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1864 Lincoln letter brings $3.4 million

  • Story Highlights
  • Letter is president's reply to children asking him to free slaves
  • It was expected to sell for $3 million to $5 million
  • Private American collector purchased letter over the phone
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From Mythili Rao
CNN
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A rare Lincoln manuscript sold for $3.4 million on Thursday at Sotheby's auction house. The 1864 letter in which Abraham Lincoln replies to the abolitionist pleas of 195 young boys and girls was bought by a private American collector over the phone.

The sale of the letter, from the Dr. Robert Small Trust, set a record for a Lincoln manuscript, a presidential manuscript and any American manuscript ever auctioned, Sotheby's spokeswoman Susan Ollinick said.

The "Little People's Petition" had asked Lincoln "to free all the little slave children of this country."

Lincoln wrote, "Please tell these little people I am very glad their young hearts are so full of just and generous sympathy and that, while I have not the power to grant all they ask, I trust they will remember that God has, and that, as it seems, He wills to do it."

Although Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation had declared freedom for all slaves held in areas "in rebellion" against the United States as of January 1, 1863, full abolition of slavery was not accomplished until adoption of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution late in 1865.

The letter had been expected to sell for $3 million to $5 million.

About 20 Lincoln documents were among the 111 items for sale from the Small Trust.

Also included were other documents from U.S. presidents, including pages from George Washington's diary and correspondence from Thomas Jefferson and John Adams; a rare document signed by both Meriwether Lewis and William Clark; about 10 documents from Robert E. Lee; and documents from John Brown, Samuel Clemens, Orville Wright and others. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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