Wepner Symposium Paper Archive
All available papers from past symposia are stored here, in PDF format.
2011 – The Civil War: Causes, Conduct, and Consequences
“Lincoln’s Gamble: How the Southern Secession Crisis Became the American Civil War” (pdf)
Paul Poast, Rutgers University
Abstract: What prompted US President Abraham Lincoln to respond to Southern secession with military force? Existing explanations are largely information-oriented: if the the Northern states had simply possessed better information regarding the capabilities and resolve of the Southern states and the likely consequences of attacking the South, a war would not have taken place. However, the evidence suggest otherwise: Lincoln, his cabinet, and his most senior generals knew that Southern forces were experienced and that attacking could ignite a large and costly war. Instead, the onset of the American Civil War must be understood through the logic of preventive war: the North attacked to prevent British recognition of the South as an independent nation. Well into June 1861, Lincoln hoped a blockade would compel the Southern states to rejoin the Union without bloodshed. However, as the prospect of British recognition of the South became more acute, Lincoln, believing a demonstration of force could prevent such recognition, chose to strike Southern forces at Manassas Junction, Virginia. An inability to prevent Confederate troops from sending reinforcements caused the attack to fail. This emboldened Southern forces and compromised Lincoln’s credibility, thus igniting a long and bloody conflagration.
“Abraham Lincoln: Consummate Leader” (pdf)
Fred Greenstein, Princeton University
Abstract: Adapted from a draft book chapter, this talk assessed Lincoln’s presidency through the lens of Professor Greenstein’s theoretical framework, which evaluates presidential leadership according to six qualities: public communication, organization capacity, political skill, policy vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence.
“Do Crucify Their Feelings: Lincolns’ Leadership as Kenosis and Tragedy” (pdf)
Stewart Winger, Illinois State University
Abstract: Assessing both the left and right views of Lincoln’s leadership as portrayed in the work of Eric Foner and Allen Guelzo, Winger finds that the 16th president’s legacy is one of “tragic ambiguity” rather than definitively heroic or disappointing.
“Lincoln on Colonization: A Reappraisal” (pdf)
Thomas Schneider, University of Saint Francis
Abstract: In the vast literature on race and slavery in the Civil War period, one question seems to me to be continually overlooked, or at least not to be addressed as directly as it might be. The question is this: What concern have we, 150 years on, with attitudes that everyone now condemns and an institution that no one wants to see revived? It might reasonably be asserted that, from a moral point of view, the lessons of Americans’ experience with slavery have been learned. But it would be harder to say that the political lessons of that period have been learned. What, indeed, are those lessons? One of them, arguably, is that political reasoning is a very different thing from moral reasoning. Politics has a moral logic of its own—if that is the right way to put it—which Lincoln may be assumed to have understood. In this paper I test the assumption by application to Lincoln’s colonization policy.
“Lincoln and the Secession Crisis in Missouri” (pdf)
Doug Nehring, Milikin University
Abstract: The American Civil War was one of the most divided times in this country’s history. The war not only divided the nation into two separate realms, but it also broke apart families, splitting apart fathers and sons and pitting brother against brother. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Border States, those states that held slaves but did not secede. While each of these states was important in its own right, Missouri was seen as a key factor in winning the war for the Union. President Lincoln’s reaction to the secession movement in Missouri would show his political prowess, as well as the careful steps that he took to win the war and pull the country back together for once and for all. While the state was in turmoil, Lincoln made sure that his military leadership enforced strict martial regulations, all while ensuring the maximum amount of liberty for the normal citizens of Missouri, garnering Union support throughout a thoroughly divided state.
“Lincoln’s Use of the Presidency to Effect Change – A Model for Presidents in Advancing Equal Rights for Women?” (pdf)
Janet M. Martin, Bowdoin College
Abstract: There is no question that Lincoln’s legacy to the American political system includes the establishment of ongoing expectations of what it is that a President can do, and even should do. Lincoln is known for precedents set in going beyond the formal powers, either Constitutional or statutory, of the Office of the President in order to effect change. Yet Lincoln was an astute and pragmatic politician. He was successful in limiting his focus, using the powers he had, and realizing how difficult it is for presidents to bring about change.
In this brief talk I want to focus on one area in which a president’s actions tend to either be overlooked, overstated, or unknown. That is, the case of constitutional amendments. I will draw upon the case of Abraham Lincoln and the 13th Amendment, and then turn to the modern presidential era and look at the case of John F Kennedy and the fate of the Equal Rights Amendment. Two other Presidents who also had to confront the issue of what can a President do in regards to constitutional Amendments include the cases of Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter. Of these three presidents, in regard to the amendment approach, the actions of John Kennedy had the most positive outcomes effecting change in regards to equal rights for women.
2010 – Presidential Options, Presidential Decision-Making, and Social Consequences
“Abraham Lincoln as a Political Scientist” (pdf)
Tim R. Miller, University of Illinois Springfield, and Katrina L. Miller-Stevens, Old Dominon University
Abstract: Abraham Lincoln was many things during his lifetime, including being a family man, friend, and lifelong student of law, culture, and history. He was a clerk and frontiersman, was admired as an athlete (particularly wrestling and moving heavy objects) and yes, briefly worked as a rail-splitter. He was an amateur poet, and a widely admired orator. And Lincoln was, of course, a successful politician who served in the Illinois General Assembly (1834-42), U.S. House of Representatives (1847-49), and as President of the United States of America (1861-65). While controversial during his lifetime, the martyred Chief Executive would ultimately be judged one of the foremost leaders in American and indeed world history. These observations, among others, are rather obvious about this great human being.
In the pages to follow, we ask a different and somewhat novel question (in that we find it nowhere in the vast Lincoln literature). Can Abraham Lincoln be seen as a member of the fraternity of political scientists? Is there a case to be made that in this regard he was one of us?
“Is Lincoln a Good Model for Presidential Leadership?” (pdf)
Stephen M. Skowronek, Yale University
Abstract: There is a lot to like about Lincoln. Perhaps too much. Lincoln’s leadership stands out on so many dimensions that it is hard for anyone with an interest in the American presidency, or in America politics in general, to resist his example. By the same token, the abiding promise of a leader like Lincoln — the national faith he inspires in the saving grace of a great leader — gives me pause. I believe that faith has made it easier for us to indulge the extraordinary claims of contemporary presidents and to accept an enormous concentration of power in the office of the presidency itself. So I would like to pose the question directly: Is Lincoln a good model for presidential leadership?
“The Political Consequences of Divergent Strategic Narratives” (pdf)
Pinky Wassenberg, University of Illinois Springfield
Abstract: There have been similar times in American history, times when the uncertainty generated shifting visions of the nature of warfare had consequences for the relations between a presidential administration and its military commanders. The purpose of this paper is not to examine in detail the reasons for these shifts in military paradigms but instead to explain the impact these shifts have on the ability of the American government to articulate clearly a unified message about the nature of a military conflict. The examination of historical precedents where conflicts arose between a President and a high profile military commander during times of paradigm shift can inform our understanding of both the factors that precipitate these conflicts and the political consequences the conflicts have for the public debate on the nation’s war aims. This paper presents the outlines of a framework for the analysis of the causes and consequences of high visibility conflicts between the President and military commanders in time of war. The message through which either a President or military commander sets out a vision of the nation’s war aims and the way in which those aims will be pursued is referred to herein as a strategic narrative.
“Lincoln’s Legacy and Women’s Rights: The Diffusion of Mandatory Gender Quota Laws” (pdf)
Adriana M. Crocker, University of Illinois Springfield
Abstract: Following a brief discussion on the evolution of the women’s movement in the western hemisphere, starting around Lincoln’s presidency, this paper examines the more recent adoption of gender quota legislation in the Latin American legislatures. This paper will argue that gender quotas were adopted largely as a result of diffusion that included global and regional trends, as well as internal factors, such as the significant role of women legislators, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and executive offices in individual country-adopters. Finally, this paper examines the effectiveness of gender quota legislation in Latin America and the factors that have contributed to either its successful or poor implementation of the laws. Overall, this paper provides fresh insights concerning the dimensions of policy diffusion, and illustrates the effective role of the women’s movement at international, regional and domestic levels in closing the gender gap.
“Deflecting the Ex-Post Veto Player: The Strategy of the 14th Amendment Dred Scott Override” (pdf)
Richard M. Valelly, Swarthmore College
Abstract: I first sketch the kind of strategic situation which congressional Republicans faced during the 39th Congress. I then map the historical evidence onto that formalization, tracing the strategy of the Dred Scott override. I conclude the article with reflections on what the case study teaches.
“Jackson, Lincoln, FDR, Obama: The Presidency, the Body Politic, and the Contest over American National Identity” (pdf)
Joseph Lowndes, University of Oregon
Abstract: Prompted by the racially-charged comments of his former pastor Jeremiah Wright, in March 2008 candidate Barack Obama gave a speech to address the issue of race in his presidential campaign. “It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate,” Obama said in reference to his bi-racial origins. “But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.” Obama’s racial pluralism writ small made mixed ancestry a signifier for American ideals – ideals that could, through him, connect resentful whites and historically aggrieved blacks in a redemptive politics that would finally move past the wars of race and culture rooted in the 1960s. While Obama has drawn on his biology and biography to assert the nation’s promises of inclusion, his opponents have used these same elements to portray him as fundamentally unrepresentative. Indeed, in his term in office his presidency has challenged on birthright grounds, he has been visually portrayed as a figure of urban menace, and a major oppositional movement to his presidency that is at least partially motivated by race. Obama’s body has become a site of much political contest. But is this phenomenon distinct to Obama by virtue of his being the first African American president? Or does the presidency itself invite contest over the bodies of incumbents in relation to national identity?
“The Lincoln and Obama Legacies: The Perils of Channeling” (pdf)
Wilbur C. Rich, Wellesly College
Abstract: This paper will examine whether the spirit of Lincoln’s and his race relation policies are a good role model for Obama. Granted Obama used symbolic connections to Lincoln to confirm the continuity. These connections included their service in the Illinois State Legislature and the fact they both lost a Congressional election before being elected President. President Obama took a similar train ride to his Inauguration and used Lincoln’s Bible for the Oath. In his inaugural speech Obama asserted
For we know that our patchwork heritage is strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
In trying to bring the races socio-economically together, should Obama take political cues from Lincoln? More specifically, do the policies of two men represent a fundamental change in the America’s quest for a race neutral society? If one controls for context and differences between 19th and 21st centuries, the two presidencies can be compared across political time. Historians have concluded that Lincoln was one of the great presidents; indeed he has been called a “Reconstruction President.” Reconstruction presidents repudiate extant beliefs about government and promote a new way of organizing socio-economic relations. Race policy is a product of political time. Presidents inherit this policy as they do other policies.