Governor and First Lady donate historic Civil War document


Governor JB Pritzker and First Lady MK Pritzker visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield to announce a donation to the museum’s collection. The ALPLM will soon display a key Civil War document: President Lincoln’s order to begin the process of blockading Southern ports, his first direct military action against slave states attempting to secede.

“To me, this document – and the museum as a whole – serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come. Despite our divisions and challenges, more than 150 years later, our nation perseveres,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “MK and I are proud to contribute to that history and the already rich collection of documents and artifacts amassed here – around 13 million items – with this donation today. We hope it helps visitors better understand Lincoln as a person and as a Commander in Chief and ultimately inspires them to live up to his legacy.”

“As we continue to celebrate President Lincoln so many years later, this document is a testament to his unwavering pursuit of justice,” said First Lady MK Pritzker. “We’re proud to make this donation on behalf of the people of Illinois. I encourage everyone to explore the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to learn more about our State’s history and the ways it’s intertwined with the history of our nation.”

The document, from April 19, 1861, launched the famous “Anaconda Plan,” which remained in effect for the rest of the Civil War and was critical to defeating the Southern Confederacy. The action was in response to the Confederacy’s attack on U.S. Soldiers at Fort Sumter.

“The horrible violence of the Civil War started with attacks on U.S. forces. President Lincoln had to respond or accept that the nation had been torn in half, condemning millions of people to continued enslavement,” said ALPLM Executive Director Christina Shutt. “This incredible document represents Lincoln saying America was worth fighting to save.”

The document – formally entitled “Order to Affix Seal of the United States to a Proclamation of a Blockade” – had been owned by anonymous private collectors. It was auctioned, and Governor Pritzker and First Lady MK Pritzker purchased the piece on behalf of the people of Illinois. It will now be housed at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Shutt thanked the Pritzkers for ensuring this extraordinary proclamation will be available to all Americans.

Dr. Ian Hunt, the ALPLM’s acquisitions director, said the document captures Lincoln at an unprecedented moment of crisis. “A lesser president might have dithered and delayed while searching for a ‘safe’ option,” said Dr. Hunt. “President Lincoln acted boldly by ordering a blockade. This is the symbolic tip of the spear in his long struggle to save the nation and, ultimately, end slavery.”

The blockade was meant to prevent the export of cotton from the South to foreign nations and prevent the import of essential supplies into the Confederacy. It was part of a larger strategy to use the Union's naval superiority to attack the Confederacy economically.

The document will be available for viewing in the ALPLM Treasures Gallery beginning May 1, 2024, and will remain on display until February 2025 when it will be transferred to the ALPLM vault for safekeeping.

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