Lincoln speech to be auctioned on anniversary

February 4, 2009 3:37:02 PM PST
The 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth is just a week away. Marching bands and speeches will mark the day. Also on February 12, Honest Abe's handwritten victory speech from his 1864 re-election will be auctioned off. The document, from Christie's Auction House, was on display in Chicago at the Hancock Center on Wednesday.

His words were spoken from a White House window on November 10, 1864.

"This is a great speech. This is one of the most important of his presidential years. He shows humility even though celebrating his election victory," said Chris Coover, Christie's Rare Manuscripts specialists, "Calling for reconciliation."

President Lincoln spoke to a country divided by Civil War. He said: Our government should not be too strong and therefore endanger our liberties? but strong enough to survive.

The four page speech was saved by Lincoln's son, Robert Todd. It ended up in an Upstate New York library in 1928.

"It's been taken very good care of since then. Mostly by keeping it in a bank vault," said Coover.

It's in good shape- with scratch-outs and all- despite its age of 144 years.

"Fighting the Civil War was an enormous drain on the economy and it was the inception of the first income tax," said Coover. "Here we are again."

One reason the document is so valuable is that Lincoln had almost no chance of winning again in 1864. The Civil War had cost more than 600,000 lives and the debate over slavery had torn the country apart. Yet, Lincoln won.

"We're offering it at auction on February 12th his bicentennial birthday with an estimate of $3 to $4 million," said Coover.

Proceeds will go to the tiny library that preserved the document for so many years.