During the group discussion, the panel talked about
characters and events in the movie and those who lived the actual
Speilberg's version of Lincoln was created based on the
book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which Keller dubbed as one of the best
historical accounts ever written.
The group talked about Tad Lincoln, whom Moseley has spent a lot
of time studying. In the movie it appeared that Tad was at the
theater when Lincoln was shot. Moseley said Tad was at another
theater watching the play "Aladdin." She also explained that he
learned of the incident involving his father when someone came
running onto the stage shouting that Lincoln had been shot.
Moseley also commented that there was one portion of the movie
that was historically correct that she was happy to see included.
Lincoln and Tad had a code they used to communicate so the young boy
didn't go rushing into a room when his father was with Cabinet
members. Moseley said they showed that in the movie: Tad knocking in
code on a wall and Lincoln dismissing his people so he could attend
to his son.
Jean Gossett from the audience asked about a scene in the movie
when the South sent a delegation to attempt to end the war. She said
it was something she had not heard before and wondered if that was
Beaver said it was.
Also during the course of the conversations, Beaver and Keller in
particular talked about how Lincoln was a master at timing. There
was a point when Lincoln and his Cabinet had an opportunity to end
the war, but it would not have been with a clear winner, per se.
Everything would have remained status quo, and the South would have
retained the right to own slaves. The two historians said this did
not serve the purpose and wasn't going to deliver the outcome
Lincoln wanted, so the battles continued.
The panel found that by and large the movie was a wonderful and
accurate depiction of Lincoln and what he went through during the
Civil War, but they did find a few things that they were
Moseley said what bothered her most perhaps was the error in how
Illinois supported the 13th Amendment. In the film Illinois was
depicted as opposing the amendment, when in fact this was the first
state to ratify it.
Moseley said in real life there were two brothers who were to
vote on it, and their mother had always been anti-slavery. Moseley
said she'd even read recently in a review that their mother would
have been rolling over in her grave to know they had been portrayed
as being opposed to the amendment.
Keller said that a qualm he had with the movie was that it
portrayed all the Democrats as believing they should not ratify the
amendment because the slaves were not equal and couldn't be. Keller
said the 13th Amendment was a social revolution amendment, and there
were many who didn't believe it was right to have such an amendment
in the Constitution.
Beaver noted that in the movie Lincoln struck his son. He
said that was not Lincoln, and he didn't believe that portion of the
film was accurate.
Mosley also noted that Tad had a speech impediment, and that was
not portrayed in the movie.
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The panel discussion last week lasted over 90 minutes, and even
then it appeared that the audience would have been willing to stay
longer and hear more of the three historians' opinions on the movie.
As they wound down, some of the final subjects touched on Lincoln
and the right to vote. The 13th Amendment didn't specifically
address the right to vote for freed slaves.
However, Keller said Lincoln did touch on that subject in the
last speech he gave before being shot. It was that speech that sent
John Wilkes Booth over the edge and prompted him to murder Lincoln.
One of the last questions from the audience came from Tim Becke,
who questioned where Lincoln stood with God. He had wondered whether
Lincoln was a Christian or, as some believe, an atheist. He said
that this movie answered this question for him. Becke said in the
movie it seemed that Lincoln was fulfilling a destiny, something he
was called to do and that only he could do. He asked the panelists
to weigh in on this.
As an example, Beaver said he often asked his classes: If the
South had won the Civil War, when would slavery have ended? He said
it was a puzzle for his students, but in the end it didn't matter
because the 13th Amendment was passed and the North did win the war.
Keller said that in 1841 Lincoln went through a depression and
was suicidal. Lincoln said during that time: "I would as soon die
now, except I have done nothing to make people remember that I have
lived." Keller said that in freeing the slaves, Lincoln had found
Keller also noted that Eliza Gurney came to
see Lincoln, and she prayed with him, and he commented to her: "I
believe I am a humble instrument of God." Keller said he believed
some kind of transformation occurred during that time.
Beaver also noted that Lincoln's second inaugural speech spoke of
When Keller finally took the last question and it was answered,
Mosley drew the evening to a close by thanking the tourism bureau
for their help in preparing for the panel discussion, and Lincoln
College and John Blackburn for providing refreshments.
She invited everyone to visit the museum before leaving for the
evening and to take a moment to enjoy coffee and cookies.
[By NILA SMITH]
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