Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Bruce McGill, Tim Blake Nelson, Joseph Cross, Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Peter McRobbie,Gulliver McGrath, Gloria Reuben, Jeremy Strong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Boris McGiver, David Costabile, Stephen Spinella, Walton Goggins, David Warshofsky, Colman Domingo, David Oyelowo , Lukas Haas, Dane DeHaan
OUR RATING: ★★★☆☆
Historical bio-drama directed by Steven Spielberg. Set in 1865 during the American Civil War. With another year of high death count, Lincoln (2012) follows President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis), as he brings the full measure of his passion, humanity and political skill to what would become his defining legacy, to end the war and permanently abolish slavery through the 13th Amendment. Lincoln pushes forward to compel the nation, and those in government who oppose him, to aim toward a greater good for all mankind.
Our Favorite Quotes:'It is a self-evident truth that things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other. We begin with equality. That's the origin, isn't it? That's balance. That's fairness. That's justice.' - Abraham Lincoln Click To Tweet
Corporal Ira Clark: [to Lincoln] Now that white people have accustomed themselves to seeing N**** men with guns, fighting on their behalf, and now that they can tolerate N**** soldiers getting equal pay, maybe in a few years they can abide the idea of N**** lieutenants and captains. In fifty years, maybe a N**** colonel. In a hundred years, the vote.
Abraham Lincoln: What will you do after the war, Corporal Clark?
Corporal Ira Clark: Work, sir. Perhaps you’ll hire me.
Abraham Lincoln: Perhaps I will.
Corporal Ira Clark: But you should know, sir, that I get sick at the smell of bootblack, and I cannot cut hair.
Abraham Lincoln: I’ve yet to find a man could cut mine so it’d make any difference.
Private Harold Green: You got springy hair for a white man.
Abraham Lincoln: Yes, I do. My last barber hanged himself. And the one before that, left me his scissors in his will.
Second White Soldier: [reciting to Lincoln] “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth from this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
First White Soldier: “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.”
Abraham Lincoln: That’s good. Thank you.
Second White Soldier: “We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.”
Corporal Ira Clark: [reciting to Lincoln] “That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.“
Abraham Lincoln: [January 1865, American Civil War is now in its fourth year] It’s nighttime. The ship’s moved by some terrible power at a terrific speed. And though it’s imperceptible in the darkness, I have an intuition that we’re headed towards a shore. No one else seems to be aboard the vessel. I’m very keenly aware of my aloneness.
Abraham Lincoln: I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams. I reckon it’s the speed that’s strange to me. I’m used to going at a deliberate pace. I should spare you, Molly. I shouldn’t tell you my dreams.
Mary Todd Lincoln: I don’t want to be spared if you aren’t! And you spare me nothing. Perhaps it’s the assault on Wilmington Port. You dream about the ship before a battle, usually.
Mary Todd Lincoln: Almost two years, nothing mends. Another casualty of the war. Who wants to listen to a useless woman grouse about her carriage accident?
Abraham Lincoln: I do.
Mary Todd Lincoln: Stuff. You tell me dreams, that’s all. I’m your soothsayer. That’s all I am to you anymore. I’m not to be trusted. Even if it was not a carriage accident. Even if it was an attempted assassination.
Abraham Lincoln: It was most probably an accident.
Mary Todd Lincoln: It was an assassin whose intended target was you.
Mary Todd Lincoln: [to Lincoln] I know. I know what it’s about, the ship. It’s not Wilmington Port. It’s not a military campaign. It’s the amendment to abolish slavery. Why else would you force me to invite demented radicals into my home? You’re going to try to get the amendment passed in the House of Representatives before the term ends? Before the Inauguration? Don’t spend too much money on the flubdubs. No one is loved as much as you. No one’s ever been loved so much by the people. You might do anything now. Don’t waste that power on an amendment bill that’s sure of defeat.
Mary Todd Lincoln: [to Lincoln, referring to his dream] That’s the ship you’re sailing on. The Thirteenth Amendment. You needn’t tell me I’m right. I know I am.
'The part assigned to me is to raise the flag. Which, if there be no fault in the machinery, I will do. And when up, it'll be for the people to keep it up.' - Abraham Lincoln Click To Tweet
Abraham Lincoln: We can find twenty votes.
William Seward: Twenty House Democrats who will vote to abolish slavery? In my opinion…
Abraham Lincoln: To which I always listen.
William Seward: Or pretend to.
Abraham Lincoln: With all three of my ears.
William Seward: We’ll win the war soon. It’s inevitable, isn’t it?
Abraham Lincoln: Well, it ain’t won yet.
William Seward: You’ll begin your second term with semi-divine stature. Imagine the possibilities peace will bring! Why tarnish your invaluable luster with a battle in the House? It’s a rat’s nest in there. It’s the same gang of talentless hicks and hacks who rejected the amendment ten months ago. We’ll lose.
Abraham Lincoln: I like our chances now.
William Seward: But we can’t buy the vote for the amendment. It’s too important.
Abraham Lincoln: I said nothing of buying anything. We need twenty votes was all I said. Start of my second term, plenty of positions to fill.
Abraham Lincoln: I heard tell once of a Jefferson City lawyer who had a parrot that’d wake him each morning, crying out, “Today is the day the world shall end, as scripture has foretold.” And one day the lawyer shot him, for the sake of peace and quiet, I presume. Thus fulfilling, for the bird at least, his prophecy.
William Seward: [to Lincoln] If procuring votes with offers of employment is what you intend, I’ll fetch a friend from Albany who can supply the skulking men gifted at this kind of shady work, and spare me the indignity of actually speaking to Democrats. Spare you the exposure and liability.
William Seward: We can’t afford a single defection from anyone in the party. Not even a single Republican absent when they vote. You know who you’ve got to see.
Abraham Lincoln: Send over to Blair House. Ask Preston Blair can I call on him around five o’clock.
William Seward: God help you. God alone knows what he’ll ask you to give him.
Preston Blair: All Republicans ought to be conservative, I founded this party, in my own goddamn home, to be a conservative anti-slavery party, not a hobbyhorse for goddamn radical abolitionists.
Elizabeth Blair Lee: Damp down the dyspepsia, Daddy. You’ll frighten the child.
Montgomery Blair: You need us to keep the conservative side of the party in the traces while you diddle the radicals and bundle up with Thaddeus Stevens’s gang! You need our help!
Abraham Lincoln: Yes, sir. I do.
Montgomery Blair: Well, what do we get?
Elizabeth Blair Lee: Woh! Blunt! Your manners, Monty, must be why Mr. Lincoln pushed you out of his cabinet.
Preston Blair: Our Republicans ain’t abolitionists. Now we can’t tell our people they can vote yes on abolishing slavery unless at the same time we can tell them that you’re seeking a negotiated peace.
'Trust? Oh. I'm sorry, I was under the misapprehension that your chosen profession was politics.' - Thaddeus Stevens (Lincoln) Click To Tweet
Abraham Lincoln: Back when I rode the legal circuit in Illinois, I defended a woman from Metamora named Melissa Goings. Seventy-seven years old. They said she’d murdered her husband. He was eighty-three. He was choking her, and she grabbed a hold of a stick of firewood, and fractured his skull, and he died. In his will, he wrote, “I expect she has killed me. If I get over it, I will have revenge.” No one was keen to see her convicted, he was that kind of husband.
Abraham Lincoln: I asked the prosecuting attorney if I might have a short conference with my client. She and I went into a room in the courthouse, but I alone emerged. The window in the room was found to be wide open. It was believed the old lady may have climbed out of it. I told the bailiff, right before I left her in the room, she asked me where she could get a good drink of water, and I told her, Tennessee. Mrs. Goings was seen no more in Metamora. Enough justice had been done. They even forgave the bondsman her bail.
Abraham Lincoln: I decided that the Constitution gives me war powers, but no one knows just exactly what those powers are. Some say they don’t exist. I don’t know. I decided I needed them to exist to uphold my oath to protect the Constitution. Which I decided meant that I could take the Rebels slaves from them as property confiscated in war. That might recommend to suspicion that I agree with the Rebs that their slaves are property in the first place. Of course, I don’t. Never have. I’m glad to see any man free. And if calling a man property, or war contraband does the trick, why I caught at the opportunity.
Abraham Lincoln: Now here’s where it gets truly slippery. I use the law allowing for the seizure of property in a war knowing it applies only to the property of governments and citizens of belligerent nations. Well, the South ain’t a nation. That’s why I can’t negotiate with them. So, if in fact, the N****es are property, according to law, have I the right to take the Rebels property from them, if I insist they’re rebels only, and not citizens of a belligerent country? And slipperier still, I maintain it ain’t our actual Southern states in rebellion, but only the rebels living in those states, the laws of which states remain in force. The laws of which states remain in force.
Abraham Lincoln: “The laws of which states remain in force.” That means, that since it’s states laws that determine whether N****es can be sold as slaves, as property, the federal government doesn’t have a say in that. At least not yet. Then N****es in those states are slaves, hence property, hence my war powers allow me to confiscate them as such. So I confiscated them. But if I’m a respecter of states laws, how then can I legally free them with my Proclamation, as I done? Unless I’m canceling states laws? I felt the war demanded it. My oath demanded it. I felt right with myself, and I hoped it was legal to do it. I’m hoping still.
'Time is a great thickener of things.' - Abraham Lincoln Click To Tweet
Abraham Lincoln: Two years ago, I proclaimed these people emancipated. “Then, thenceforward and forever free.” Now let’s say the courts decide I had no authority to do it. They might well decide that. Say there’s no amendment abolishing slavery. Say it’s after the war, and I can no longer use my war powers to just ignore the courts decisions, like I sometimes felt I had to do. Might those people I freed be ordered back into slavery? That’s why I’d like to get the Thirteenth Amendment through the House, on its way to ratification by the states. Wrap the whole slavery thing up, forever and aye. As soon as I’m able. Now! End of this month! And I’d like you to stand behind me. Like my cabinet’s most always done. As the preacher said, “I could write shorter sermons, but once I start, I get too lazy to stop.”
Abraham Lincoln: I signed the Emancipation Proclamation, what, a year and half before my second election? I felt I was within my power to do it. However, I also felt that I might be wrong about that. I knew the people would tell me. I gave them a year and half to think about it. And they re-elected me. And come February the first, I intend to sign the Thirteenth Amendment!
Abraham Lincoln: We’re whalers, Mr. Ashley!
James Ashley: Whalers? As in whales?
Abraham Lincoln: We’ve been chasing this whale for a long time. And we finally placed a harpoon in the monster’s back. It’s in, James. It’s in! We finish the deed now. We can’t wait. Or with one flop of his tail, he’ll smash the boat and send us all to eternity.
Senator Bluff Wade: Whalers?!
James Ashley: That’s what he said.
Senator Bluff Wade: The man’s never been near a whale ship in his life!
'If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead, heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp, what's the use of knowing true north?' - Abraham Lincoln Click To Tweet
Asa Vintner Litton: Why are we cooperating with him? We all know what he’s doing, and we all know what he’ll do. We can’t offer up abolition’s best legal prayer to his games and tricks.
Senator Bluff Wade: He’s said he’d welcome the South back with all its slaves in chains.
James Ashley: Three years ago he said that, to calm the border states!
Thaddeus Stevens: I don’t. You said we all know what he’ll do. I don’t know.
Asa Vintner Litton: You know he isn’t to be trusted.
Thaddeus Stevens: Trust? Oh. I’m sorry, I was under the misapprehension that your chosen profession was politics. I never trusted the President. I never trust anyone. But hasn’t he surprised you?
Asa Vintner Litton: No, Mr. Stevens, he hasn’t.
Thaddeus Stevens: Nothing surprises you, Asa, therefore nothing about you is surprising. Perhaps that is why your constituents did not re-elect you to the coming term.
'I've found that prophesying is one of life's less profitable occupations.' - Abraham Lincoln Click To Tweet
Thaddeus Stevens: Lincoln, the inveterate dawdler. Lincoln, the Southerner. Lincoln, the capitulating compromiser, our adversary, and leader of the godforsaken Republican Party. Our party. Abraham Lincoln has asked us to work with him to accomplish the death of slavery in America. Retain, even in opposition, your capacity for astonishment.
Robert Latham: It’s not illegal to bribe Congressmen. They’d starve otherwise.
W.N. Bilbo: Congressmen come cheap. Few thousand bucks will buy you all you need.
'In times like this, I'm best alone.' - Abraham Lincoln Click To Tweet
Hiram Price: If Lincoln really were a tyrant, Mr. Wood, he’d have had your empty head impaled on a pike! And the country better for it!
Robert Latham: What’s more interesting is how dismal and disgruntled Mr. Yeaman appears. He should be cheering right now.
W.N. Bilbo: Looks like he ate a bad oyster.
Thaddeus Stevens: When will Mr. Wood conclude his interminable gabble? Some of us breathe oxygen, and we find the mephitic fumes of his oratory a lethal challenge to our pulmonary capabilities!
'See what is before you. See the here and now. That's the hardest thing, the only thing that accounts.' - Abraham Lincoln Click To Tweet
Thaddeus Stevens: Slavery is the only insult to natural law, you fatuous nincompoop!
Thaddeus Stevens: What violates natural law? Slavery, and you. Pendleton, you insult God!
You unnatural noise!
'We've made it possible for one another to do terrible things.' - Abraham Lincoln Click To Tweet
Robert Latham: Then despite our abstention, to reach a two-thirds majority, we remain twenty yeses short.
Richard Schell: For which we’re seeking from among sixty-four lame duck Democrats. Fully thirty-nine of these we deem unredeemable no votes.
W.N. Bilbo: The kind that hates n*****s. Hates God for making n*****s.
Robert Latham: The Good Lord on high would despair of their souls.
William Seward: Thank you for that pithy explanation, Mr. Bilbo.
Richard Schell: We’ve abandoned these thirty-nine to the devil that possesses them.
W.N. Bilbo: Don’t just reach for the highest branches. They sway in every breeze.
Abraham Lincoln: Time for my public opinion bath. Might as well let them in.
Abraham Lincoln: What hope for any Democratic votes, Willum, if word gets out that I’ve refused a chance to end the war? You think word won’t get out? In Washington?
William Seward: It’s either the amendment or this Confederate peace. You cannot have both.
Abraham Lincoln: “If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then to me.”
William Seward: A disaster. This is a disaster!
Abraham Lincoln: Time is a great thickener of things, Willum.
William Seward: Oh, yes, I suppose it is. Actually I have no idea what you mean by that.
Robert Lincoln: You won’t tell me no, but the war will be over in a month, and you know it will.
Abraham Lincoln: Well, I’ve found that prophesying is one of life’s less profitable occupations.
Tad Lincoln: When you were a slave, Mr. Slade, did they beat you?
William Slade: I was born a free man. Nobody beat me except I beat them right back.
Mary Todd Lincoln: My head hurts so. I prayed for death the night Willie died. My headaches are how I know I didn’t get my wish. How to endure the long afternoon and deep into the night.
Abraham Lincoln: I know.
Mary Todd Lincoln: Trying not to think about him. How will I manage?
Abraham Lincoln: Somehow. You will.
Mary Todd Lincoln: Somehow? Somehow. Somehow.
Mary Todd Lincoln: You have always taken such a lively, even prosecutorial interest in my household accounts.
Thaddeus Stevens: Your household accounts have always been so interesting.
Mary Todd Lincoln: Yes, thank you. It’s true. The miracles I have wrought out of fertilizer bills and cutlery invoices. But I had to. Four years ago, when the President and I arrived, this was pure pigsty. Tobacco stains in the Turkey carpets. Mushrooms, green as the moon, sprouting from ceilings! And a pauper’s pittance allotted for improvements. As if your committee joined with all of Washington awaiting, in what you anticipated would be our comfort in squalor. Further proof that my husband and I were prairie primitives, unsuited to the position to which an error of the people, a flaw in the Democratic process had elevated us.
Mary Todd Lincoln: [to Stevens] How the people love my husband. They flock to see him, by their thousands on public days. They will never love you the way they love him. How difficult it must be for you to know that, and yet how important to remember it.
Thaddeus Stevens: When the war ends, I intend to push for full equality, the N**** vote, and much more. Congress shall mandate the seizure of every foot of Rebel land and every dollar of their property. We’ll use their confiscated wealth to establish hundreds of thousands of free N**** farmers, at their side, soldiers armed to occupy and transform the heritage of traitors. We’ll build up a land down there of free men, and free women, and free children, and freedom. The nation needs to know that we have such plans.
Abraham Lincoln: That’s the untempered version of reconstruction. It’s not quite exactly what I intend. But we shall oppose one another in the course of time. Now we’re working together, and I’m asking you…
Thaddeus Stevens: For patience, I expect.
Abraham Lincoln: When the people disagree, bringing them together requires going slow until they’re ready to…
Thaddeus Stevens: S**t on the people and what they want, and what they’re ready for! I don’t give a goddamn about the people and what they want! This is the face of someone who has fought long and hard for the good of the people without caring much for any of them. And I look a lot worse without the wig. The people elected me to represent them! To lead them! And I lead! You ought to try it.
Abraham Lincoln: I admire your zeal, Mr. Stevens. And I have tried to profit from the example of it. But if I’d listened to you, I’d have declared every slave free the minute the first shell struck Fort Sumter. And the border states would’ve gone over to the Confederacy. The war would’ve been lost and the Union along with it. And instead of abolishing slavery, as we hope to do, in two weeks, we’d be watching helpless as infants as it spread from the American South into South America.
Thaddeus Stevens: Oh, how you have longed to say that to me.
Thaddeus Stevens: You claim you trust them, but you know what the people are. You know that the inner compass, that should direct the soul towards justice has ossified in white men and women, North and South, unto utter uselessness, through tolerating the evil of slavery. White people cannot bear the thought of sharing this country’s infinite abundance with N****es.
Abraham Lincoln: A compass, I learned when I was surveying, it’ll point you true north from where you’re standing. But it’s got no advice about the swamps, and deserts, and chasms that you’ll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead, heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp, what’s the use of knowing true north?
Abraham Lincoln: That’s what Ethan Allen called out to the commander of Fort Ticonderoga in 1776. “Come on out, you old rat!” Of course, there were only forty odd Redcoats at Ticonderoga. But there is one Ethan Allen story that I’m very partial to.
Edwin Stanton: No! No! You’re going to tell a story! I don’t believe that I can bear to listen to another one of your stories right now!
Abraham Lincoln: [after Stanton stalks out, carries on with his story] It was right after the Revolution, right after peace had been concluded. And Ethan Allen went to London to help our new country conduct its business with the King. The English sneered at how rough we are, and rude and simple-minded and on like that, everywhere he went, till one day he was invited to the townhouse of a great English lord. Dinner was served, and beverages imbibed, time passed, as happens, and Mr. Allen found he needed the privy. He was grateful to be directed thence. Relieved you might say.
Abraham Lincoln: Now, Mr. Allen discovered on entering the water closet, that the only decoration therein was a portrait of George Washington. Ethan Allen done what he came to do, and returned to the drawing room. His host and the others were disappointed when he didn’t mention Washington’s portrait. And finally His Lordship couldn’t resist, and asked Mr. Allen had he noticed it, the picture of Washington. He had. Well, what did he think of its placement, did it seem appropriately located to Mr. Allen? Mr. Allen said it did. His host was astounded. “Appropriate?” George Washington’s likeness in a water closet?” “Yes,” said Mr. Allen. “Where it’ll do good service. The whole world knows nothing will make an Englishman s**t quicker than the sight of George Washington.” I love that story.
George Pendleton: This is to the death.
Fernando Wood: That’s gruesome.
George Pendleton: Are you despairing, or merely lazy? This fight is for The United States of America! Nothing suffices. A rumor? Nothing! They’re not lazy! They’re busily buying votes while we hope to be saved by “the national mood”?!
George Yeaman: [at the House of Debate] I rise on this sad and solemn day to announce that I’m opposed to the amendment. We must consider what will become of colored folk if four million are in, one instant, set free.
Asa Vintner Litton: They’ll be free, George. That’s what will become of them.
Fernando Wood: Bless my eyes. If it isn’t the Postmaster of Millersburg, Ohio!
George Pendleton: Mr. LeClerk felt honor-bound to inform us of your disgusting betrayal. Your prostitution.
Fernando Wood: Is that true, Postmaster Hawkins? Is your maidenly virtue for sale?
William Seward: Eleven votes? Two days ago, we had twelve. What happened?
Robert Latham: There are defections in the ranks.
Richard Schell: It’s the goddamn rumors regarding the Richmond delegation.
Robert Latham: Yes! The peace offer!
William Seward: Groundless. I told you that.
Robert Latham: And yet the rumors persist.
Richard Schell: They are ruining us.
Robert Latham: Tell Lincoln to deny the rumors, publicly.
Richard Schell: Tell us what you expect of us.
William Seward: I expect you to do your work! And to have sufficient sense and taste not to presume to instruct the President. Or me.
Ulysses S. Grant: There is just one country. You and I, we’re citizens of that country. I’m fighting to protect it from armed rebels. From you.
Alexander Stephens: But Mr. Blair, he told us, he told President Jefferson Davis that we were…
Ulysses S. Grant: A private citizen like Preston Blair can say what he pleases, since he has no authority over anything. If you want to discuss peace with President Lincoln, consider revisions.
Alexander Stephens: If we’re not to discuss a truce between warring nations, what in heaven’s name can we discuss?
Ulysses S. Grant: Terms of surrender.
Abraham Lincoln: [referring to Grant] After four years of war, and near six hundred thousand lives lost, he believes we can end this war now. My trust in him is marrow deep.
Abraham Lincoln: [referring to the deserter] He oughtn’t to have done that, crippled his horse. That was cruel, but you don’t just hang a sixteen year-old boy for that. For cruelty.
John Hay: Ask the horse what he thinks.
Abraham Lincoln: There’d be no sixteen year-old boys left.
Abraham Lincoln: He was afraid, that’s all it was. I don’t care to hang a boy for being frightened, either. What good would it do him? War’s nearly done. Ain’t that so? What use one more corpse? Any more corpses?
John Hay: Do you need company?
Abraham Lincoln: In times like this, I’m best alone.
Abraham Lincoln: You think we choose to be born?
Samuel Beckwith: I don’t suppose so.
Abraham Lincoln: Are we fitted to the times we’re born into?
Samuel Beckwith: Well, I don’t know about myself. You may be, sir. Fitted.
Abraham Lincoln: I never had much of schooling, but I read Euclid in an old book I borrowed. Little enough ever found its way in here, but once learnt, it stayed learnt. Euclid’s first common notion is this, “Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.” That’s a rule of mathematical reasoning. It’s true because it works. Has done and always will do. In his book, Euclid says this is “self-evident”. Do you see? There it is, even in that two thousand year-old book of mechanical law. It is a self-evident truth that things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other. We begin with equality. That’s the origin, isn’t it? That’s balance. That’s fairness. That’s justice.
Fernando Wood: I’ve asked you a question, Mr. Stevens, and you must answer me. Do you or do you not hold that the precept that “all men are created equal” is meant literally? Is that not the true purpose of the amendment? To promote your ultimate and ardent dream to elevate…
Thaddeus Stevens: The true purpose of the amendment, Mr. Wood, you perfectly named, brainless, obstructive object…
Fernando Wood: Now you have always insisted, Mr. Stevens, that N****es are the same as white men are.
George Pendleton: You have long insisted, have you not, that the dusk colored race is no different from the white one.
Thaddeus Stevens: I don’t hold with equality in all things, only with equality before the law, and nothing more.
Thaddeus Stevens: How can I hold that all men are created equal, when here before me stands, stinking, the moral carcass of the gentleman from Ohio, proof that some men are inferior, endowed by their Maker with dim wits, impermeable to reason, with cold, pallid slime in their veins instead of hot, red blood! You are more reptile than man, George! So low and flat that the foot of man is incapable of crushing you!
George Pendleton: How dare you?
Thaddeus Stevens: Yet even you, Pendleton, who should have been gibbetted for treason long before today. Even worthless, unworthy you ought to be treated equally before the law! And so again, sir, again, and again, and again I say, I do not hold with equality in all things, only with equality before the law.
Asa Vintner Litton: You’ve led the battle for race equality for thirty years. The basis of every hope for this country’s future life, you denied N**** equality. I’m nauseated. You refused to say that all humans are, well, human! Have you lost your very soul, Mr. Stevens? Is there nothing you won’t say?
Thaddeus Stevens: I’m sorry you’re nauseous, Asa. That must be unpleasant. I want the amendment to pass. So that the Constitution’s first and only mention of slavery is its absolute prohibition. For this amendment, for which I have worked all of my life, and for which countless colored men and women have fought and died, and now hundreds of thousands of soldiers. No, sir. No. It seems there is very nearly nothing I won’t say.
Robert Lincoln: I have to do this. And I will do it. And I don’t need your permission to enlist.
Abraham Lincoln: That same speech has been made by how many sons to how many fathers since the war began? “I don’t need your damn permission, you miserable old goat. I’m going to enlist anyhow.” And what wouldn’t those numberless fathers have given to be able to say to their sons, as I now say to mine, “I’m Commander in Chief.” So, in point of fact, without my permission, you ain’t enlisting in nothing nowhere, young man.
Robert Lincoln: It’s Mama you’re scared of, it’s not me getting killed.
Robert Lincoln: I have to do this! And I will! Or I will feel ashamed of myself for the rest of my life! Whether or not you fought is what’s going to matter. And not just to other people, but to myself! I won’t be you, Pa! I can’t do that. But I don’t want to be nothing!
Abraham Lincoln: I can’t lose you.
Mary Todd Lincoln: The war will take our son. A sniper, or a shrapnel shell, a typhus, same as took Willie. It takes hundreds of boys a day! He’ll die uselessly. And how will I ever forgive you? Most men, their firstborn is their favorite. You’ve always blamed Robert for being born. For trapping you in a marriage that’s only ever given you grief and caused you regret!
Abraham Lincoln: That’s simply not true.
Mary Todd Lincoln: And if the slaughter of Cold Harbor is on your hands same as Grant, God help us! We’ll pay for the oceans of spilled blood you’ve sanctioned, the uncountable corpses! We’ll be made to pay with our son’s dear blood.
Abraham Lincoln: Just this once, Mrs. Lincoln, I demand of you to try and take the liberal and not the selfish point of view. Robert will never forgive himself. You imagine he’ll forgive us if we continue to stifle this very natural ambition?!
Mary Todd Lincoln: And if I refuse to take the high road? If I won’t pick up the rough old cross, will you threaten me again with the madhouse? As you did when I couldn’t stop crying over Willie. When I showed you what heartbreak, real heartbreak looked like. And you hadn’t the courage to countenance, to help me!
Abraham Lincoln: I ought have done for Tad’s sake, for everybody’s goddamn sake. I should have clapped you in the madhouse!
Mary Todd Lincoln: Then do it! Do it! Don’t you threaten me! You do it this time! Lock me away! You’ll have to, I swear, if Robert is killed.
Abraham Lincoln: I couldn’t tolerate you grieving so for Willie because I couldn’t permit it in myself. Though I wanted to, Mary. I wanted to crawl under the earth, into the vault, with his coffin. I still do. Every day I do. Don’t speak to me about grief.
Abraham Lincoln: I must make my decisions. Bob must make his. You yours. And bear what we must. Hold and carry what we must. What I carry within me, you must allow me to do it. Alone, as I must. And you alone, Mary, you alone may lighten this burden. Or render it intolerable. As you choose.
Mary Todd Lincoln: You think I’m ignorant of what you’re up to because you haven’t discussed this scheme with me as you ought to have done? When have I ever been so easily bamboozled? I believe you when you insist that amending the constitution and abolishing slavery will end this war. And since you are sending my son into the war, woe unto you if you fail to pass the amendment.
Abraham Lincoln: Seward doesn’t want me leaving big muddy footprints all over town.
Mary Todd Lincoln: No one ever lived who knows better than you the proper placement of footfalls on treacherous paths. Seward can’t do it. You must. Because if you fail to acquire the necessary votes, woe unto you, sir. You will answer to me.
Elizabeth Keckley: I know the vote is only four days away. I know you’re concerned. Thank you for your concern over this. And I want you to know, they’ll approve it. God will see to it.
Abraham Lincoln: I don’t envy Him his task. He may wish He’d chosen an instrument for His purpose more wieldy than the House of Representatives.
Elizabeth Keckley: Then you’ll see to it.
Abraham Lincoln: Are you afraid of what lies ahead for your people if we succeed?
Elizabeth Keckley: White people don’t want us here.
Abraham Lincoln: Many don’t.
Elizabeth Keckley: What about you?
Abraham Lincoln: I don’t know you, Mrs. Keckley. Any of you. You’re familiar to me, as all people are. Unaccommodated, poor, bare, forked creatures, such as we all are. You have a right to expect what I expect. And likely our expectations are not incomprehensible to each other. I assume I’ll get used to you. Now what you are to the nation, what’ll become of you once slavery’s day is done, I don’t know.
Elizabeth Keckley: What my people are to be, I can’t say. N****es have been fighting and dying for freedom since the first of us was a slave. I never heard any ask what freedom will bring. Freedom is first. As for me, my son died fighting for the Union, wearing the Union blue. For freedom he died. And I’m his mother. That’s what I am to the nation, Mr. Lincoln. What else must I be?
Robert Latham: That watch fob, is that gold?
W.N. Bilbo: You keep your eyes off my fob.
W.N. Bilbo: [Lincoln enters the room] Well, I’ll be f***ed.
Abraham Lincoln: I wouldn’t bet against it.
Thaddeus Stevens: Are we representatives of the same state?
Alexander Coffroth: Yes, sir. We sit only three desks apart.
Thaddeus Stevens: I haven’t noticed you. I’m a Republican, and you, Coughdrop, are a Democrat?
Abraham Lincoln: What a joy to be comprehended.
Thaddeus Stevens: The modern travesty of Thomas Jefferson’s political organization to which you have attached yourself like a barnacle has the effrontery to call itself The Democratic Party. You are a Dem-o-crat. What’s the matter with you? Are you wicked?
Alexander Coffroth: Well, I felt…
Thaddeus Stevens: Never mind, Coffsnot.
Abraham Lincoln: I saw a barge once, Mr. Yeaman, filled with colored men in chains, heading down the Mississippi to the New Orleans slave markets. It sickened me. And more than that, it brought a shadow down. A pall around my eyes. Slavery troubled me as long as I can remember, in a way it never troubled my father, though he hated it, in his own fashion. He knew no smallholding dirt farmer could compete with slave plantations. So he took us out from Kentucky to get away from them. He wanted Indiana kept free. He wasn’t a kind man, but there was a rough, moral urge for fairness, for freedom in him. I learnt that from him, I suppose. If little else from him. We didn’t care for one another, Mr. Yeaman.
George Yeaman: Well, I’m sorry to hear that…
Abraham Lincoln: Loving kindness, that most ordinary thing, came to me from other sources. I’m grateful for that.
George Yeaman: Well, I hate it too, sir. Slavery. But we’re entirely unready for emancipation. There’s too many questions…
Abraham Lincoln: We’re unready for peace too, ain’t we? Yeah, when it comes, it’ll present us with conundrums and dangers greater than any we’ve faced during the war, bloody as it’s been. We’ll have to extemporize and experiment with what it is, when it is.
William Hutton: I am a prejudiced man.
Abraham Lincoln: Well, I’d change that in you if I could, but that’s not why I come. I might be wrong, Mr. Hutton, but I expect. Colored people will most likely be free. And when that’s so, it’s simple truth that your brother’s bravery, and his death, helped make it so. Only you can decide whether that’s sense enough for you or not.
Abraham Lincoln: [as his cabinet members are arguing] I can’t listen to this anymore. I can’t accomplish a goddamn thing of any human meaning or worth until we cure ourselves of slavery and end this pestilential war! And whether any of you, or anyone else knows it, I know I need this! This amendment is that cure! We’re stepped out upon the world’s stage now! Now! With the fate of human dignity in our hands! Blood’s been spilt to afford us this moment! Now! Now! Now! And you grousle, and heckle, and dodge about like pettifogging Tammany Hall hucksters! See what is before you. See the here and now. That’s the hardest thing, the only thing that accounts.
Abraham Lincoln: Abolishing slavery by constitutional provision settles the fate for all coming time, not only of the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come. Two votes stand in its way. These votes must be procured.
William Seward: We need two yeses, three abstentions, or four yeses, and one more abstention, and the amendment will pass.
Abraham Lincoln: You got a night, and a day, and a night, and several perfectly good hours. Now get the hell out of here and get them!
James Ashley: Yes. But how?
Abraham Lincoln: Buzzards guts, man. I am the President of the United States of America, clothed in immense power! You will procure me these votes.
John Hay: Making false representation to Congress, is, it’s…
Abraham Lincoln: It’s impeachable. But I’ve made no such false representation.
John Hay: But there are!
Clerk: And Mr. George Yeaman, how say you?
George Yeaman: My vote ties us.
Clerk: Sir, Mr. Yeaman, I didn’t hear your vote.
George Yeaman: I said “Aye”, Mr. McPherson! Aye!
Fernando Wood: Traitor!
Clay Hawkins: Goddammit, I’m voting yes. I don’t care, shoot me dead! You shoot me dead! I am voting yes!
Schuyler Colfax: Mr. Clerk, please call my name. I want to cast a vote.
George Pendleton: I object! The Speaker doesn’t vote.
Schuyler Colfax: The Speaker may vote if he so chooses.
George Pendleton: It is highly unusual, sir.
Schuyler Colfax: This isn’t usual, Mr. Pendleton. This is history.
Clerk: How does Mr. Schuyler Colfax vote?
Schuyler Colfax: Aye, of course!
Schuyler Colfax: The final vote. Eight absent or not voting. Fifty-six votes against. One hundred and nineteen votes for. With a margin of two votes…
Thaddeus Stevens: A gift for you. The greatest measure of the 19th Century. Passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America. I wish you had been present.
Lydia Smith: I wish I’d been.
Thaddeus Stevens: It was a spectacle.
Lydia Smith: You can’t bring your housekeeper to the House. I won’t give them gossip. This is enough. This is, it’s more than enough for now.
[he turns to her and they kiss]
Thaddeus Stevens: Read it to me again, my love.
Lydia Smith: “Proposed…”
Thaddeus Stevens: And adopted.
Lydia Smith: “Adopted. An Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Section One. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Thaddeus Stevens: Section Two.
Lydia Smith: “Congress shall have power to enforce this amendment by appropriate legislation.”
Abraham Lincoln: We ain’t here to discuss reconstruction. We have no legal basis for that discussion. But I don’t want to deal falsely. The Northern states will ratify, most of them. As I figure it, it remains for two of the Southern states to do the same, even after all are readmitted. And I’ve been working on that.
Alexander Stephens: Tennessee and Louisiana.
Abraham Lincoln: Arkansas too, most likely. It’ll be ratified. Slavery, sir, it’s done.
Alexander Stephens: How have you held your Union together? Through democracy? How many hundreds of thousands have died during your administration? Your Union, sir, is bonded in cannon fire and death.
Abraham Lincoln: It may be you’re right. But say all we done is show the world that democracy isn’t chaos. That there is a great, invisible strength in a people’s union. Say we’ve shown that a people can endure awful sacrifice and yet cohere. Mightn’t that save at least the idea of democracy, to aspire to? Eventually to become worthy of? At all rates, whatever may be proven by blood and sacrifice must have been proved by now. Shall we stop this bleeding?
Abraham Lincoln: [to Grant] Liberality all around, not punishment. I don’t want that. And the leaders, Jeff and the rest of them, if they escape, leave the country while my back’s turned, that wouldn’t upset me none. When peace comes, it mustn’t just be hangings.
Ulysses S. Grant: By outward appearance, you’re ten years older than you were a year ago.
Abraham Lincoln: Some weariness has bit at my bones.
Abraham Lincoln: I never seen the like of it before, what I seen today. Never seen the like of it before.
Ulysses S. Grant: You always knew that, what this was going to be. Intimate and ugly. You must have needed to see it close when you decided to come down here.
Abraham Lincoln: We’ve made it possible for one another to do terrible things.
Ulysses S. Grant: We have won the war. Now you have to lead us out of it.
Mary Todd Lincoln: All anyone will remember of me is I was crazy and I ruined your happiness.
Abraham Lincoln: Anyone thinks that doesn’t understand, Molly.
Mary Todd Lincoln: When they look at you, at what it cost to live at the heart of this, they’ll wonder at it. They’ll wonder at you. They should. But they should also look at the wretched woman by your side, if they want to understand what this was truly like. For the ordinary person. For anyone other than you.
Abraham Lincoln: We must try to be happier. We must. Both of us. We’ve been so miserable for so long.
Abraham Lincoln: I suppose it’s time to go. Though I would rather stay.
Leonard Grover: The President has been shot! The President has been shot at Ford’s Theater!
Dr. Joseph K. Barnes: It’s 7:22 in the morning, Saturday the 15th of April. It’s all over. The President is no more.
Edwin Stanton: Now he belongs to the ages.
Abraham Lincoln: [from his Second Inaugural speech] Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.