Abraham Lincoln and Statesmanship: Reconstructing the Law of the Constitution

The Annual Robert J. Giuffra '82 Conference

May 16, 2016
Lincoln Conference Brochure Cover

Presentation of the 2016 James Q. Wilson Award for Distinguished Scholarship on the Nature of a Free Society to Allen C. Guelzo.

Presenter: Alan Charles Kors, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania, on behalf of the Association for the Study of Free Institutions
Keynote Address: Allen C. Guelzo, Henry R. Luce III Professor of the Civil War Era, Gettysburg College

It is a sobering reflection that the progress of free institutions has often come at the cost of much blood spilled in the midst of rebellion and civil war. This is true of the great movements toward freedom and self-government in England, France, and America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. And it is most spectacularly true of America’s movement to limit and then end slavery in the middle of the nineteenth century, which happened only through a civil war that killed more Americans than all of the nation’s other wars put together. Each of these eruptions of political violence, however, could advance the cause of freedom only because it was followed by a stable peace to which both of the contending sides could accommodate themselves: the forces opposed to freedom had not only to be defeated but also somehow readmitted as participants in the freer society the creation of which they had labored to prevent. This problem of “reconstruction” is one of the supreme challenges that statesmanship can face, and it is one upon which Abraham Lincoln reflected deeply, even if he did not live to implement the plans that emerged from his reflections. Given the magnitude of the issues with which Lincoln had to deal, his political career and thought are a school of statesmanship to which free people should turn for instruction.

With a view to advancing the education in statesmanship that the study of Lincoln can provide, the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions and the Association for the Study of Free Institutions are pleased to present a conference entitled “Abraham Lincoln and American Statesmanship: Reconstructing the Law of the Constitution.” The program includes scholars from a variety of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. We seek to address a number of questions. What principles and aims informed Lincoln’s statesmanship? How did Lincoln understand and embody the virtue of prudence as mediating between principles and ideals, on the one hand, and stubborn realities, on the other, with a view to identifying achievable political improvements? How does wise statesmanship manage the difficulties involved in trying to secure new rights while also protecting old rights in a period of reconstruction? What role do courts play in preserving fundamental legal and constitutional principles in the midst of political and social upheaval? Finally, what lessons does Lincoln offer to statesmanship in our own time? 

See Flyer for details on all panel discussions.


The Robert J. Giuffra '82 Conference on Abraham Lincoln and Statesmanship: Award Presentation and Keynote Address

The Historian’s Craft: A Consideration of Writings of Allen C. Guelzo

Reconsidering Reconstruction, Rights, and Progress

What Is the Relationship Between Originalism and Judicial Restraint?

The Statesmanship of Abraham Lincoln

Roundtable on Lincoln and the Challenges of Statesmanship in Our Time


Dodds Auditorium, Robertson Hall

Cosponsored by:

  • The Association for the Study of Free Institutions at Texas Tech University

Funded by:

The Bouton Law Lecture Fund

Photo Album:

  • 2016 Lincoln Conference panel
  • 2016 Lincoln Conference booklet
  • 2016 Lincoln Conference panel