Congressman says ‘Lincoln’ depicts Connecticut vote erroneously

By | February 7, 2013

Watching the movie “Lincoln” on Saturday, Rep. Joe Courtney was perplexed during the climactic scene.

Two of his predecessors from nearly 150 years ago, lawmakers representing the state of Connecticut in 1865, are seen voting against the constitutional amendment to end slavery.

Courtney asked the Congressional Research Service for the records, and sure enough, all four representatives from Connecticut voted yes on the 13th amendment.

But in the film, we see the fictional lawmakers Augustus Benjamin and Arthur Bentleigh of Connecticut each vote “Nay.”

“I could not believe my own eyes and ears,” Courtney said. In a letter of protest to director Steven Spielberg, he said that although he thinks overall the film is tremendous and compelling, “placing the State of Connecticut on the wrong side of the historic and divisive fight over slavery is a distortion of easily verifiable facts.”

He suggested the movie be changed before it is released on DVD on February 26th.

Historian Christian McWhirter, a researcher with the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, supported the congressman’s objection.

“It seems like such an unnecessary error,” he said. Nevertheless, he added, “it shouldn’t overshadow the fact that overall, this is a very strong and accurate portrayal of what actually happened.”

Going through the movie script vote by vote, CNN found that the important details are correct. By the narrowest of margins, after a breathless and unpredictable roll call, the amendment passes, with most Republicans in favor but many Democrats opposed.

Six of the lawmakers in the film actually existed and cast real votes, while the rest are apparently fictitious. No other vote discrepancies were found in the scene. …

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