Tompkins County Public Library

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War

As 2014 comes to an end, TCPL continues the celebration of its Sesquicentennial. 

The Library was founded during the upheaval of Civil War. Tompkins County sent volunteers, including 26 black men, to join the Union army and Ithaca was designated by New York State as a training and embarkation point.  Despite the uncertainties the economy flourished. Ezra Cornell proposed the creation of a free library in 1862, and legislation was passed on April 4, 1864 authorizing him “to found a public Library and Literary Institution in the village of Ithaca.” At the Library’s inauguration, Cornell stated “Fellow Citizens of Ithaca, this library belongs to you and to the other residents of the county of Tompkins.”

In honor of Ezra Cornell’s commitment to and recognition of community amidst the uncertainties of war, TCPL presents the American Library Association’s traveling exhibit Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War, a thematic display that offers an intriguing perspective of the challenges America’s much-heralded 16th president faced during the Civil War. This timely exhibit describes Lincoln’s use of the Constitution as a guide for tackling the major issues of the war—secession of Southern states, slavery and wartime civil liberties.  
Secession vs. Union Illustration from Harper's Weekly1864

A series of panels placed in the Avenue of the Friends depict important themes: 
LINCOLN: his second inauguration and taking of the Oath of Office; 
DIVIDED: are we a single nation or a confederacy of sovereign and separate states?; BOUND: can slavery be uprooted by constitutional means?;  
DISSENT: the crisis of civil liberties: must civil liberties give way to save the nation?; ENDURES: leaves us with the question, “Has America lived up to the ideals Lincoln fought for -  Equality, Freedom, Democracy?”

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