyzing

Americas background of slavery, liberation and the hardcore beliefs enough Americans held to

almost split the country. The strength of the sentiments felt about segregation and racial equality

faced a similar surge in the Gilded Age as many new immigrants were coming to America and

faced discrimination, lower incomes and were even banned from entering America. With

similarities in time such as these, it is safe to say that for anyone looking to research more about

the topics presented throughout the movie and American history, Lincoln does a solid 8 of 10 job

in accomplishing that.

Works Cited

Lincoln. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perf. Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones.
DreamWorks, 2012. DVD.
"Lincoln (2012) - Synopsis." IMDb., n.d. Web. 19 May 2017.