Thursday, November 29, 2012

Go. See. Lincoln.

Here at Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 4 year old human being) I sometimes give advice but never give orders.

Well, I'm breaking that rule now:  You MUST go see the film Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg.

Daniel Day-Lewis' performance as Lincoln was absolutely perfect.  Unlike other actors and other roles, not once did I ever think, "That guy's an actor and this is a movie."  Rather I felt--as did the bride--that I was really seeing the 16th president in action through some miracle of time travel or magic of film making.

The movie focuses on Lincoln's efforts to secure passage in the U.S. House of Representatives (the Senate had previously approved) the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.  If the House passed it by a 2/3 majority, the amendment would go to the states for ratification, where passage was expected.

The House was bitterly divided on the amendment; Lincoln's skills as a president were sorely tested as tried to secure sufficient votes for passage.

Oh, and here's the text of the proposed amendment: 

Section 1.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

So, the 13th Amendment abolishes slavery in the United States.  Today, nearly 150 years later, it seems self-evident, yet the decision at the time was momentous.

There were those Congressmen that were on the right side of history and those who were on the wrong side of history.  I see exact parallels to today, where restrictions on women's rights and on the rights of gays are similarly being debated, and again we have those who are on the right side of history and those who history will record as being on the wrong side.

Harper Weekly was an influential magazine in 1865.  Some history-minded person (bless them!) has recreated every issue of the original periodical.  The 11 Feb 1865 issue, here, has the original list of how each member of the Congress voted on the issue of the 13th Amendment.

You must click on the thumbnail image at the upper left to enlarge the page.  And you should do that--actually take the time to glance through the names of those who voted for the amendment and those who voted Nay.  The latter group deserves the everlasting censure of history.

Why am I passionate about this?  Simply put, I have black and mixed race people in my family.  They are no different than you or me, and I cannot see how anyone can look at them and see something less than I see.

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