Long-lost Lincoln letter back in federal hands

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An Arizona collector handed over to the federal government Thursday a rare handwritten letter from Lincoln to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. The letter, dated four days before Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863, had been missing for more than 60 years.

Federal officials, who have not ruled out its possible theft from a government collection, discovered it two years ago during routine monitoring of online auctions.

They have been negotiating for its return ever since.

In the short note, torn from the center of a bound volume, Lincoln tells Chase to do a small favor on behalf of someone recently fired from his job with the federal government.

Larry Cutler, a former prosecutor who collects artifacts ranging from Greek antiquities to presidential documents, said he had owned the document for several years and considers it a "cornerstone" example of Lincoln's compassion.

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