Inaugural Blog

President-elect Barack Obama to be Sworn in Using Lincoln’s Bible

Facing a nation divided, teetering toward civil war, President Lincoln used his first inaugural address to call for national unity, arguing that our Constitution was created “to form a more perfect Union.“ Now, 147 years later, President-elect Barack Obama is echoing President Lincoln’s call in words and in symbolism.  He will be placing his hand upon the same burgundy velvet-bound Bible that was used by President Lincoln at his first inauguration as he is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.

Presidential Inaugural Committee Executive Director Emmett Beliveau:

President-elect Obama is deeply honored that the Library of Congress has made the Lincoln Bible available for use during his swearing-in. The President-elect is committed to holding an inauguration that celebrates the unity of America, and the use of this historic Bible will provide a powerful connection to our common past and common heritage.

Presidents are not constitutionally required to be sworn in using a Bible, though most do, Theodore Roosevelt being the most notable exception. George Washington’s Bible has been a popular choice, used by Warren Harding, Dwight Eisenhower and George H. W. Bush. Other presidents have opted for Bibles that hold more personal significance, such as Bill Clinton’s choice of his grandmother’s Bible. 

Since Lincoln’s family Bible was still en route from Springfield, IL, at the time of his inauguration, Supreme Court Clerk William Thomas Carroll purchased a Bible for the swearing-in ceremony in 1861. President-elect Obama will be the first president to be sworn in using this Bible since Abraham Lincoln.
You can see the Lincoln Inaugural Bible up close at the Library of Congress from February 12 to May 9, 2009, as part of an exhibition called “With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition.”  If you miss your chance to see the exhibit in Washington, you may be able to catch a glimpse of the Bible as it travels to five other cities in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of our 16th president.