Looking for a unique Valentine’s Day gift for next year? A recent news item might be of interest. On Feb. 12, 2009 Christie’s will auction a handwritten manuscript of a speech Lincoln delivered on the occasion of his re-election.
For those of us who aren’t obscenely wealthy, the speech is available in Basler’s Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln and is well worth reading. It’s a fine expression of Lincoln’s belief that the Civil War was fundamentally a test of representative government:
It has long been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its own existence, in great emergencies.…[The election] has demonstrated that a people’s government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war. Until now it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility.¹
The Collected Works also includes a footnote with Lincoln’s own assessment of his speech, as recorded by his secretary: “‘Not very graceful,’ he said, ‘but I am growing old enough not to care much for the manner of doing things.’”² He was being a bit too modest; the manuscript of his “ungraceful” remarks will likely go for several million dollars.
¹Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 8:100-01.