Obama-Lincoln Inauguration Historical Connection

Inauguration of Mr. Lincoln, 4 March 1861.
Inauguration of Mr. Lincoln, 4 March 1861.

On January 20th, 2009, President-elect Barack Obama will be sworn in using the Lincoln-Inaugural Bible. According to the Library of Congress, it is the same Bible that Abraham Lincoln used for his inauguration in 1861:

The first Lincoln Inaugural is rife with historical significance, coming at a time when the survival of the United States was never more endangered, according to Clark W. Evans, an expert on Lincoln who heads the Reference Services Section of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress.

The Bible itself can be found here.

To view the Lincoln Inaugural Bible today is to conjure up the remarkable scene which unfolded on the East Front of the Capitol almost 147 years ago. The oath of office was administered by Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, then 84 years old. As the author of the infamous “Dred Scott” decision of 1857, which held in part that Congress did not have the power to abolish slavery in the territories, Taney was clearly no friend to Lincoln or the cause of emancipation. In the Inaugural Address which followed, President Lincoln appealed to his countrymen to follow “the better angels of our nature.”

The Presidential Inauguration Committee has this to say about the Obama’s Inauguration and the Lincoln Bible:

Facing a nation divided, teetering toward civil war, President Lincoln used his first inaugural address to call for national unity, arguing that our Constitution was created “to form a more perfect Union.“ Now, 147 years later, President-elect Barack Obama is echoing President Lincoln’s call in words and in symbolism. He will be placing his hand upon the same burgundy velvet-bound Bible that was used by President Lincoln at his first inauguration as he is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.

The 20th should be an interesting day.

On a personal note, the new spring semester starts for me on this day too, so it’s doubly special.


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