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Rubenstein Seeks D.C. Home for $2.1 Million Proclamation

Emancipation Proclamation
A copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln. The Proclamation was purchased this week by David Rubenstein for $2.1 million in New York. Source: Seth Kaller, Inc. via Bloomberg

Financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein said he will lend a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln to a major institution in Washington.

The co-chief executive officer of the Carlyle Group LP paid $2.1 million for the rare document in a sale at Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries Inc. in New York on June 26.

“I bought it because I have a general view that Americans need to know more about our country’s history,” Rubenstein said in a telephone interview. “I don’t want to put it in my house. How many people are going to see that?”

The details of where the document will land are still being worked out, he said. Another copy of the Emancipation Proclamation owned by Rubenstein is on loan to the White House, where it’s displayed in the Oval Office.

On Jan. 1, 1863, as the Civil War raged, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, abolishing slavery within the states that had seceded.

The official copy, featuring his signature and the seal of the U.S., is at the National Archives. The original, handwritten by Lincoln, was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871, according to Harold Holzer, a Lincoln scholar who has written or edited 42 books about the president.

In 1864, Lincoln signed four dozen printed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation to raise money for the Union troops. Priced at $10 apiece, some went unsold, Holzer said.

Rubenstein now owns two of those copies. In 2010, another copy, once owned by Robert F. Kennedy, fetched $3.8 million at Sotheby’s.

‘Great Souvenir’

The document Rubenstein bought this week “is one of the great souvenir copies he signed to benefit the wounded soldiers,” Holzer said, in a telephone interview. “At the time they were signed in 1864, the soldiers included African American soldiers. The Emancipation Proclamation already had a tremendous impact.”

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, adopted on Dec. 6, 1865, outlawed slavery throughout the country.

“The army no longer had to do the liberating,” Holzer said. “It made slavery unconstitutional. It had the same momentous impact as today’s health-care ruling.”

Rubenstein’s copy of the 13th Amendment was recently on view at the New-York Historical Society. A copy of the Magna Carta Rubenstein bought for $21.3 million at Sotheby’s in 2007 is on loan to the National Archives.

“The documents I buy celebrate freedom,” Rubenstein said.

Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars.

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