February 6, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Heresy is heritage on the block

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com

(Continued from page 1)

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An original, hand-signed order by President Lincoln establishing Maine's first military draft, on July 9, 1863.

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State Archivist David Cheever, above, conducts a tour of some of the archives' storage areas in Augusta in 2007. “We believe we have a public document that is being offered for sale in another state and we believe it is a Maine document that belongs here,” Cheever said Tuesday, referring to the online auction of an original, hand-signed order by President Lincoln establishing Maine’s first military draft.

2007 File Photo/Kennebec Journal

Additional Photos Below

Good call.

Maine, Cheever said, has long had a "replevin" law that enables the state to reclaim items that never should have left public custody in the first place.

Better yet, the statute was significantly strengthened in 2010 (Adams sponsored the amendment) after Maine lost a battle in the Virginia courts to retrieve a copy of the Declaration of Independence that was found in an attic in Wiscasset.

That gem sold for $475,000.

"We are notifying the Office of the Attorney General that we believe we have a public document that is being offered for sale in another state and we believe it is a Maine document that belongs here," Cheever said. "Public documents are public documents -- they are not subject to barter or sale."

Contacted at RR Auction, Executive Vice President Bobby Livingstone said he can't reveal who claims to own "Item 85 -- Abraham Lincoln," which is expected to fetch $15,000 or more by the time the gavel falls next week.

But, he added, his firm will take Maine's challenge "very seriously."


"We withdraw it from sale while ownership is sorted out," he replied.

Another good call.

"What makes these things so valuable to collectors is how they changed people's lives," noted Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who will join with Cheever in demanding the document's return. "But it's also what makes them so valuable to us as a people. It tells us who we are, where we've been."

Meaning that, as lost treasures go, this is a cool find?

"It's way cool," replied Cheever.

Echoed Adams, "All Mainers should like to see it. Home, where it belongs, and safely preserved."

Long live the historians.


Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:



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Additional Photos

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President Abraham Lincoln poses for a portrait in this undated file photo.

Mathew Brady via The Associated Press


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