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. Anne

    Greg, how many people calling themselves Christians in America actually go to church every week? Very, very few in comparison to the amount of self-righteous people criticizing Obama's own religious practices. I bet he's been to church more recently than most of those forwarding spam about how Muslim he is.

    I wonder what Bibles past presidents have used.

    December 23, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  2. flybyshoeing

    The Bible should be retired and a copy of the Constitution used for the swearing in. After all it is the Constitution that the President is suppose to uphold, keep religion out of politics, all it does is cloud judgement.

    December 23, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  3. John in Ohio

    "Please remember Obama, is Not African American, He is of African Decent mixes with Wite.

    African Americans are decendants of those who suffered the attrocity known as Slavery.

    He does not have the pain of slavery or discrimination running through his veins"

    His mother was American. His father was African.

    African+American = African American. From the dictionary, an African American is "a black American of African descent".

    A Native American is a Native American regardless of whether or not their particular tribe was forced onto reservations or wiped out with smallpox blankets.

    December 23, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  4. John in Ohio

    "And ain't it great how Obama's team is resembling Lincoln's Republican ideals more and more with every appointment"

    That was back when Republicans were good and Democrats were pro-slavery though.

    December 23, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  5. Rick from Murfreesboro, TN

    To all the ignorant hate mongers out there. Barack Obama is a Christian which is more than I can say for any of you.

    December 23, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  6. John in Ohio

    "How can a President who would deny human rights to a minority (ie: gay marriage) take an oath using the Lincoln bible?"

    Women couldn't vote when Lincoln was president.

    December 23, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  7. 28 Days to Go!!

    NorthEastIndependent: PE Obama DOESN'T have discrimination running through his veins.....Give your head a shake!!

    December 23, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  8. Greg in Columbus


    Thats because it was the Civil War and it actually started before he even took office. how is that his fault?

    December 23, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  9. Brad Simonson

    Will He put one hand on the Bible and one hand on the Koran? People, he is Muslim, and his roots will show up one day just at the wrong time.

    December 23, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  10. Sue

    See? Just like I told you: all symnbolism and talk/talk/talk from this empty suit. Didn't you see how upset and stressed he got just trying to make decisions on who his cabinet (his buddies) would be? The USA is in for a truly bad time, folks. It has all been pretense and symbolism and promises he can never keep without bankrupting this country.

    December 23, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  11. Matt

    @ RealityKing

    In part, the Americans that died in the Civil War were fighting for the freedoms that made it possible for us to choose Obama. I suppse it's no wonder you belittle their sacrifice. Do you think the wrong side won?

    December 23, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  12. Polly

    Brian, NJ-I can believe it.

    December 23, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  13. Matt

    @ bj, Texas

    Someone needs to say it: You're a disgusting bigot.

    December 23, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  14. enoch needles

    Would be cooler if he were sworn in using a copy of Action Comics #1 🙂

    December 23, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  15. Working

    If you're going to leave a hateful comment, please spell check. You lose a lot of credibility when your diatribe is rife with misspelled words and improper grammar.

    December 23, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  16. Angie-OHIO

    Charles Stoll December 23rd, 2008 7:14 am ET

    Absolutley Fitting and appropriate that the first African American President use an artifact related correlated to the emancipation of African Americans in America. It's about time America got it right.
    I couldn't agree with you more. I think it is wonderful and shows the thought he puts into things. I think he will make a wonderful president.
    And for those who feel he has not suffered discrimination are WRONG. He has in many ways and at different times in his life. People made a very big deal of the fact he was African-American throughout the campaign. He didn't. Where do you think the slaves came from? Slaves were bought here from Africa.

    December 23, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  17. Matt

    [Insert racist Quran joke from a bitter GOPer here]

    December 23, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  18. ran

    We will soon be put back into US and once again be the United States. It is time we started working together as one nation. We need to eliminate: pork,special interest/party first at any cost and start to concentrate on education for all/ health care for all/ and a respected retirement for all. If not now then when?

    December 23, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  19. Matt

    @ NortheastIndependent

    "He does not have the pain of slavery or discrimination running through his veins."

    Honestly, nobody does. I don't have the pain of the Irish potato famine or "No Irish Need Apply" running in mine. This is what our country really needs to learn. Until we learn to simply refer to ourselves as "American" with no added hyphenated DIVISIVE terminology to throw up barriers, then we haven't moved on and there is no unity in our hearts. Pretty simple.

    December 23, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  20. Colin Firth - Detroit

    I cannot believe some of the comments aimed towards Obama. From the jabs thrown at him for offering a beer to journalists in the sweltering heat (others would have called him mean for not offering a beverage) to the bible being used for his inauguration. Some of the comments are downright rude. It never ceases to amaze me the ignorance of some people. No wonder America is so despised around the world with this type of arrogance shown by some posters here. GIve the guy a break will ya, he is about to embark on the most difficult job in the world and needs everyone's support, not criticism.

    December 23, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  21. obama-mama

    There is a lot of trailer trash red necks on here.....Who let them out of Jerry Springer's cage?

    The Lord be with you PE Obama....We love you...

    December 23, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  22. NorthEastIndependant

    Hey, I am a Puerto Rican from Jersey born and raised with Real true African Americans.

    Don't get me wrong, I am happy he chose Abe's Bible, and I do find it historical. But he is not "African American" . or atleast "African American" as we know it, or people who grew up with me knew it. This man has no ounce of slavery in his blood, does not know what it is to be discriminated.

    His Grandmother was a Bank VP.. How hard did he have it in life. Yes his mom was a hippie, who traveled a lot, married a lot, and left him with his grandmother, I acknowledge that, this must have been hard on him, But compared to the African Americans I grew up with and still live with, He is not an African American, he African/White.

    December 23, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  23. barbara campbell

    Kind of blows apart the Republican allegation that Obama would use the Koran, but are the lemmings paying attention?

    December 23, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  24. Glen in Laurel, Maryland

    Like every president-elect he's been asked which past president he admires and would like to emulate. In his case it's Lincoln. And since he admires Lincoln he thinks it's fun to note, as anyone would, that there are parallels in his Illinois legislative career. There's nothing arrogant about that. I admire Mark Twain and if I had been born in the same town and spent time working on a riverboat I'd be tickled about the similarity and say so. Would people then say, "oooh, he thinks he's a beloved American icon! And he hasn't even published a short story, much less a novel! How deluded! How arrogant!"? Only if they were desperate for an excuse to knock me down.

    December 23, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  25. PL

    It should be against the law to be a republican, what a bunch of idiots. I give me great pride to know that Americans aren't stupid to put you idiots back into office. MOve On you LOST.

    December 23, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
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