Posts Tagged ‘Steven B. Smith’

LEDARSKAP | President Abraham Lincolns syn på demokratiska val påverkades av hans ledarskapsstil. Men vad för typ av ledare var han?

Disunion, en blogg på The New York Times om USA under inbördeskriget, skriver professor Steven B. Smith:

To understand Lincoln’s leadership properly, one must understand it as a feature of constitutional government.


Constitutions are devices for controlling the uses of power. Governing in a constitutional manner meansFlygblad med republikanernas valsedel i USA inför valet 1860 (Kentucky Historical Society Collections) governing with respect to forms by which is meant certain formal procedures (rule of law, due process, trial by jury). In some respects constitutional government cares more about the forms than about the outcomes. What is important is that certain formal procedures be followed, and following these procedures confers legitimacy on the outcome.

The very term — constitutional leadership — involves a paradox. Leadership involves boldness, decisiveness and action, even a willingness to go it alone; constitutions work in the opposite direction, imposing forms and rules, checks on power and limits on executive initiative. How can one both lead and accept the limitations of constitutional restraint?


A […] case of Lincoln’s exercise of constitutional restraint concerned the principle of election. His rejection of the secessionist thesis was that it made the operation of free government impossible. If a minority could secede every time it disapproved of the outcome of the vote of the majority, the result would be a swift descent into anarchy. To be sure, the vote of the majority does not confer an absolute power to do what it wanted. But the principle of regular election, Lincoln believed, could provide a check on what popular majorities would be prepared to do. In any case, to give to the minority a permanent veto over the majority was the negation of self-government. “A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people,” Lincoln told his audience in the First Inaugural Address


To his infinite credit, Lincoln realized that free elections should not, even in principle, be sacrificed even if the cost might be the end of constitutional government. For constitutional leadership, the ends do not justify the means. Constitutional leadership is necessarily limited or bounded leadership. It is in this possibility of a leader operating within the limits of constitutional restraint that the hope of our republic rests.

Bild: Flygblad med republikanernas valsedel inför valet 1860 (Kentucky Historical Society Collections).

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