Lincoln and Leadership: Military, Political, and Religious Decision Making

Lincoln and Leadership: Military, Political, and Religious Decision Making

Lincoln and Leadership: Military, Political, and Religious Decision Making

Lincoln and Leadership: Military, Political, and Religious Decision Making

Synopsis

Lincoln and Leadershipoffers fresh perspectives on the 16th president-making novel contributions to the scholarship of one of the more studied figures of American history. The book explores Lincoln's leadership through essays focused, respectively, on Lincoln as commander-in-chief, deft political operator, and powerful theologian. Taken together, the essays suggest the interplay of military, political, and religious factors informing Lincoln's thought and action and guiding the dynamics of his leadership. The contributors, all respected scholars of the Civil War era, focus on several critical moments in Lincoln's presidency to understand the ways Lincoln understood and dealt with such issues and concerns as emancipation, military strategy, relations with his generals, the use of black troops, party politics and his own re-election, the morality of the war, the place of America in God's design, and the meaning and obligations of sustaining the Union. Overall, they argue that Lincoln was simultaneously consistent regarding his commitments to freedom, democratic government, and Union but flexible, and sometimes contradictory, in the means to preserve and extend them. They further point to the ways that Lincoln's decision making defined the presidency and recast understandings of American "exceptionalism." They emphasize that the "real" Lincoln was an unabashed party man and shrewd politician, a self-taught commander-in-chief, and a deeply religious man who was self-confident in his ability to judge men and to persuade them with words but unsure of what God demanded from America for its collective sins of slavery. Randall Miller's Introduction in particular provides essential weight to the notion that Lincoln's presidential leadership must be seen as a series of interlocking stories. In the end, the contributors collectively remind readers that the Lincoln enshrined as the "Great Emancipator" and "savior of the Union" was in life and practice a work-in-progress. And they insist that "getting right with Lincoln" requires seeing the intersections of his-and America's-military, political, and religious interests and identities.

Excerpt

This collection of essays derives from a conference on “Lincoln and Leadership,” sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Foundation of the Union League of Philadelphia and held on April 18, 2009, as part of the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. The conference filled a large room to overflowing, as scholars, teachers, students, and the public crowded in for a day to hear presentations by prominent students of Lincoln on his role as commander in chief, as political helmsman, and as moral compass of the nation. The conference’s three principal presentations have been revised and expanded, based on the many trenchant comments and questions of that April day and of subsequent readings by several scholars conversant with the issues. They are offered here as part of the ongoing, and still sometimes contentious, assessment of Lincoln’s conduct, character, and consequence as president during the “ordeal by fire” that was the Civil War. And they are intended to invite new inquiry into considerations of Lincoln the public man and the meaning of his leadership.

The topic of Lincoln and leadership demanded attention in 2009 in light of the many different interests claiming him as the exemplar of managerial “best practices” and enlightened policy in fields as varied as politics, business, and social justice. And the Lincoln moment had come at what seemed to many a providential, or at least comparable, historical moment. The election of Barack Obama as president of the United States in 2008 recalled the rise of that other lanky lawyer from Illinois, who had also served only briefly in the U.S. Congress prior to his nomination and election to the presidency during a time of dire national crisis. Indeed, during the 2008 campaign Obama and his followers oft en invoked the memory of Lincoln—to inspire their following, and to suggest that experience in Washington was not a necessary prerequisite for success as head of state. During the period of transition as president-elect and at his inauguration, Obama quickened that theme. The likeness to Lincoln was worth cultivating as his administration faced its own crises. Calling up supposed Lincoln precedents and parallels continues in arguing for and against policy, both inside and outside the government. And both political parties claim his ideas and mythology for their own purposes.

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