Rare Lincoln manuscript to be auctioned

Christie's will auction a handwritten manuscript of a speech given by Abraham Lincoln in 1864, calling on the United States to unite during the Civil War. The February 12 auction coincides with the bicentenary of the birth of the former president.


AFP - The original handwritten copy of a speech given by Abraham Lincoln in 1864 calling for the United States to unite in the midst of its Civil War will be auctioned in New York, according to Christie's auction house.

The rare manuscript will go under the hammer on February 12, the bicentenary of the birth of the US president who abolished slavery.

"Now that the election is over, may not all, having a common interest, reunite in a common effort, to save our common country?" Lincoln said at the White House on November 10, 1864, shortly after his re-election.

The sale could break the record three million dollars Christie's obtained in 2002 for the sale of another Lincoln speech, his last public address, said Christie's vice-president Chris Coover, a manuscript specialist.

"We are confident it's going to attract some active bids," Coover told AFP when the four handwritten pages were exhibited in Washington Thursday.

The auction house estimates the manuscript will fetch between three and four million dollars.

"Honest Abe" has garnered increasing public interest in the wake of President Barack Obama's repeated references to Lincoln, his personal hero.

Obama has reached back repeatedly to the symbol of slavery's end and national healing, another lanky lawyer from Illinois who surmounted doubts about his political inexperience to win the presidency at a time of great crisis.

Lincoln mania "is at a fever pitch," Coover said. Obama "is a great admirer of Lincoln and he knows his speeches."

The text is written in Lincoln's large and even script, with a few corrections, on large and heavy sheets of white paper. It is not signed as it was only intended for his use when he spoke before a large crowd from a White House window. Some words are underlined.

A rural library in New York state has owned the text since 1928 and decided to sell it to construct a new building. The text has only been shown publicly once before in 1976, for a single day.

"In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good," Lincoln said in his speech two days after his re-election, calling for unity in a country still divided by the Civil War.

"Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged."

Coover acknowledged the distinct parallels between Lincoln's time and today.

"The nation faces a crisis today also, even if it's not the same kind, and Obama has called for reconciliation," he said.


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