Spielberg has attempted to return Lincoln to the people. This old, weak Lincoln, shown enduring his many sufferings, is a fragile man, not a god of war. The people can love & accept him who is so unthreatening. We see several examples of Lincoln’s love of humorous stories – The Great Emancipator causes the great Washington to emerge victorious in comic speech as well as war. War Secretary Stanton is exasperated, needless to add…
America owes Lincoln immortality, to see what he suffered in her cause. Indeed, his sacrifice must remind us of Christ. Doing right is perhaps not quite divine, but Lincoln saw the right with the clarity one sees the truths of geometry when disagreement over the right caused the greatest chaos & the worst bloodshed known to the republic. Lincoln suggested that it may be divine justice that the latter be payment for the former.
We must wonder at the terrible things done for the sake of a peace that could foster a democratic form of government. His enemies, whose guilt is inextinguishable, point to the terrible destruction caused by Lincoln’s claim to justice as if they were innocent. His allies complain of his weakness & indecision in the pursuit of justice, as if their victory were fated. Lincoln appears first & last on journeys he took to see the war’s destruction & to talk with the men who warred on his authority.
We must consider this terrible thought, that Lincoln saw to it that Americans get what they deserved, severally & in their union. His stewardship of his country led him to confirm his enemies’ worst fears while humbling his most enthusiastic followers. It took Lincoln years of defeats & great political dangers to find his general; when he found Grant, he stuck with him through the war; Grant’s victories won him reelection; Grant tells him he must now pacify the country. Lincoln insists the peace should not be vindictive.
He also made a reputation for delaying action. Political action is always prompted by unpredictable circumstances, about which one only knows that they change. The politician fights against this change; politics is supposed to lend an order to human affairs that otherwise does not exist. So Lincoln waited to enact his Emancipation Proclamation after the Congressional elections of 1862.
After his reelection, in 1864, winning the war seemed likely; now, Lincoln insisted on passing the 13th Amendment in Congress, sending it to the states. The war could not end without it, because the end of the war might be the end of the Proclamation, & therefore the end to the solution to the problem that caused the war: Slavery. So we see how that problem was solved.
The best movie about political things in a generation. See it.