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Friday, June 12, 2020

George Yeaman in Spielberg’s Lincoln

Seward sits at his grand desk, looking on with an anxious scowl. Lincoln sits on the edge of Seward’s desk. Yeaman sits in a chair facing him.

I can’t vote for the [13th] amendment, Mr. Lincoln.

I saw a barge once, Mr. Yeaman, filled with colored men in chains, heading down the Mississippi to the New Orleans slave markets. It sickened me, ’n more than that, it brought a shadow down, a pall around my eyes. (BEAT)

Slavery troubled me, as long as I can remember, in a way it never troubled my father, though he hated it. In his own fashion. He knew no smallholding dirt farmer could compete with slave plantations. He took us out from Kentucky to get away from ’em. He wanted Indiana kept free. He wasn’t a kind man, but there was a rough moral urge for fairness, for freedom in him. I learnt that from him, I suppose, if little else from him. We didn’t care for one another, Mr. Yeaman.

I ... Well, I’m sorry to hear that—

Lovingkindness, that most ordinary thing, came to me from other sources. I’m grateful for that.

I hate it, too, sir, slavery, but—but we’re entirely unready for emancipation. There’s too many questions—

We’re unready for peace too, ain’t we? When it comes, it’ll present us with conundrums and dangers greater than any we’ve faced during the war, bloody as it’s been. We’ll have to extemporize and experiment with what it is when it is. Lincoln moves from the desk to take the seat beside Yeaman, no longer towering over him. He leans forward and rests a hand on Yeaman’s knee.

I read your speech, George. Negroes and the vote, that’s a puzzle.

No, no, but, but, but—But Negroes can’t, um, vote, Mr. Lincoln. You’re not suggesting that we enfranchise colored people[?]

I’m asking only that you disenthrall yourself from the slave powers. I’ll let you know when there’s an offer on my desk for surrender. There’s none before us now. What’s before us now, that’s the vote on the Thirteenth Amendment. It’s going to be so very close. You see what you can do. [Lincoln leaves Yeaman, considering.]

Seth Barrett Tillman, George Yeaman in Spielberg’s Lincoln, New Reform Club (June 12, 2020, 4:24 AM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2020/06/george-yeaman-in-spielbergs-lincoln.html>; 

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