The Lincoln Bible


WASHINGTON — It is a key part of every U.S. President’s swearing in; the bible that every president places their hand on when taking the oath of office.

Lisa Sylvester has been looking at the Bible President Obama will be using this time around.

Lisa Sylvester says, “So much history in this small box. I was thinking it would be big bible, but it’s actually really tiny.”

Mark Dimunation with U.S. Library of Congress says, “I think the monumentality of the moment has been confused with the size of the bible. It’s actually a small family bible.”

151 years ago the president who freed the slaves, Abraham Lincoln, put his hand on this bible and swore to uphold the constitution.

“These are the objects that seem to store the energy of a moment. There are physical objects that have traveled through time and culture to us,” Dimunation says.

Mark Dimuation is the chief of the rare books collection at the U.S. Library of Congress.

Lincoln’s inauguration Day was March 4th 1861.

“There is this incredible moment when Lincoln walks on stage, and as reports have it the clouds part and he gives this magnificent inaugural address and uses the bible to swear in at a moment when the country is incredibly divided,” Mark Dimuation explains.

It was a country, so politically torn and on the verge of war, that Lincoln had to be essentially smuggled into Washington ahead of the inauguration because of assassination threats.

Lincoln didn’t have his family bible with him. So he borrowed one from the clerk of the Supreme Court William Thomas Carroll.

A seal in the back of the bible attests that it was used in the Lincoln inauguration. The man administering the oath of office was chief justice Roger Taney; who did not share Lincoln’s views on slavery.

“You can imagine the tension that was probably palpable between the two of them. Taney was the justice that cast the deciding vote that put through the Dred Scott decision; in essence, pushing slavery forward for many more years,” Dimuation explains.

But change did come as America’s first black president used the Lincoln bible in 2009.

President Obama has again chosen the Lincoln Bible as one of those he will use to take the oath of office for his second inauguration
It has the kind of electricity to it. It really does carry the meaning of the moment.

The moment is repeated on Monday. When President Obama places his hand on this small bible that carries more than its weight of history.

President Barack Obama will be ceremonially sworn into his second term in office by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts around midday Monday.

After the daytime events, including the inaugural address and a parade, the president and the first lady will attend two inaugural balls.

Lisa Sylvester Reporting

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