In the winter of 1864, Abraham Lincoln had just routed the Democrats and been elected for a second term as President of the United States of America. During his first term, facing the rebellion of the Secessionist States of the South, Lincoln had used War Time emergency powers to abolish slavery. Though a committed abolitionist himself, Lincoln’s political argument to war-shy Northerners was that the South would crumble and the war would end quickly if it was deprived of its four million strong enslaved workforce. However, Lincoln also knew that such a unilateral war-time declaration might not hold up legally after the war was ended. And thus he determined that the only way to ensure that slavery would never return was to call for an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States – it’s Thirteenth – which would abolish slavery once and for all.

The problem for Lincoln was two-fold. Firstly, the war with rebels in the South had recently turned in favour of the North, and with their people starving and their military supplies running out, moves were afoot by the Confederates to sue for peace and re-join the Union. If that happened before the Amendment passed, Lincoln knew popular support for an amendment would fall away entirely. And secondly, while Northerners had no love for slavery as an institution, there was by no means any common agreement that black folks should be considered equal with white folks. Abolition of the slavery was seen as the “slippery slope” harbinger of things considered abhorrent; mixed marriages, universal suffrage, equality.

And that, then, is the marvellous trifecta of Spielberg’s Lincoln movie Continue reading “Lincoln”