The movie “Lincoln” is up for an Oscar for best picture later this month, as well as several other awards, and a local Congress member is calling on director Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks to correct an historical inaccuracy in the film that he said places Connecticut on the wrong side of the slavery debate and ratification of the 13th Amendment.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney is asking Spielberg to acknowledge the inaccuracy and, if possible, correct it before releasing Lincoln on DVD.
In the film’s climactic scene, two of Connecticut’s three members of Congress vote against the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery.
However, the congressional record from Jan. 31, 1865 shows all four of Connecticut’s House Members — Augustus Brandegee, Henry Deming, James English and John Hubbard -- men from New London, Colchester, New Haven and Salisbury — voted in favor of the Amendment and against slavery, Courtney said, citing the Congressional Globe. The Globe contains the congressional debates of the 23rd through 42nd Congresses (1833-73).
Courtney sent a letter to Spielberg.
“As a Member of Congress from Connecticut, I was on the edge of my seat during the roll call vote on the ratification of the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery. But when two of three members of the Nutmeg State’s House delegation voted to uphold slavery, I could not believe my own eyes and ears. How could Congressmen from Connecticut—a state that supported President Lincoln and lost thousands of her sons fighting against slavery on the Union side of the Civil War—have been on the wrong side of history?” Courtney wrote to the Hollywood director.
“After some digging and a check of the Congressional Record from January 31, 1865, I learned that in fact, Connecticut’s entire Congressional delegation, including four members of the House of Representatives—Augustus Brandegee of New London, James English of New Haven, Henry Deming of Colchester and John Henry Hubbard of Salisbury—all voted to abolish slavery. Even in a delegation that included both Democrats and Republicans, Connecticut provided a unified front against slavery,” Courtney wrote.
Courtney said he understands taking artistic license and suspending disbelief for movies like E.T. and Gremlins, but "accuracy is paramount" for a film based on history.
“I understand that artistic license will be taken and that some facts may be blurred to make a story more compelling on the big screen, but placing the State of Connecticut on the wrong side of the historic and divisive fight over slavery is a distortion of easily verifiable facts and an inaccuracy that should be acknowledged, and if possible, corrected before Lincoln is released on DVD,” Courtney wrote.
Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field are up for awards for their portrayal of the first couple. The film is also up for Oscars for cinematography, costume design, directing, film editing, music, production design, sound mixing and writing for an adapted screenplay.