Everyone knows that Stephen Spielberg’s movie, Lincoln, is a huge hit and slated to rake in a ton of Oscar gold. Basically the movie’s plot centers on Lincoln’s efforts to get the US Constitution amended to outlaw slavery. In order for the document to be altered it required approval of two-thirds of both chambers of the US Congress followed by approval (ratification) of three-fourths of the states.
The movie is based on a book by noted presidential historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, but one historical detail has come under fire. Seems as the movie portrays two Connecticut congressmen voting against the proposed amendment. This didn’t set well with a current Connecticut politician who did some fact checking and affirmed that his state’s post-Civil War legislators voted in support of the 13th Amendment. Efforts are at hand trying get Spielberg to correct his mistake.
Also in the Lincoln news is a report that the state of Mississippi never ratified the amendment. A Mississippi movie goer did some Googling after seeing the film and discovered that although the state had voted to approve the constitutional change it didn’t do so until 1995 and then never bothered to notify the federal government of its action. I also discovered that Kentucky didn’t officially outlaw slavery until about 1975.
I suppose one thing that could be said in both cases is that later is better than never. But, there is nothing new about laws being passed and never enforced or outdated laws never getting stricken from the law books.
Years ago, while teaching US History, I would read examples of this from a book titled The Trenton Pickle Ordinance. My students got a kick out of hearing how the law in Louisville, KY still proclaims that a woman cannot drive a motor vehicle unless a man, on foot, proceeds several feet ahead carrying a red warning lantern.
Simply put, it would cost a fortune to clean up all our ordinance books. It’s cheaper to just leave them alone and ignore the laws have no modern application.