Lincoln paper mystery deepens
• Photo gallery: State archives display historic Lincoln papers
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writers
Experts at the Lincoln presidential library confirmed yesterday that an important document tied to President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation is in the Hawai'i State Archives, but they don't know for sure how it got there.
The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, a project of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield, Ill., certified that the document in the Hawai'i State Archives was signed by Lincoln on Sept. 22, 1862.
What makes the document significant in American history is that it directs Secretary of State William H. Seward to affix the U.S. seal to what is now known as the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
The proclamation was Lincoln's executive order declaring slaves should be freed by Jan. 1, 1863. It is referred to as the preliminary document because the Confederate states refused the order, which led to the Final Emancipation Order signed by Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863.
The document in the Hawai'i archives was issued just days after the Union victory at Antietam, which is known as the bloodiest one-day battle in American history. The battle in Sharpsburg, Md., left 23,000 soldiers dead, wounded or missing.
The ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in December 1865 completed the destruction of slavery within the United States.
The simple order directing Seward to affix the U.S. seal to the proclamation gave the president's action the force of law. Such orders often accompanied diplomatic correspondence and presidential pardons for the same purpose, according to Daniel W. Stowell, director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln.
The document in Hawai'i was partially printed and partially filled in by a clerk, then signed by Lincoln.
"I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of State to affix the Seal of the United States to my Proclamation of this date and signed by me and for so doing, this shall be his warrant."
Stowell said he has no idea how such a document ended up in the Hawai'i State Archives, particularly since Hawai'i did not become a state until 1959.
"I'd love to know," Stowell said. "It's a very significant document."
What Stowell does know is that there are written documents, including a report in The Honolulu Advertiser from September 1935, describing the existence of the document in what was then the territorial archives.
Luella Kurkjian, the Hawai'i State Archives' historical records branch chief, said she thinks she knows the answer to the mystery.
Kurkjian's theory is that Bruce Cartwright Jr., an avid collector of historical documents, brought the document to Hawai'i and eventually gave it to the archives.
"It's got Bruce Cartwright all over it," Kurkjian said. "But we don't have documentation to prove it."
Cartwright was a Honolulu businessman and supporter of the archives, Kurkjian said. He was also the grandson of Alexander Cartwright II, credited with inventing the modern game of baseball, who settled in Hawai'i in the mid-19th century.
Much of Bruce Cartwright Jr.'s collection was donated to the archives, and much of it is documented, Kurkjian said.
Those documents include many with the signatures of famous people, among them one signed by George Washington, as well as at least one other sent to the Hawaiian monarchy bearing Lincoln's signature, dated 1861.
"I can't prove it, but it's typical of Bruce Cartwright," Kurkjian said, noting that there is documentation that as a young soldier during World War I, he was stationed in Washington, D.C. Such documents could easily have been purchased in those days from an antiques or book store, she said.
The Hawai'i archives contains millions of documents but does not display any, largely because of space considerations.
Stowell said the order to Sewell affixing the seal for the second Emancipation Proclamation is in the Chicago History Museum. The preliminary proclamation itself is at the New York State Library in Albany.
Both those documents go on display from time to time, Stowell said.
The final proclamation was auctioned off to a private individual to raise money for Civil War soldiers but was destroyed in the great Chicago Fire of 1871, he said.