(Reuters) - A copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War fetched just over $2 million on Tuesday in an auction won by a billionaire financier.
The winning bid from David Rubenstein, co-founder of The Carlyle Group, came just three minutes into bidding at the Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries in New York, said Seth Kaller, an agent for the seller.
Rubenstein, who was not immediately available for comment, will pay $2,085,000 including auction house commissions.
The proclamation declared slaves in the rebellious Confederate states of the South freed, and allowed black slaves in the North to join the Union Army.
Rubenstein, who was represented by a phone bidder, would announce soon whether the landmark document would be shared with the public through a loan to an institute, according to Kaller.
In 2007, Rubenstein purchased the last copy of the Magna Carta in private hands. Signed by King John of England in 1215, the document was the first to force an English king to accede to the demands of his subjects.
Rubenstein’s copy is on loan to the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
According to the auction house, Lincoln signed 48 copies of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1864, which were sold for $10 each by an abolitionist charity supporting the Union war effort. Twenty six copies still exist. Most are now in public institutions. Lincoln issued the order on January 1, 1863.
In 2010 a copy once owned by Robert F. Kennedy sold for nearly $3.8 million at a Sotheby’s auction.
The Emancipation Proclamation paved the way for the ratification in 1865 of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery.
“What it really did is make the Union Army an army of liberation and it helped win the war for the North with a significant help from the African American soldiers that the proclamation welcomed into the Union Army,” said Kaller.
The 13th Amendment was adopted into law by Congress on December 6, 1865, eight months after Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.
Writing by Chris Francescani; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Lisa Shumaker