Incredibly rare JOURNAL OF THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, BEING THE FIRST SESSION OF THE THIRTY-EIGHTH CONGRESS, BEGUN AND HELD AT THE CITY OF WASHINGTON, DECEMBER 7, 1863, in the Eighty-Eighth Year of the Independence of the United States, 1042 pages (pictured to the right), Washington: Government Printing Office, 1863. This Senate Journal, from the Third Session of the 38th Congress, lasted from December 7, 1863 to July 4, 1864, a crucial time in our nation’s history. Each 19th-century volume of the Journal of the United States Senate provides a record of the Senate’s activities for a particular session of Congress. Unlike the Congressional Globe (later the Congressional Record), that record does not include the words spoken on the floor of the Senate, but rather all the procedural occurrences, and in particular the introduction of proposed legislation and resolutions, along with the decisions and votes of the senators on these items. However, each volume does open with the President’s Annual Message to Congress (now called the State of the Union address), with other important written documents that he may submit to Congress.

In the case of Abraham Lincoln’s annual message, which in this volume occupies pages 8-18, the message is followed immediately by the most famous and significant document that Lincoln ever signed: the Emancipation Proclamation, dated December 8, 1863, the same date as that of his annual message. The annual message naturally deals with the ongoing Civil War, as well as with foreign affairs, Indian matters, the economy, and Lincoln’s plans for eventual reconstruction of the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation (pp. 18-20) lacks an elegant style, being fundamentally a war measure, justified by the exigencies of the conflict and applicable by its terms only to those currently held in slavery beyond the Union’s power of control. Nevertheless, every prescient statesman saw that there would be no turning back, and that slavery was doomed throughout the United States, as soon enshrined constitutionally by the Thirteenth Amendment (probably the least cited, because most effective, of all the amendments to our constitution). The Emancipation Proclamation of course received widespread attention upon its official appearance, which followed the publication of a preliminary version in August 1863, but this volume marks its official publication within a Senate Journal.

In addition, the pages of this volume are chock-full of interesting Civil War items, though they are often buried in the procedural record. For example, on page 233 we find Lincoln’s message to the Senate submitting the decision from the Interior Department fixing the point in Iowa, across the river from Omaha, at which the Union Pacific Railroad would start its construction. Page 362 deals with amendments to a bill to accept only three-year enlistments into the Union Army, and to provide that as of January 1, 1864, “all persons of color who have been or may be mustered into the service of the United States shall receive the same uniform, clothing, arms . . . as other soldiers of the regular or volunteer forces.” The creation and maintenance of the Internal Revenue Service, then a new concept for raising money through taxation, occupies many pages of the record, just as it would today. The actual record ends on page 768, followed by a mammoth Index of the Bills and Joint Resolutions of the Senate and House of Representatives during the session of Congress, and an even longer 175 pages!) index, which makes it easy to look up any particular topic, with, for example, two dozen references to the proposed constitutional amendment to abolish slavery, or, much more quietly, a note of the memorial (i.e., petition) requesting equality of pay for his soldiers from Thomas Wentworth Higginson, the colonel of the 1st regiment of South Carolina volunteers, the first black regiment to fight in the Civil War (see the movie “Glory” for a stunning visual presentation). Messages of various sorts from President Lincoln appear at more than three dozen places, dealing with topics such as the treatment of Kansas troops when captured by the Confederates, the conditions of the people in East Tennessee (who, Lincoln long but vainly hoped, would provide a bastion of support for the Union), Mexican affairs, and the pursuit of hostile bands of Sioux Indians into the Hudson’s Bay territories. All in all, this is a terrific record of the United States at the great cusp of the Civil War, as a Union victory finally seemed near—though not so near, as things turned out, as many hoped during the first half of 1864. The book measures 5 ¾ by 9 inches and is 2 ½ inches thick. It is bound in leather boards, with red and black spine labels, noting that this book once was part of the Office of the Secretary of State. The boards are holding well, though the hinges have grown quite tender, especially in front, and they are in pretty decent shape, only somewhat scuffed and dented at the corners. Inside the pages are in good shape, only slightly browned, still supple and of high quality.

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