The Library of Congress will place on display the first draft of the
Emancipation Proclamation, handwritten by President Abraham Lincoln, for
six weeks beginning Jan. 3, 2013, to coincide with the 150th
anniversary of the proclamation’s signing.
The draft document -- which has not been on public view since 2007 -- will be on display from Jan. 3 through Feb. 18
in the ongoing exhibition "The Civil War in America," which opened Nov.
12 and runs through June 1 in the Southwest Exhibition Gallery of the
Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E. in Washington, D.C. The
exhibition is free and open to the public, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
The exhibition, viewed by more than 40,000 visitors in its first
month, is made possible by the generous support of the James Madison
Council. Additional funding is provided by Union Pacific Corporation,
the Liljenquist family and AARP.
President Lincoln read this first draft to his cabinet on July 22,
1862, and requested their comments. The response varied, according to
Michelle Krowl, the Civil War and Reconstruction specialist in the
Manuscript Division of the Library.
"Some worried about the after-effects. Some wondered about how it
might affect the mid-term elections. And others pointed out that the
Union army was not doing so well at that time, and that it might be
advisable to wait until the Union army had a victory so the document
would be presented with a backdrop of strength rather than weakness,"
Lincoln agreed to hold off until a Union victory, and he got one
Sept. 17, 1862 at Antietam. On Sept. 22, he put forward the official
preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The final Emancipation
Proclamation was signed on Jan. 1, 1863.
"The Emancipation Proclamation was presented as a war measure,
freeing slaves as a way of weakening the enemy by taking away their
labor force," Krowl explained. "It was one of a series of documents and
actions that paved the way for passage of the 13th Amendment that would
permanently abolish slavery."
The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural
institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 151
million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library
seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human
understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its
magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of
the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.