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Characters: Lincoln
A character page in progress for the Steven Spielberg film Lincoln.


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    The Lincoln Household 

Pres. Abraham Lincoln

Played By: Daniel Day-Lewis

The 16th President of the United States.
  • Badass
  • Beware the Nice Ones: He's soft-spoken and his attitude is very genial. So when he gets mad and starts raising his voice, people listen.
  • The Chessmaster: The film greatly shows his cunning nature, subtle political maneuvers and command over just about every situation he was in.
  • Cool Old Guy
  • Deadpan Snarker: This is Abraham Lincoln after all.
  • Determinator: He knows the odds of passing the 13th Amendment are stacked against him. Doesn't phase him one bit.
  • A Father to His Men: While Congress may have a cold attitude towards him, it's clear Lincoln loves and is loved by his Union soldiers.
  • Gentle Giant
  • Guile Hero
  • Large and in Charge: The 6'4" Lincoln towers over everyone else. Day-Lewis' height (6'1") is exaggerated somewhat by the camera angles.
  • Messy Hair/Wild Hair: "My last barber hanged himself. Left me his scissors in his will."
  • Nice Guy: Characterized by his unassuming kindness, in contrast to his more pragmatic Cabinet.
  • Nice Hat
  • Our Presidents Are Different: President Personable and President Iron.
  • Rambling Old Man Monologue: Lincoln has a habit of breaking into anecdotes that sometimes don't have any relevance to the topic at hand. Other times they're quite calculated to produce an effect.
  • The Unfettered: Lincoln is absolutely determined to pass the amendament, and doesn't hesitate to: use bribery to convert representatives to his side, exploit the emergency powers that the Constitution has given him, and even lie to congress about being in peace talks with the Confederacy.

First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln

Played By: Sally Field

The First Lady and Lincoln's wife.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Her husband calls her Molly.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: The night after a heated argument over whether Abe should waste his currently public approval by continuing to push his amendment, Mary tells him he better procure the remaining Democrat votes, or else he will answer to her.
  • Broken Bird: Mary has suffered the loss of two children, worries about her husband's safety, and fears (sadly, quite correctly) that history will remember her as a crazy woman who ruined Lincoln's happiness.
  • One Head Taller: The real Mary Todd Lincoln was 5'2, more than a foot shorter than her husband. Sally Field is of the same height.
  • Pimped-Out Dress

Robert Todd Lincoln

Lincoln's eldest son. He's just come back to revisit his family, but hopes soon to enlist in the Union army.
  • Determinator: Just like his dad, he is determined to do that right thing. In this case, it's enlisting despite his parents' protests.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Inverted. It's a lot harder to enlist in the army when your father who forbids it is Commander in Chief.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy
  • The Unfavorite: Mrs. Lincoln thinks Abe sees Robert as this, while Abe suggests that Mrs. Lincoln sees Tad as this. (The film depicts their true feelings towards their sons as much more complex.)

Tad Lincoln

Played By: Gulliver McGrath

Lincoln's youngest son.
  • Break the Cutie: When he hears his father has been shot, Tad screams in grief.
  • Constantly Curious: He's very curious about slavery, even examining plate images of whipped and beaten slaves. His mother worries this will traumatize him.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Out of childish curiosity, he asks some of the black employees of the White House, like Slade and Keckley, if they were ever slaves in the past and if they were beaten, without realizing it can be a touchy topic. Luckily they both understand.
  • Sleep Cute: He's introduced asleep on the floor, and his dad curls up with him.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Son of the President, plays with official maps, rides a goat pulled carriage through the White House, yet is a goodhearted and playful boy.

Elizabeth Keckley

Played By: Gloria Reuben

William Slade

Played By: Stephen Henderson

    Lincoln's Cabinet 

William Seward

Played By: David Strathairn

Lincoln's Secretary of State.
  • The Good Chancellor: He frequently and vocally disagrees with how Lincoln does things, but throws himself into fulfilling the president's wishes by any means necessary.
  • The Lancer: To Lincoln.
  • The Reliable One: Of the Cabinet members, Seward is the one working closest with Lincoln during the struggle to get the amendment passed. Although even he gets frustrated coping with Lincoln's juggling act between pushing the amendment and considering meeting with the Confederate peace commission.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: He is not happy when he learns Lincoln arranged to meet with a Confederate Peace Commission without consulting him first.

Edwin Stanton

Played By: Bruce McGill

The Secretary of War.

Gideon Welles


    House of Representatives 

Thaddeus Stevens

Played By: Tommy Lee Jones

Leader of the Radical Republicans.

Francis Preston Blair

Played By: Hal Holbrook

Fernando Wood

Played By: Lee Pace

Copperhead Democrat representative of New York and the 13th Amendment's most outspoken opponent.
  • The Dragon: He's the Democratic Party's best orator and weapon against the amendment, but he largely takes his instructions from Pendleton.
  • Large Ham: Most likely intentional, as his job is to drum up opposition to the amendment.

George H. Pendleton

Played By: Peter McRobbie

Democrat representative from Ohio and chief opponent of the 13th Amendment.
  • Bald of Evil
  • Big Bad: In a manner of speaking. As the de facto leader of the Democratic opposition to the 13th Amendment, he's the biggest obstacle in the way of its passage.
  • Evil Old Folks
  • Jerkass
  • The Rival: To Stevens. Half of the latter's comments on the House floor are usually insults thrown at his direction.

Schuyler Colfax

Played By: Bill Raymond

James Ashley

Played By: David Costablie

Asa Vintner Litton

Played By: Stephen Spinella

George Yeaman

Played By: Michael Stuhlbarg

  • Big YES
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: He's portrayed as a very soft-spoken Nice Guy who openly admits to hating slavery. But he's also uneasy about abolishing it and voices opposition to giving black people and women equal rights.
  • Nice Guy: Very polite in general, especially in comparison to all the other democrats who staunchly oppose the amendment.

Wells A. Hutchins

Played By: Walton Goggins

William Hutton

Played By: David Warshofsky

    Gang of Three 

A trio of lobbyists hired by Seward to buy votes from the Democratic Party.

  • Comic Trio: Their antics throughout the film are the source of most of its humor. They have a few Greek Chorus moments during the floor debates.
  • Leitmotif: Almost every scene featuring these three is accompanied by a lively bluegrass piece, a marked contrast with the more somber music elsewhere in the film.
  • Sleazy Politician: A rare heroic example. They rely on shady backdoor deals in favor of the amendment's passage.

William N. Bilbo

Played By: James Spader

Richard Schell

Played By: Tim Blake Nelson

Col. Robert Latham

Played By: John Hawkes

    Others 

Ulysses S. Grant

Played By: Jared Harris

General-in-Chief of the Union Army.

Alexander Stephens

Vice-President of the Confederacy, leader of the peace committee.
  • Bigger Bad: He is this by extension to Pendleton and the anti-Amendment opposition as one of the major leaders of and representative for the Confederate government waging the Civil War (largely) to preserve slavery.
  • The Dragon: To the unseen Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
  • Token Good Teammate: Despite being a white supremacist who once declared that "Our new government is founded upon [...] the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man", Stephens is respectful to the black Union soldiers he meets even as they're greeting him with Death Glares. The real Alexander Stephens saw the black man as inferior to the white, but did not see that as a reason to denigrate or mistreat black people. Lincoln also addresses him as "Alex", hinting to the fact that they were friends before the war.
  • Unflinching Walk: While his fellow Southerners pause in horror upon finding out their escort is made up of black Union soldiers, Alexander calmly keeps walking to the carriage awaiting them and politely talks to the soldiers escorting them.

George Archibald Campbell

Played By: Gregory Itzin


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