Steven Spielberg's new historical film Lincoln opens today at local theaters. It tells the story of how the 16th president used all his political skills to shepherd the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery through Congress. Lincoln needed passage before southern states rejoined the Union. (See Carla Meyer's movie review.)
The U.S. Senate approved the amendment on April 8, 1864 and the U.S. House on Jan. 3, 1865. It was adopted on Dec. 6, 1865 when a sufficient number of states ratified it. California did so on Dec. 19.
On Dec. 21, 1965, The Sacramento Bee lauded the achievement with reference to Forefathers Day, the obscure celebration of New England Pilgrims that has been eclipsed by the Thanksgiving holiday (whose date was fixed by Lincoln in 1863). The Bee editorialized:
"Tomorrow -- the anniversary of the Landing of the Pilgrims on the world-renowned rock of Plymouth, usually denoted 'Forefather's Day' -- will doubtless be celebrated in every portion of the continent, with more than usual spirit. The sons of New England are scattered far and wide on land and sea; for without arrogating to this class more than their merits deserve, or indulging on invidious sectional comparisons, New England enterprise has penetrated to and made itself felt in every portion of the habitable globe.
"Our country having successfully emerged from a bloody internecine war, which has resulted in the complete triumph of free institutions and the wiping of the black blot of slavery from out national escutcheon forever, there is a particular fitness in the special observance of this day at the present time. The descendents of the Pilgrim Fathers were the first to abolish that relic of barbarism -- African slavery -- which was done in the Constitution adopted by the people of the State of Massachusetts in the year 1780. Could good old Parson Brewster, the pugnacious and self-willed Miles Standish, with the little crowd of determined spirits that embarked at Plymouth, in the mother country, on September 6th, 1620, and landed upon the rock which this event has rendered immortal on the 22nd of the following December, have foreseen the mighty results which were to follow, what must have been their sensations?"
PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel Day-Lewis, center rear, as Abraham Lincoln, in a scene from the film, "Lincoln." AP Photo / Disney-DreamWorks II by David James