WASHINGTON — John William Templeton, a historian from California, has been researching abolitionism and Abraham Lincoln and has come to know almost everything there is to know about the Emancipation Proclamation.
One thing he did not know, however, was how Lincoln’s landmark executive order really looked, because he’d never seen the rarely displayed original.
So Templeton trudged to the National Archives Sunday morning, planted himself outside the doors and became the first person to walk through the metal-detecting magnetometers, up the marble stairs, past the Magna Carta and America’s founding charters.
Two of the five original pages of the Emancipation Proclamation sat under a plexiglass case, in front of two armed guards. Archives conservators have briefly — and only partly — emancipated the delicate document for three days, putting it on public display through Tuesday, on the occasion of its 150th anniversary.
Lincoln issued the proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, declaring ‘‘all persons held as slaves’’ in Confederate territories to be ‘‘forever free.’’ The proclamation did not end slavery, but it did set in motion a sequence of events that led to the ratification of 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865.
It is, the Archives said, ‘‘one of the great documents of human freedom.’’