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Traveling Lincoln Exhibition coming to Hays library

Special to The Hays Daily News

"Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War," a traveling exhibition opening Feb. 7 at Hays Public Library, examines how President Abraham Lincoln used the Constitution to confront three intertwined crises of the Civil War -- the secession of Southern states, slavery and wartime civil liberties.

Lincoln widely is acknowledged as one of America's greatest presidents, but his historical reputation is contested. Was he a calculating politician willing to accommodate slavery, or a principled leader justly celebrated as the Great Emancipator? This exhibition provides no easy answers. Rather, it encourages visitors to form a nuanced view of Lincoln by engaging them with Lincoln's struggle to reconcile his policy preferences with basic American ideals of liberty and equality.

The exhibition develops a more complete understanding of Lincoln as president, and the Civil War as the nation's gravest constitutional crisis.

Lincoln was elected president of the United States in 1860, at a time when the nation was on the brink of war. Lincoln struggled to resolve the basic questions that divided Americans at the most perilous moment in the nation's history: Was the United States truly one nation, or was it a confederacy of sovereign and separate states? How could a country founded on the belief "all men are created equal" tolerate slavery? In a national crisis, would civil liberties be secure? Lincoln used the Constitution to confront these three crises of war, ultimately reinventing the Constitution and the promise of American life.

The National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office organized the traveling exhibition, which was made possible by a large grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: great ideas brought to life. The traveling exhibition is based on an exhibition of the same name developed by the National Constitution Center.

The traveling exhibition is composed of informative panels featuring photographic reproductions of original documents, including a draft of Lincoln's first inaugural speech, the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment.

The library is sponsoring free programs and other events for the public in connection with the exhibition. Contact Lucia Bain or visit www.hayspublib.org for more information.

"Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War" will be on display at the library until March 21.