Dramatic tension not a valid reason for 'Lincoln' falsity
He feels that if he had changed the margin of the vote, or made someone a villain who was not in real life, that would have been inappropriate. (He’s one-up on Shakespeare there.) But he wants “wiggle room” on some things.
Spielberg’s production people called the National Archives in 2011 to get a copy of the original voting roll and to plumb deeply into the details of the vote on one of America’s most searing moral battles, even asking whether the vote was recorded in a bound volume or on loose ledger forms. That roll shows that the first two votes cast were nays by Democratic congressmen from Illinois, Lincoln’s own state. Wasn’t that enough to show the tension?
Kushner explained that in his original script he thought, as in the musical 1776 or the Continental Congress or conventions, the lawmakers voted by state, so Connecticut would have been one of the first Union states to vote.
Harold Holzer, a Lincoln historian attached to the film, pointed out the mistake to Spielberg and Kushner, telling them that voting in those days was done alphabetically by lawmaker.
But Kushner said the director left the scene unchanged because it gave the audience “place holders” and it was “a rhythmic device” that was easier to follow than “a sea of names”. They gave fake names to the Connecticut legislators, who were, he said, “not significant players”.
Yet the Wall Street Journal noted: “The actual Connecticut representatives at the time braved political attacks and personal hardships to support the 13th amendment.”
One, the New London Republican Augustus Brandegee, was a respected abolitionist and a friend of Lincoln. The other, the New Haven Democrat James English, considered slavery “a monstrous injustice” and left his ill wife to vote. When he said “aye”, applause began and the tide turned.
I’m a princess-and-the-pea on this issue, but I think Spielberg should refilm the scene or dub in Illinois for Connecticut before he sends out his DVDs and leaves students everywhere thinking the Nutmeg State is nutty.
Kushner says that won’t happen, because this is a “made-up issue” and a matter of “principle”. But as Congressman Courtney notes: “It was Lincoln who said, ‘Truth is generally the best vindication against slander’.”
– (New York Times)