December 23rd, 2008
08:09 PM ET
14 years ago

Obama to take oath of office using Lincoln Bible

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Obama will be the first president since Lincoln's first term to be sworn in using the Lincoln Bible."]
The Obama transition team announced Tuesday morning that the president-elect would be sworn in with the Lincoln Bible, used by 16th president when taking the oath of office in 1861 (Full statement released Tuesday follows):

"Washington, D.C. – On January 20th, President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office using the same Bible upon which President Lincoln was sworn in at his first inauguration. The Bible is currently part of the collections of the Library of Congress. Though there is no constitutional requirement for the use of a Bible during the swearing-in, Presidents have traditionally used Bibles for the ceremony, choosing a volume with personal or historical significance. President-elect Obama will be the first President sworn in using the Lincoln Bible since its initial use in 1861.

'President-elect Obama is deeply honored that the Library of Congress has made the Lincoln Bible available for use during his swearing-in,' said Presidential Inaugural Committee Executive Director Emmett Beliveau. 'The President-elect is committed to holding an Inauguration that celebrates America's unity, and the use of this historic Bible will provide a powerful connection to our common past and common heritage.' "

"The Lincoln Bible will be available for a press viewing between 11:00 AM and Noon today in the Members' Room on the first floor of the Library of Congress' Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First St. S.E. in Washington, D.C. Video and still cameras are permitted. Media should allow 10-15 minutes to clear security at the First Street entrance to the Jefferson Building. Clark Evans, who heads the Reference Services Section of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress, will also be available at that time to answer questions about the Lincoln Bible and the Library. High-resolution photographs of the Bible are also available upon request. RSVP is not required. Please contact the PIC Communications Office with questions.

The Bible was originally purchased by William Thomas Carroll, Clerk of the Supreme Court, for use during Lincoln's swearing-in ceremony on March 4, 1861. The Lincoln family Bible, which is also in the Library of Congress's collection, was unavailable for the ceremony because it was packed away with the First Family's belongings, still en route from Springfield, IL, to their new home at the White House.

The Bible itself is bound in burgundy velvet with a gold-washed white metal rim around the three outside edges of both covers. All its edges are heavily gilded. In the center of the top cover is a shield of gold wash over white metal with the words 'Holy Bible' chased into it. The book is 15 cm long, 10 cm wide, and 4.5 cm deep when closed. The 1,280-page Bible was published in 1853 by the Oxford University Press.

Annotated in the back of the volume, along with the Seal of the Supreme Court, is the following: 'I, William Thomas Carroll, clerk of the said court do hereby certify that the preceding copy of the Holy Bible is that upon which the Honble. R. B. Taney, Chief Justice of the said Court, administered to His Excellency, Abraham Lincoln, the oath of office as President of the United States ...'

The Lincoln Inaugural Bible will be on display at the Library of Congress February 12th to May 9th, 2009, as part of an exhibition titled "With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition." The exhibit will then travel to five other American cities. The Library is planning several other events and programming in commemoration of the bicentennial of the birth of the nation's 16th president, who was born on February 12th, 1809.

On March 4, 2009, the 147th anniversary of Lincoln's first inauguration, the Library of Congress will also be convening an all-day symposium with several renowned Lincoln scholars."

soundoff (140 Responses)
  1. gMN

    Ironic that Lincoln was Republican.

    December 23, 2008 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  2. Jason

    A powerful statement, but one based on bad history. With this we further our mythic biography of Lincoln. Let us also not forget Lincoln the man who suspended habeus corpus for the duration of the war and the man who oversaw a military policy that left the South in ruins (often needlessly so, can anyone say William Tecumseh Sherman?). Let us also not forget the Union had slave states in it and that Lincoln's proclaimation ONLY freed the Southern slaves, and for suspect reasons (moral backing for the Union cause and a slave rebellion in the South would speed the Union war effort, and lead to the death of countless slaves). Let us also not forget taght Lincoln's views toward blacks was not one of equality (read the Lincoln-Douglas debates). He was very much a part of a paternalistic view toward blacks, they were lesser but needed to be protected. Also world opinion was already moving toward the abolition of slavery and every other country/empire in the Western World succeded in ending slavery without a war. Forget what you read in your 1st grade textbook and look into the real history of Abe Lincoln, an imperfect and flawed man who, often despite himself, added impetus to the already powerful call to abolish slavery.

    December 23, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  3. Laverne

    Obama admires Lincoln so no surprise he would use Lincoln's bible. Everytime this man has an original idea, he is called arrogant. There is nothing arrogant about not always following tradition. Obama has had the audacity to do things different and he has paid off for him. He will make a great leader because he is willing to think outside the box and these are definitely outside of the box times. One thing people will be able to say about Obama is he was unlike any other President, oh besides the fact that he was the first black president. He is sooo inspirational, I love myself some Obama!

    December 23, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  4. Once you vote Black

    You know Greg when you win big you get to do what you want. You would not know that being the looser that you are. By the way, he did go to church. But that did not stop you from calling him a Muslim in one of your earlyer post. At this point Lincoln is a peer. You get to do all kind of neat stuff when you are a peer.

    December 23, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  5. Dan, TX

    What type of horrible person could have anything negative to say about this? How sad for them. How very pitiful...

    December 23, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  6. Mark

    Get rid of the Bible... Separation of Church and State Baby.
    The Bible is the best selling cult written material ever sold!!
    Remember! Religion Enslaves The Hearts and Minds Of Mankind.

    December 23, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  7. adam

    An appropriate gesture by the new POTUS. Now, lets just see if when abolish that palgue called IGNORANCE!!!!!

    December 23, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  8. B.O.FAN

    Republican's should be ashamed of this news. They let the Modern ignorant racist Biggots kidnapped the party even though the most prominent and respected republican of the history of the USA is Abraham Lincoln a guy that have the courage to free the slaves.

    December 23, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  9. MorningStar


    FYI the families of African slaves left in Africa have also suffered for slaveries. All Africans have suffered from slavery… It is just like in a divorce family, every member of that family suffers …, Btw Michelle Obama is a direct descendent of slaves. She will become the first lady....

    December 23, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  10. Brian, NJ

    I can't believe he's the first one to use it since Lincoln.

    December 23, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  11. JM

    Pretty presumptuous aren't we Obama. Comparing yourself to Lincoln!

    December 23, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  12. Ravi in MO

    This is wonderful news! By using Lincoln's Bible, President Elect Obama is showing yet again that he is a UNITER, not a divider. Those of you on the far left who expected him to be an angry, partisan, Republican-hating bigot better get used to this.

    He was elected President of the United States, not President of the Blue States.

    December 23, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  13. Ughhh

    > The cover might be the Lincoln Bible but the inside will be the Koran.

    I feel sorry for you. You miss the whole point of the constitution of the United States of America.

    December 23, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  14. outa here

    Mr. Lincoln was a man brimming with character and substance. The BO is just a continuing ad campaign... amply demonstrated by the latest effort at imagery. Wheres the meat?

    December 23, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  15. Marie banderas

    Yes, I agree, Obama does appear to be "accepting" his fate and destiny...for all the complainers, no one can prevent destiny from happening...I find it extremely "fitting" Obama would swear in on Lincolns Bible..and think Lincoln would approve TOO..
    AND it is Obamas time..May God be with him, as I suspect God already iS.
    Bring it on Obama..I am anxiously awaiting you..and know you will do great things TOO

    December 23, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  16. Joel

    This guy (Obama) is awesome. He thinks through every action and the significant of those actions are only appreciated by the descerning minds. He has come to unite the United States of America. The whole world loves him

    December 23, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |


    December 23, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  18. Tess

    reader December 23rd, 2008 8:44 am ET

    Please reread the paragraph. It is a historical reference to Lincoln, NOT Obama. It explains why Lincoln didn't have his family bible with him at the time he was sworn in 1861, and as a result why one was purchased for him to use in the ceremony. In the midst of moving, packing, and relocating, the Lincoln's personal belongings (including their family bible) were still in route from Springfield to Washington. For obvious historical purposes, the LOC now has both bibles, and Obama will use the very bible that Lincoln used when he took the oath.

    Like you said, "pay attention"! LOL

    December 23, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  19. therealist

    In light of Abe's untimely departure...., BAD MOVE! One that will definitely go down in history as a bad omen if history should repeat itself.

    December 23, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  20. Franky

    Hell yeah!!! We are definitely gonna be a dynasty!!

    And no one else can't do it but us, LOL!!!

    December 23, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  21. RealityKing

    Over 600,000 Americans died during Linclon's presidency..

    December 23, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  22. Franky

    "The Lincoln Inaugural Bible will be on display at the Library of Congress February 12th to May 9th, 2009, as part of an exhibition titled "With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition." The exhibit will then travel to five other American cities. The Library is planning several other events and programming in commemoration of the bicentennial of the birth of the nation's 16th president, who was born on February 12th, 1809."

    Yep, that's right, bow down to the master!!! Now that's what I'm talking about baby!

    December 23, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  23. From the Raft

    Isn't it nice to see Obama following through on the Lincoln theme he started back in 2007 in Springfield! t would be even more impressive if he would have Rick Warren read the Gettysburg Address!

    December 23, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  24. pittsburgh

    Reading the many negative comments shows all just how low the
    level of maturity is for the adults writing in. What is the foundation of your hate, your negative comments, and your lies. Your not fooling anyone. We and our ancestors have lived with your foundation of racism all of our lives. This country is moving in a new direction.You have choices, used them. Get over it, get a life, or just leave the country.

    December 23, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  25. Ted

    To those who say slavery is our original sin:
    You're leaving something out.
    Native Americans. We pretty much killed them all, and they still get little recognition.

    December 23, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
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