These days, we’re used to the image of Abraham Lincoln sitting in a marble chair – at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. But another Lincoln chair is about to capture the public’s attention.
It’s the bentwood Hickory chair that Lincoln was sitting in when he learned that he was nominated to run for president. It’s being auctioned on eBay, along with a dozen documents handwritten and/or signed by Lincoln, and other documents signed by Frederick Douglass, William T. Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant.
Bidding for “The Ultimate Lincoln Collection” begins at $1 million – and Free the Slaves has been chosen to receive 10 percent of the final sale price. See the official press release here from History You Can Own.
“We’re offering a unique opportunity for collectors with a passion for history,” says Seth Kaller, a leading expert in rare historic documents, “beginning with the chair in which Lincoln was sitting when he received the telegram that he had won the 1860 Republican presidential nomination.” This was his favorite seat at the Illinois State Journal, where Lincoln often went to watch the news come in via the newspaper’s telegraph wire, Kaller says.
A detailed description of the collection can be seen on Kaller’s website. It’s one of the most comprehensive collections of Lincolniana in recent memory. It includes a first edition of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, and his 1858 letter opposing the Dred Scott decision, in which a slave sued for his freedom but lost in one of the most infamous cases in U.S. Supreme Court history.
“This collection has several items of great historic and personal importance,” says Dr. James Cornelius, curator at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum.
The timing of the auction is tied to the 85th Academy Awards. The film Lincoln is nominated in several categories, including best movie, director and actor. Kaller is guaranteeing delivery of the Lincoln chair and documents to the winning bidder in time for an Oscars party. Dr. Cornelius hopes the items will eventually be donated by the winning bidder to the Lincoln library.
Recognizing that slavery still exists, Kaller wants a portion of the auction proceeds to go to an organization that is helping to finish what Lincoln started. Kaller was introduced to Free the Slaves by historian Ron Soodalter, co-author along with FTS Co-founder Kevin Bales, of the book The Slave Next Door.
Abraham Lincoln is famous for getting to the point. His Gettysburg Address was just 274 words long.
Next Tuesday marks the 150th anniversary of a somewhat longer, but equally famous Lincoln message: the Emancipation Proclamation. It took effect on January 1, 1863.
What exactly did the Emancipation Proclamation say? The full transcript from the National Archives is below. It’s fascinating reading. Just 719 words from beginning to end.
It’s important to note that Lincoln issued a limited proclamation. It did not free slaves everywhere in the United States, just Confederate states during the Civil War. Lincoln called it a “necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion.”
You can see a remarkable representation of the president’s concern about the legality and durability of his proclamation in the critically-acclaimed feature film, Lincoln. It was the 13th Amendment, passed two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, that outlawed slavery forever.
The 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation kicks off National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month in the U.S. Outlawing slavery did not end it. There are 27 million slaves in the world today, many thousands inside the United States. The anti-slavery movement is making progress. And with your help, we will finish what Lincoln started.
By the President of the United States of America:
Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:
“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
“That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.”
Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.
And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.
And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.
And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.
And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.
By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
Administration officials have been asking anti-slavery activists for several months if there is more that the U.S. government can do to combat slavery. In partnership with our colleagues in the ATEST coalition of leading U.S. human rights organizations, FTS has suggested a wide range of policy initiatives.
Last week, FTS co-founder Kevin Bales also outlined important steps that the U.S. can take, in his FTS Blog “memo” to Abraham Lincoln. For the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Kevin suggested things Lincoln could do about modern slavery if he were alive today.
It’s not clear just which ideas President Obama might endorse today. White House aides say his strategy on human rights has two key pillars: protecting human dignity and leading by example. We’ll learn today how Mr. Obama might translate those ideals into action.
Combating slavery has long been a bipartisan effort bringing elected officials together even in polarized times. The first Trafficking Victims Protection Act was passed during the Clinton administration, and it has been strengthened and reauthorized multiple times during the Bush presidency. Proposals for fighting trafficking are included in both the 2012 Republican and Democratic party platforms.
The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) has also been an incubator for partnerships to fight slavery. The annual conference brings together activists, thought leaders, corporate executives, philanthropists and government officials to seek ways to tackle worldwide problems. At the 2009 CGI gathering, Clinton himself endorsed the FTS blueprint for change, the Kevin Bales book “Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves.”
“It’s a problem we can solve, and here’s how to do it,” Clinton said while holding up a copy of Kevin’s book.
September 22nd marks the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves in Confederate states during the Civil War.
Slavery, however, still exists in the U.S.
In fact there has never been a day in American history without it.
If Lincoln were still president today, this is what I would tell him about how to achieve real, not just legal, abolition.
MEMO: Progressing to a Slave-Free America
TO: POTUS (Abraham Lincoln)
Congratulations. Firstly, Sir, thank you for your Emancipation Proclamation. It led the way to outlawing slavery nationwide through the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and it created a context in which a slave-free America is possible. The complete eradication of slavery from the United States will be a fitting tribute to your leadership and sacrifice, and the realization of the core American value of human freedom. This memo proposes ways to finish what you have started.
Prevalence of Slavery Today. As a hidden crime invisible to most statisticians, estimates of current U.S. slavery are imprecise. Conservative estimation suggests 40,000 to 100,000 slaves in the U.S. today (.00033 of population). Key areas of modern enslavement are commercial sexual exploitation, agricultural work, domestic service, restaurant and hotel work, and small-scale manufacturing. Traffickers and slaveholders are strongly linked to other criminal enterprises. Victims are both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens. Victims are also likely to be young and economically productive, tricked into slavery because their desire for gainful employment prompted them to trust someone offering a job. Federal trafficking cases have been pursued in all 50 states. Most occur in urban areas with international transit links.
Political Implications. Ending slavery in America is backed by strong bipartisan agreement and commitment. Ideological motivations differ, but there is robust concurrence on the desired outcome. No one argues that slavery is allowable or necessary today.
Budget Implications. Current federal expenditures on reducing the criminal activity of slavery and human trafficking are less than that devoted to military bands within the Defense Department. The estimated cost of global slavery eradication over 25 years totals $11 billion (one-half the yearly cost of the War on Drugs). More detailed estimates will be needed, but a slave-free America should cost no more than $1.2 billion over a 5-10 year period.
Economic Stimulus Outcomes. Immediate stimulus will result from nationwide eradication. Since slavery is a drag on the economy, increased productivity and consumer consumption by freed slaves – along with a reduced need for law enforcement expenditures — will foster economic growth. Tax revenues from freed slaves will benefit governments at all levels.
Program Components and Steps to a Slave-Free America.
- National Plan for Eradication of Slavery – Ten years ago the government of Brazil initiated its national slavery eradication plan. It brought together all relevant agencies, law enforcement and non-governmental organizations. It unified and resourced legal responses to slavery. Their first year (2003) results were 4,789 slaves freed. A unified plan and model should be adapted and improved here in the U.S.
- Mobile Anti-Slavery Teams – Brazilian experience also shows the value of specialist federal anti-slavery squads that include labor inspection and enforcement specialists. This matches existing FBI and Justice Department staffing profiles for drug enforcement. It can be easily adopted into current law enforcement procedures for trafficking.
- Dramatic Need for Increased Law Enforcement Training – According to a State Department estimate, there are around 15,000 new slaves trafficked into the U.S. each year – equivalent to the 15,000 homicides committed here annually. Across all law enforcement (local, state, and federal police/agents) there are about 45,000 trained homicide specialists, but only about 200 trained anti-slavery specialists. This disparity in trained personnel results in national homicide clear-up rates of 70 to 75 percent, and slavery/trafficking clear-up rates of less than one percent. Expansion and training of enforcement personnel will be critical to success. Enhancing law enforcement’s capacity to target traffickers who pose as legitimate foreign labor recruiters will provide immediate results.
- Enforcement and Expansion of Laws on Slave-Made Goods – The Smoot-Hawley Tariff (1929) and subsequent laws banned the importation of slave-made goods. But slave-produced goods and commodities now flowing into U.S. include minerals for cell phones and computers, shrimp and fish, iron used in car building, biofuels, timber, and cotton. Cooperation with business and increased emphasis on enforcement can assure clean supply chains and satisfy consumer demand. Expanding rules for corporations to investigate and clean-up supply chains will accelerate progress. The U.S. government is one of the world’s largest customers for goods and services, and it can lead the way by refusing to purchase slavery-tainted products.
- Environmental Impact - Slave production of goods in Africa, South America, and Asia significantly increases deforestation and uncontrolled pollution. Collectively, slave-based businesses, primarily aimed at producing products for U.S. and European markets, are the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the U.S. Closing markets for slave-made goods will help slow global warming and preserve endangered habitat and species.
- Caring for Freed Slaves – Our abolition of legal slavery in 1865 led to a botched emancipation. Millions of African-Americans suffered second-class status, prejudice, discrimination, and violence. The result was generations of wasted talent and productivity. Freed slaves are ready to work for themselves and their families; we have to make sure they get the care, tools, and support to do so.
Significance and Legacy. As a nation founded on the ideal of freedom, the complete eradication of slavery in our country will serve as a beacon of possibility and hope — to our own citizens and to the world.
Mr. President, you, and the hundreds of thousands of citizens who sacrificed their lives in conflict, set us on a road to true freedom. The war we fought to begin the end of slavery was devastating – but as Yeats wrote, “Nothing can be sole or whole that has not been rent.”
The Emancipation Proclamation was the first step to a slave-free America. Today there are only a few short steps remaining until we truly arrive in the Land of the Free.
(Editor’s Note: Kevin Bales is a Free the Slaves co-founder and Professor of Contemporary Slavery at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, University of Hull. Information about his groundbreaking books on slavery can be found on the FTS website. His most recent video is a tool for businesses to train employees and suppliers about removing slavery from their product supply chains.)
Next weekend marks an important milestone in American history: it will be 150 years since President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
On September 22, 1862, Lincoln ordered the release of slaves in Confederate states during the Civil War.
This anniversary is what educators call a “teachable moment.” That’s because outlawing slavery didn’t end it. There are more slaves in the world today than when Lincoln was president.
It’s up to us to finish what Lincoln started, and we can start by spreading the word that slavery is about more than history.
The Free the Slaves website is a key tool for building awareness — with Education Packs and fact sheets for teachers and students, a timeline about the history of slavery, first-person transcripts and films where modern slavery survivors speak out, and details of our innovative frontline solutions to help slaves break free and stay free.
Here’s something to think about: what would you advise Lincoln to do about modern slavery if he were president today? Start a conversation about that at schools, churches, dinner parties, book groups and community gatherings. It will let your friends know that slavery still exists, and that they should join you in helping to end it.