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Public Gains Access to Key Lincoln Document

By Ed Epstein

Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

The document from April 1861 in which President Lincoln ordered southern ports blockaded has gone on public display for the first time thanks to a donation by billionaire Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his wife, M.K. Pritzker.

The handwritten document signed by Lincoln was issued a week after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, S.C. In it, the new president ordered a naval blockade of all ports in Confederate hands. The order, the first step in implementing the so-called Anaconda Plan to strangle the Confederacy, came about after lots of internal debate in Lincoln's cabinet and showed just how serious Lincoln was about putting down the southern rebellion against the United States.

It isn't known how much the Pritzkers paid for the document, which the couple, who both describe themselves as major Lincoln fans, donated to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. It will be on display there through February 2025. No word yet on what will be done with the document after that.

It is known that the document was listed as being sold by Heritage Auctions for $471,000 last year, according to the Associated Press. It had been in a private collection, but it isn't known how such an important public document ended up in private hands.

“The horrible violence of the Civil War started with attacks on U.S. forces. President Lincoln had to respond or accept that the nation had been torn in half, condemning millions of people to continued enslavement,” Christina Shutt, executive director of the presidential library and museum, said in a statement. “This incredible document represents Lincoln saying America was worth fighting to save.”

The document isn't the first time the governor, who is serving his second four-year term, and his wife have bought and donated a major Lincoln item to the state of Illinois. In February 2022, Mrs. Pritzker donated an 1860 bust of Lincoln done by sculptor Leonard Volk to the Lincoln Presidential Library. She bought it for $400,000 at auction, reports said at the time.

Image from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library.


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