The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has balked at a demand from the National Archives to return a page torn from a ship’s log so that the damaged document can be restored to its original condition.
The page in question memorializes a trip by Abraham Lincoln on the U.S.S. Malvern shortly before he was assassinated. The president used the ship to travel to conferences with his generals, according to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. A page recording the presence of Lincoln on the boat in March 1865 was torn from the log long ago and ended up at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield. Now, the National Archives in Washington, D.C., wants it back.
The Illinois State Historical Society purchased the page in 1937 from someone named Thomas Madigan, purportedly for $25. Whether the state has a receipt doesn’t matter, according to the federal government. In the politest possible terms, Gary M. Stern, general counsel for the National Archives, informed library officials last summer that they are, essentially, in possession of stolen property.