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Museum Acquires Signed Copy of the Thirteenth Amendment

The following information was received March 18, 2005 from the former Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Saturday March 18, 2005: At approximately 9 p.m. this evening The Lincoln Museum unveiled the largest single purchase on record of a document signed by Abraham Lincoln.*

“’Neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude..., shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction…”

“With these words, the actions of Congress and the ratification of 27 states, slavery ended in the United States,” stated Priscilla Brown, Vice President of The Lincoln Financial Group Foundation, as she kicked off the evening’s celebration of freedom.

The event culminated in the unveiling of one of 13 copies of the 13th amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America signed by Abraham Lincoln. Of those 13 copies, only 3 were also signed by members of the Senate. The Lincoln Museum has unveiled one of those copies. The Lincoln Financial Foundation purchased this rare document for the Museum’s collection in tribute to Lincoln Financial Group’s 100th anniversary. The document has been in a private collection and will once again be in the public eye.

Visitors to The Lincoln Museum are invited to view the document and participate in a “Freedom Sign”, a history-making event in which they may choose to sign their own commitment to the cause of Freedom that uniquely defines our nation as they honor the signature of our 16th President.

The historically significant document will be on display at The Lincoln Museum until late May, when it will travel to the National Constitution Center to be part of a national traveling exhibit, Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War. It will return to The Lincoln Museum as part of the above-mentioned traveling exhibit which will open in Fort Wayne on February 12, 2006. Once it completes this national exhibit tour, it will be on permanent display at The Lincoln Museum.

The Lincoln Museum also presents the temporary exhibition Abraham Lincoln: The Image, through June 5, 2005. The exhibition draws from over 7,000 period prints and engravings in the Museum’s collection. Visitors may also tour the award-winning permanent exhibit Abraham Lincoln and the American Experiment.

The Lincoln Museum is located at the corner of Clinton and Berry Streets in downtown Fort Wayne. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, 1 p.m.-5 p.m. General admission is $3.99, seniors and children (5-12 years old), $2.99. Parking is free in front of the Museum. Phone 260-455-3864 for additional information. Website: www.TheLincolnMuseum.org

*Museum policy prohibits revealing the purchase price of any acquisition.

The Thirteenth Amendment: A History

Lincoln, believing slavery to be morally wrong, had championed against it for most of his political career. However, he also recognized that the president did not possess the Constitutional power to outlaw the institution, except, perhaps, as a matter of military necessity. The power to fully abolish slavery, he acknowledged, rested with Congress. Therefore, he carefully crafted the Emancipation Proclamation to affect only those states still in rebellion as of January 1, 1863.

Lincoln then began to push for a Constitutional amendment that would forever abolish slavery in the United States. Such an amendment was passed by the Senate in April, 1864, but defeated in the House of Representatives two months later. Lincoln, not about to give up, made abolition a central plank of the Republican platform and his 1864 re-election campaign. After winning the election, Lincoln and the amendment’s supporters brought the measure to another vote in the House on January 31, 1865. This time it passed.

Following in the footsteps of President James Buchanan, who had signed a proposed amendment to protect slavery in the United States, Lincoln signed the official Thirteenth Amendment resolution along with several commemorative copies on February 1, 1865.

The president’s signature may not have been necessary, but ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures (twenty-seven) was required for the amendment to become law. Illinois was the first to ratify the amendment, even before the formal certified copy of the resolution had been received. By the time Lee surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, twenty states had ratified the amendment.

Tragically, Lincoln would not live to see the amendment become law. On April 14, 1865, Arkansas became the twenty-first state to ratify the measure; the approval of six more states was required. That evening, Lincoln was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre. Lincoln died the next morning.

With Georgia’s ratification on December 6, 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment became part of the Constitution. When the amendment went into effect twelve days later, it freed nearly one million slaves still held in bondage.

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