On February 12 next year, Christie’s New York will offer the original handwritten manuscript for Abraham Lincoln’s re-election speech, one of the very few documents for Lincoln speeches not in public institutions.
Indeed, Obama’s stirring acceptance speech last week contained echoes of the words used by Lincoln who, on the night of November 10, 1864, spoke of how the election result was a step towards the reconstruction of a troubled and divided America.
This was regarded as one of Lincoln’s most important speeches. Drawing a large crowd of supporters waving banners outside the White House, he anticipated the end of the Civil War and urged his countrymen to “re-unite in a common effort to save our common country”.
Lincoln’s victory that year was somewhat unexpected, as the Civil War seemed to be dragging on with mounting casualties and no decisive victories. After being renominated by the Republican Party in the summer of 1864, he called for the South’s unconditional surrender and the banning of slavery, whereas his rival, the Democrat George B. McClellan, was seeking an immediate ceasefire and a negotiated peace with the Southern Confederacy.
But after the dramatic fall of Atlanta in August 1864, the American electorate began to shift towards Lincoln, who also benefited from the thousands of soldiers in the Union armies being permitted to cast absentee votes for the first time.
At the election, Lincoln won 55 per cent of the popular vote and carried 22 states, winning 212 electoral votes. Five months later the Confederates surrendered.
Written clearly on four large sheets of paper, the manuscript is in excellent condition and is estimated to make “in excess of $3m”.
By Alex Capon