“Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” is an exhibit now on display at the Camden Public Library as part of the library’s Maine and the Civil War events series. The exhibit is created and sponsored by the ALA and NEH, and will be on display through Sept. 4.

The Civil War was the nation’s gravest constitutional crisis. How could a nation founded on the principle that “all men are created equal” continue to support the institution of slavery? President Lincoln began his term believing that slavery would gradually die out; however, he soon realized that in order to save the Union, slavery would need to be abolished.

Using the Constitution as the cohesive thread, “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” offers an innovative perspective on Lincoln that focuses on his struggle to meet the political and constitutional challenges of the Civil War. Organized thematically, the exhibition explores how Lincoln used the Constitution to confront three intertwined crises of the war—the secession of Southern states, slavery, and wartime civil liberties.

The Camden Library is one of 200 libraries across the nation selected to host this exhibit. In conjunction with the exhibit and the anniversary of the Civil War, the library will host of series of lecturers, actors, movies, reading program, and displays during August.

Approximately 70,000 Mainers served in the Union Army and Navy during the war, the highest figure in proportion to population of any northern state. Yet Maine was deeply divided about the need for war. The coastal towns that benefited from shipbuilding and shipping had deep reservations about the war. In fact, in 1858 Jefferson Davis (future president of the Confederate States of America) made a tour of Maine and was warmly received in Portland, Thomaston, Belfast, and Augusta, and received an honorary degree from Bowdoin College.

According to the Portland Press Herald (July 2013), “Due to the battlefield leadership of Joshua Chamberlain and his 20th Maine Regiment, Maine has received a lot of attention for its role in the war. Some perspective is necessary to understand the magnitude of the Civil War in Maine. The state’s population was about 628,000 when the war began. About 70,000 of those people served in the war, including 56,000 in the Union army and another 14,000 in the Union navy. Maine suffered 9,398 deaths, including 3,184 battlefield deaths.”