Lincoln Scholar: 16th President Rid Nation of ‘Great Moral Hypocrisy’

Tuesday, 19 Feb 2013 03:17 PM

By Todd Beamon and Kathleen Walter

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Abraham Lincoln’s greatest accomplishments were preserving the union and “cleans[ing] the country of its great moral hypocrisy,” the author of a new book on the nation’s 16th president tells Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview.

“It was that this was a country dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness except for people who were enslaved before the Declaration of Independence and before the Constitution,” Harold Holzer, a Lincoln scholar, tells Newsmax. “Lincoln realized that it was just an untenable message to the rest of the world: that democracy wasn’t as pure as we claimed it to be.”

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Holzer, a senior vice president with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is the author of “Lincoln: How Abraham Lincoln Ended Slavery in America.” He served as an adviser of the Steven Spielberg film, “Lincoln,” which has received 12 Academy Award nominations. The Oscars are to be presented on Feb. 24.

The book, Holzer’s 34th on Lincoln or the Civil War, is a companion volume for young people to the Spielberg film.

“Since the movie only covered the last two months of Lincoln’s life, when he pushed for passage of the 13th Amendment in the House of Representatives, we thought the young readers’ book should take a longer look at the evolution of Lincoln’s attitudes on slavery and the possibilities of freedom,” Holzer tells Newsmax.

“It starts with his education, seeing people of color, seeing enslaved people as a young man, seeing a slave market in New Orleans when he was 19 or 20 years old and being repulsed by it — and then learning that there was a way to combat the institution, and leading up to the great moment when he signed his name on the resolution that would end slavery everywhere.”

The Spielberg movie came under fire by Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut, who is demanding a correction over how his state’s legislators cast votes for the amendment. The film shows two of the state’s three representatives voting against the amendment.

Courtney said that his research of the Congressional Record showed that all the Connecticut legislators supported the amendment.

While “Lincoln” screenwriter Tony Kushner has acknowledged that the scene does not reflect the historical record, he cited the change as “historical drama.”

“Steven Spielberg appeared this year at Gettysburg,” Holzer tells Newsmax. “He actually gave a ‘Gettysburg Address’ on the anniversary of Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’— and he said something that I took very much to heart: art goes where history can’t, as Shakespeare did with his histories.

“This obsession about small details, all of which were talked about and considered — the filmmakers liked the way Connecticut sounded — this person who is raising all the objections has conveniently forgotten that one of the congressmen in Connecticut may have voted for the amendment, but he only did so after the Republican national organization agreed to support him for governor.

“It’s not as pure and simple as this gentleman would like us to believe — and Connecticut should be thrilled to even be mentioned in the movie, frankly,” Holzer says.

There are at least two more reasons why Lincoln remains one of the nation’s most popular presidents.

“One is Lincoln’s writing. He is probably the most gifted writer among any American president,” Holzer says. “Just his expressions on democracy at Gettysburg — at his second inaugural [in 1865] — really live on, not only American history, but in American literature.

“And then, finally, he lived the American dream. He created the model of the log cabin to the White House. There were a couple of previous log cabin-born presidents, but they were pretty unsuccessful.

“And, as Lincoln told every soldier that he ever saw during the Civil War, ‘I’m a living example that any one of your children can come in and live in this big White House.’ That’s the lesson he taught: that American opportunity is not just a dream. It’s a reality.”

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