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Characters / Lincoln

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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 Beard: Once fought in the Black Hawk War and is fighting a war currently with the South along with being The Determinator, he's also very bearded.
  • Badass Boast: An actual quote, no less.
    "I am the President of the United States, clothed... in immense power! You will procure me those votes."
  • Badass Bookworm: War Veteran President leading a nation through a war and fighting for an amendment that will end slavery once and for all along with being very well learned in the written word.
  • 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: Very congenial with the young people he interacts with and tells stories that contain moments of awesome and Toilet Humor.
  • Curse of the Ancients:"Buzzard's guts, man."
  • Deadpan Snarker: This is Abraham Lincoln after all.
    • Lincoln goes to see Bilbo to give him his walking papers on the eve of the Thirteenth Amendment being passed. Bilbo has been operating in a manner that keeps him completely disassociated from the President to avoid the appearance of corruption. So when Lincoln finally shows his face, they greet each other thusly:
    Bilbo: 'Well, I'll be fucked.
    Lincoln: I wouldn't bet against it.
  • Determinator: He knows the odds of passing the 13th Amendment are stacked against him. Doesn't faze him one bit.
  • Disease Bleach: Like most presidents, the job prematurely ages him. In his case, it aged him a lot.
    Grant: By outward appearance, you're 10 years older than you were a year ago.
  • 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: 6'4" (still large for the average 21st century male) and very soft-spoken
  • Guile Hero: Passing the 13th Amendment certainly took a lot of cleverness on his part.
  • 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: "My last barber hanged himself. Left me his scissors in his will."
  • Nice Hat: He has that famous tall hat.
  • Nice Guy: Characterized by his unassuming kindness, in contrast to his more pragmatic Cabinet.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: President Personable and President Iron. Lincoln is very friendly and personable with soldiers and servants, but firm and serious with lawmakers and diplomats.
  • 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.
  • Troll: There are hints that Lincoln tells his stories to exasperate his advisers (especially Edwin Stanton) as much as to make them think.
  • The Unfettered: Lincoln is absolutely determined to pass the amendment, and doesn't hesitate to: use bribery (technically 'patronage jobs') 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.
  • 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.
  • The Fashionista: She doesn't take a page from Godey's Ladies Book (the Vogue magazine of the era)....she takes the whole library and is primped in the laces and ruffles of the mid-Victorian Era.
    I must dress in costly materials. The people scrutinize every article I wear with critical curiosity. - Mary, quoted in the book Behind the Scenes by her friend Elizabeth Keckley.
  • 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: The corseted waists, the flounces, the ruffles, the patterns, and the crinolines which were all popular during that era.
    • Mary was a good sewer, and may have made some of those outfits herself.
  • Red Oni: Very high strung, fragile, and prone to outbursts in contrast with her friend and dressmaker Lizzy.

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.note 
  • 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

Lincoln's youngest son.

  • Break the Cutie: When he hears his father has been shot, Tad screams in grief.
  • Cheerful Child: Son of the President, plays with official maps, rides a goat pulled carriage through the White House who is a goodhearted and playful boy.
  • 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.

Elizabeth Keckley

Played By: Gloria Reuben

William Slade

  • The Driver: Drives the carriages for the Lincoln family.
  • Nice Guy: Very congenial, good-humored, and gentle.
  • Old Retainer: Worked with Abe for a long time.


    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.

  • The Comically Serious: Fusses over the burnt edge of a military map and positively storms out of the room when Lincoln starts to tell another of his stories.

John Usher

Played By: Dakin Matthews

Lincoln's Secretary of the Interior.

  • Jerkass/Token Evil Teammate: Basically his role amounts to bickering with other cabinet members and complain about Lincoln's plans to abolish slavery.

Gideon Welles

Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy.

    House of Representatives 

Thaddeus Stevens
Played By: Tommy Lee Jones

Leader of the Radical Republicans and a Representative from Pennsylvania

  • Arch-Enemy: Stevens absolutely despises George Pendleton.
  • Ascended Extra: Thaddeus Stevens is mentioned all of four times in Team of Rivals, but in the movie he is one of the most prominent characters.
  • Bald of Awesome: Though only we only see it once at the end. Usually he wears a wig.
  • Determinator: Stevens himself admits that he will or do say anything to abolish slavery.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Stevens is a stubborn obstinate jerk who doesn't give a damn bout what "the people" want. He is also a merciless fighter for freedom and justice for all people.
  • Handicapped Badass: Has a club foot and walks with a cane, yet is known as the "Tyrant of the House".
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Stevens goes against his principles to claim that he only wants equality under the law, not total racial equality, in order to get the 13th Amendment passed... but blunted the alienation of the ardent abolitionists that such a declaration would incur by verbally eviscerating George Pendleton for cornering him for it
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Most of his conversations are peppered with insults to the whoever he's currently addressing. He's also a strong believer in racial equality who is willing to do whatever it will take to abolish slavery.
    • And he really loves his common-law wife.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: His views on racial equality and strong desire to make it a reality make him come across as this to the majority of white characters in the film. To the pro-slavery congressmen, of course, he's not well-intentioned at all.

Fernando Wood

Played By: Lee Pace

Copperhead Democrat representative of New York and the 13th Amendment's most outspoken opponent. The real Wood was a career politician who was Mayor of NYC when Lincoln was first elected. He had been a big supporter of the Union and Lincoln, but was known as an opportunist who would take whichever side worked to his best advantage.

  • 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 Mc Robbie

Democrat representative from Ohio and chief opponent of the 13th Amendment.

  • 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.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: While Pendleton did indeed vote against the Thirteenth Amendment, he also did many good things for the country, the most notable of which was authoring the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883, which dealt a crippling blow to corruption in the national government.
  • Large Ham: More subdued than Wood, but still has his moments. Especially his epic "How dare you!" in response to one of Stevens' harangues.
  • 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

The Speaker of the House.

  • Reasonable Authority Figure: As befits the Speaker's role. He still takes the extraordinary effort to vote on the Amendment himself, tossing aside custom, if only because of the momentous occasion.

James Ashley

Played By: David Costabile
  • Manly Tears: When the Amendment is passed, he sheds tears of joy.

Asa Vintner Litton

Played By: Stephen Spinella

  • The Conscience: Acts this way towards Stevens, though really Stevens doesn't want or need his guidance.

George Yeaman

  • Big "YES!": Or rather, big AYE!
  • 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.
  • Grew a Spine: He rather meekly states "my vote ties us" so softly that the clerk has to ask him to speak up. Suddenly, vertebrae align and he exclaims "I said Aye, Mr. MacPherson, AAAAAAYE!" to the jubilation of the proponents and calls of "Traitor" from the opponents.
  • Nice Guy: Very polite in general, especially in comparison to all the other Democrats who staunchly oppose the amendment.

Clay R. Hawkins

Played By: Walton Goggins

  • Dirty Coward: Switches his vote depending upon who's threatening him at a given moment. However....
  • Grew a Spine: When it's time to vote, he votes yes and he doesn't give a damn if the Democrats shoot him for it.

William Hutton

Played By: David Warshofsky
  • Anti-Villain: Admits he's "a prejudiced man," but he has a very personal reason for opposing the Thirteenth Amendment... his brother died in the war. Lincoln recognizes this and doesn't try pressing him overly hard.

Alexander Coffroth

Played By: Boris Mc Giver
  • Butt-Monkey: Stevens displays open contempt towards him, dropping insults and mispronouncing Coffroth's name. Coffroth takes the abuse because it will allow him staying in office.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Stevens persuades him to vote for the Thirteenth Amendment and to switch parties from Democrat to Republican (However, Stevens notes he needs to vote FOR the Amendment first as a Democrat, in order to build the impression it was a bipartisan effort).
  • Speech Impediment: Has a very pronounced stutter which is Played for Laughs. This is Artistic License – History, as the real Coffroth was considered a gifted orator.

    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

  • Ascended Extra: Very little is known about the real Bilbo, so his characterization is almost completely invented.
  • Big Eater: He's eating something in most of his scenes and has an ample gut.
  • Large Ham: Especially in relation to Schell and Latham, Bilbo is prone to grand gesticulating (such as kicking dirt on a Congressman attempting to shoot him while delivering a Precision F-Strike and messily smashing shellfish with a hammer causing the bits to fly off everywhere).
  • Precision F-Strike: Gets two.
  • Token Enemy Minority: Bilbo was driven out of Tennessee when he decided to side with the Union.

Richard Schell

Played By: Tim Blake Nelson

Col. Robert Latham

Played By: John Hawkes


Francis Preston Blair
Played By: Hal Holbrook

A founder of the Republican Party and a key advisor to President Lincoln.

  • Cool Old Guy: Is in his mid-70s at the time of the film and yet is still spry enough to have influence over both Conservative and Radical Republicans, so much so that Lincoln relies on his support to get the Amendment passed.
  • Peace Conference: He's the one who initiates peace negotiations with the Confederates in exchange for his support of the Thirteenth Amendment, and constantly reminds Lincoln of the importance of peace over passing the Amendment.

Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant

Played By: Jared Harris

General-in-Chief of the Union Army.

  • Bling of War: Averted, as in Real Life. The General prefers a simple uniform at all times, whether in the field, at command HQ or at a peace conference.
  • Brutal Honesty: Bluntly tells Stephens and the Confederate delegation that their offer of a negotiated peace is unacceptable. Instead he immediately demands they prepare "terms of surrender."
  • Four-Star Badass: The very first four-star general of the United States, in fact.

Alexander Stephens

Vice-President of the Confederacy, leader of the peace committee.

  • Affably Evil: Besides his courteous treatment of the black Union soldiers escorting him, he's also very civil towards both Grant and Lincoln, despite the circumstances of their meeting, whereas his colleagues are more snappish and short-tempered.
  • Big Bad Friend: To Lincoln, as vaguely alluded to by them being on First-Name Basis during the private negotiations
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: The reason the peace conference fails. Though the Confederacy's on its last legs and slavery is a dead letter, legally and practically, Stephens insists on negotiating as a separate power and then for slavery's retention.
  • The Dragon: To the unseen Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
  • First-Name Basis: With Lincoln, hinting their friendship from before the War.
  • 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. He apperantly treated his slaves well enough that many of them stayed as payed servants after the war, and one them even served as a pallbearer at his funeral. 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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