Obama to Be Sworn in with Bible Lincoln Used

By Muth, Chaz | National Catholic Reporter, January 9, 2009 | Go to article overview

Obama to Be Sworn in with Bible Lincoln Used


Muth, Chaz, National Catholic Reporter


WASHINGTON * When President-elect Barack Obama is sworn in Jan. 20 as the 44th president of the United States, he will take the oath of office with his hand placed on the same Bible Abraham Lincoln used at his 1861 inauguration.

The Obama transition team announced its intention to use the Lincoln Bible Dec. 23.

Obama encouraged comparisons between himself and Lincoln during the presidential campaign, which he kicked off in early 2007 on the steps of the Old Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, where Lincoln delivered his legendary "House Divided" speech in 1858 about the dangers of continuing to maintain a nation that was "half slave, half free."

The Jan. 20 inauguration also comes a few weeks before the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's Feb. 12, 1809, birth.

The worn, pinkish, velvet-covered Bible used during the 1861 inauguration isn't necessarily considered a significant book, except for the fact that it was used to swear in the man who is credited with preserving the nation during one of its bleakest periods in history, said Mark Dimunation, chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress, where the Bible is currently stored.

An interesting sidelight about Lincoln's first inauguration is that Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, a Marylander, was required to administer the oath of office to a man with whom he would continue to cross swords for the next three years. Taney was a bitter political rival of Lincoln's and the author of the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision in 1857 that would indirectly lead to the Civil War.

Taney was the first Catholic chief justice of the United States.

"President-elect Obama is deeply honored that the Library of Congress has made the Lincoln Bible available for use during his swearing-in," said Emmett Beliveau, executive director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, in a written statement released by the Obama transition team. …

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