"...we are not exhausted, nor in process of exhaustion... we are gaining strength, and may, if need be, maintain the contest indefinitely"Abraham Lincoln: Important Autograph Manuscript Page. Twenty-three lines in Lincoln's own handwriting from his last State of the Union address to Congress. One page, 8.25" x 13.75", on plain lined paper in ink, no place [Washington, D.C.], no date [December, 1864], being page forty-four (numbered in pencil by a different hand) of Lincoln's own holograph copy. It reads, in full: "To this ^again^ [added above the line] should be added the number of all soldiers in the field from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Indiana, Illinois and California, who, by the laws of those states could not vote away from their homes, and which number can not be less than [Lincoln had not yet inserted the number 90,000]. Nor yet is this all. The number in organized territories is tripple [sic] now what ^it^ [added above the line] was four years ago; while thousands, white and black, join us, as the national arms press back the insurgent lines. So much is shown, affirmatively, and negatively, by the election. It is not material to inquire how the increase has been produced; or to show that it would have been greater but for the war, which is probably true. The important fact remains demonstrated that we have more men now than we had when the war began; that we are not exhausted, nor in process of exhaustion; that we are gaining strength and may if need be maintain the contest indefinitely. This as to men. Material resources are ^now^ [added above the line] more complete, and abundant than ever." [emphasis Lincoln's]. An 8.25" x 4.5" section, consisting of the text between "to enquire" and "contest indefinitely" was lightly glued down to this full page from an identical sheet, covering no writing underneath. One word slightly smeared by the glue, original fold slightly weak (a tape repair on verso), light toning, else fine.
This message was delivered less than one month after Lincoln, running under the National Union party banner, claimed victory in the presidential election over the Democratic "peace" candidate General George B. McClellan, former general-in-chief of the Union army. This was the first time a country had held a national election in the midst of a civil war and the first time certain states allowed soldiers in the field to cast ballots (the army gave Lincoln 70% of their votes). The divided nation had been fighting a brutal "brother against brother" war for well over three years and, for most of 1864, Lincoln's chances of reelection looked grim. Finally, some of the news from the fighting fronts was beginning to give the North a glimmer of hope for a Union victory: General Sherman had taken Atlanta and was marching forcefully to the sea and General Grant had sent General Sheridan to the Shenandoah Valley to deal with CSA General Jubal Early. Lincoln was ready and willing to fight the war to its finish and to complete his goal of abolishing slavery by getting the 13th amendment through Congress.
Research shows that Lincoln began working on this important Annual Message just a week after the November 8th election by writing telegrams to several governors asking them to "[p]lease send, as soon as practicable, exactly, or approximately, the aggregate of votes cast in your State at the late election. It is desired with reference to the forthcoming Message." Lincoln read his first draft during a cabinet meeting on November 25th and then, on December 3rd, he called a special cabinet meeting to read them the final version; the plan was to send it to Congress on the sixth. Lincoln wrote this address in longhand and it was then sent to be printed for distribution to the members of the house and senate. Unlike the live worldwide media coverage given to the president's personal delivery of the yearly State of the Union address today, in Lincoln's era, the president did not read his message to Congress himself. A newspaper reporter from California named Noah Brooks wrote of the December 6th joint session of Congress: "Precisely at one o'clock yesterday the private secretary of the President appeared [John Hay] at the House of Representatives with the annual message of the president... in a few minutes, Clerk [of the House Edward] McPherson, in a loud and clear voice, took up the document and began..." Another contemporary report stated: "A complete silence pervaded the vast hall and the breathless, crowded galleries"
In the message, Lincoln summarizes the current state of affairs in different areas of the government, the nation, and the world: foreign affairs satisfactory, financial affairs administered successfully; national banking system acceptable to most; admission of Nevada as state completed; territories growing; and Arkansas and Louisiana have organized loyal state governments. He strongly recommends that Congress reconsider and pass the 13th amendment abolishing slavery [which they would in 1865]. The speech ends with: "In stating a single condition of peace I mean simply to say that the war will cease on the part of the Government whenever it shall have ceased on the part of those who began it." The New York Times described the message as "straightforward and business-like" while the London Times called "the tenour... decidedly warlike." Later that evening, a crowd assembled at the White House to serenade and congratulate him on his message. The New York Tribune of December 8, 1864, reports on his impromptu address to the group: "FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS: I believe I shall never be old enough to speak without embarrassment when I have anything [nothing?] to talk about. [Laughter and cheering.] I have no good news to tell you, and yet I have no bad news to tell. We have talked of elections until there is nothing more to say about them. The most interesting news we now have is from Sherman. We all know where he went in at, but I can't tell where he will come out at. [Cheers and cries, 'He'll come out all right.'] I will now close by proposing three cheers for Gen. Sherman and the army."
A 1952-dated, notarized affidavit accompanies this lot describing the chain of ownership for this manuscript, from its original owner William P. Doyle, who was Indian Affairs Commissioner under Lincoln, through to the current owner. Also included is a 1948 letter from the Abraham Lincoln Association mentioning Basler's appreciation and a Photostat of page forty-three of this same Message to Congress, owned at one time by the same person.
Carl Sandburg, in his book Lincoln Collector (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc, 1949), explains how a precious few of the original pages in Lincoln's holograph have survived to this day: "Of President Lincoln's Annual Message to Congress in December of 1864, several manuscript sheets were given to various persons by the Superintendent of Public Printing, J. D. Defrees..." (page 190). Sandburg goes on to state that three of these manuscript pages were contained in the legendary Oliver R Barrett collection (later sold by Parke-Bernet Galleries in 1952). Basler, in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln Volume VIII, notes eleven known fragments of the original manuscript extant, including this one (pages 136-153). The most recent of these fragments to appear on the market was Lot 119 of the October 2002 Forbes Collection of American Historical Documents at Christie's where the eleven-line manuscript (ex Philip D. Sang) sold for $251,500 (with BP). That example was the top half of page thirty-nine. There is no way to predict when the next offering of one of these manuscripts will take place so please bid accordingly. The phrase is, perhaps, overused but this lot truly does represent a "rare opportunity to own a piece of history."
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