Ahead of the Academy Awards later this month, Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., on Tuesday sent a letter to Lincoln director Steven Spielberg asking him to correct what he says is an inaccuracy in the Oscar-nominated film depicting the Nutmeg State as being on the wrong side of the historic fight over slavery.
“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 to Spielberg.
The movie has been nominated for 12 Oscars, including Best Picture.
Courtney did underscore in his letter that he enjoyed the film. “After finally sitting down to watch your Academy Award-nominated film, Lincoln, I can say unequivocally that the rave reviews are justified: Daniel Day-Lewis is tremendous, the story is compelling and consuming, and the cinematography is beautiful,” he wrote.
But as for the historical accuracy of the film’s moving conclusion?
“Well, that is a different story,” Courtney wrote.
“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,” he wrote. “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?”
But Courtney added that 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.”
The lawmaker said he allows that in many movies—such as Spielberg’s own E.T.—suspending disbelief is part of the cinematic experience and is critical to enjoying the film.
“But in a movie based on significant real-life events—particularly a movie about a seminal moment in American history so closely associated with Doris Kearns Goodwin and her book, Team of Rivals—accuracy is paramount,” he wrote.
A call placed Tuesday night to Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios led to a referral to a publicist, who did not immediately respond to an e-mail.
This article appears in the Feb. 6, 2013, edition of National Journal Daily as Courtney: Spielberg Smeared Connecticut in ‘Lincoln’.