Columbia Library columns (v.33(1983Nov-1984May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



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  v.33,no.1(1983:Nov): Page 33  

President to President

A Gift from the Haldane Family


AT commencement exercises held at tlie Academy of Music
Z-j\ on June 27, 1861, President Charles King announced
A )\ that the University was conferring an honorary degree
on President Abraham Lincoln. Preoccupied by the momentous
events of the Civil \A'ar, Lincoln could not travel to New York
to receive the Doctor of Laws degree in person, but President
King's announcement from the dais brought forth shouts of en¬
thusiasm from the audience and exhuberant strains of the national
anthem from the band, according to contemporary newspaper

On the morning of the day before conimencenient, Professor
of Political Philosophy Francis Lieber, acting as the University's
academic representative, delivered the diplonva to President Lin¬
coln in Washington. Dr. Lieber, in formal attire, was momentarily
surprised to see the President in his shirt-sleeves; Lincoln, how¬
ever, asked that his appearance be excused because of the pressure
of the morning's schedule. The conferring of the degree came six
months after the seccession of South Carolina and scarcely two
months after the firing on Fort Sumter.

The day after the private ceremony, Lincoln wrote to President
King to thank him for the honor that Columbia had bestowed on
him, one of three such honors that Lincoln was to receive during
his lifetime. This letter to President King, the original of which
had never been located, was known only from the draft at the
Brown University Library in the hand of John Hay, who had
served as an assistant private secretary to Lincoln. Happily and
quite unexpectedly, the original letter recently came to light in
Scotland among the family papers of Mrs. Janet iM. Haldane,
widow of the distinguished lawyer and Scottish social historian,

  v.33,no.1(1983:Nov): Page 33