For 150 years, historians have evaluated the presidential performance of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. Historians usually side with the winners, and Lincoln wins in a walk.
The Lincoln-Davis’ Experience Qualifications
By the time Jefferson Davis was thirty-five, he was one of the most respected leaders of the South.
By resume, Jefferson Davis had the huge advantage. Born within a year of Lincoln, and also from Kentucky, he was the tenth child of a middle class family. He was educated at Transylvania College (more of a high school), and then sent to West Point. He had served as an army officer with honor before becoming a Mississippi planter. His much older brother (by twenty-three years) was a bona fide millionaire, and Jeff’s lifelong mentor. His plantation would thrive, making Davis one of the wealthiest men in the state.
Davis served in Congress for a term before re-entering the military during the War with Mexico, demonstrating leadership and distinction befitting a West Point graduate. The war over, he then served in the Senate, for four years as Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce, and then back in the Senate again. All in all, he had a solid fifteen years prominently placed on the national stage before the Civil War.
Abraham Lincoln’s qualifications on paper were slim. His education was conspicuous only by its absence – perhaps as little as one year of formal schooling. Whatever he learned was on his own. He became a self-taught lawyer and served a single term in Congress prior to the Civil War. He had achieved a middle-class status only after years of hard work; any mentoring he received was not financial.
On paper, Davis leaves Lincoln in the dust.
The Lincoln-Davis Leadership Qualifications
Abraham Lincoln’s accomplishments prior to his election as President in 1860, were mostly limited to his home state of Illinois. He had no national reputation.
Prior to the Civil War, both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis had remarkably centrist attitudes. Lincoln was not an abolitionist, and said so many times. Davis was not a secessionist and said so many times. They both felt strongly for the Union, although Davis believed it was constitutionally possible for a state to secede. Lincoln was against slavery, but he believed it should be contained where it was; Davis (known to be a particularly kind master), believed it was essential to the southern economy.
Jefferson Davis was a mellifluous speaker in the classical oratory style. He tried to be a voice of reason, and usually distanced himself from the rabble-rousing “secesh” rantings of other southern politicians. Little of what he said, however, was memorable. During the turbulent 1850s, Davis was considered the best presidential candidate the Democrats had to offer – except for being a southerner.
Thus when the South did secede, and when it elected a temporary President, Jefferson Davis was generally unopposed. Everyone looked up to him. A year later, when it elected a permanent President, Davis was still generally unopposed.
Abraham Lincoln’s leadership qualities were subtle, and to a large extent hidden. He was a stump speaker, rather than an orator. It is said that his voice was fairly high pitched for such a tall man. His contemporaries, particularly his fellow politicians, believed him to be little more than average as a speaker. He did not pontificate. His reasoning was deep however, and his way with words was elegant and often sparkled with humor. What he said and how he said it was usually memorable.
One tends to forget that Lincoln was a dark horse in 1860. All his Republican rivals were far better known, and had many years on the national stage. Lincoln’s political influence was limited primarily to his home state of Illinois – western and unimportant. The presidential ballots were split every whichway, and Lincoln won by plurality, rather than majority. When he arrived in Washington, he was still an unknown quantity.
In pre-Civil War leadership, Davis still holds the edge. He had been a national political figure much longer. Everybody knew him and respected him. His military experience, both on the field and behind the Secretary of War desk, was second to none.
The Lincoln-Davis Bottom Line
Tall, lanky, craggy-faced and bearded, Jefferson Davis sometimes bears a striking resemblance to Lincoln.
Both were undoubtedly men of character. Davis’ confederate oath was also “registered in heaven” and just as binding to him as Lincoln’s was. Both were honest men, and in another time and under other circumstances, Jefferson Davis might have made a decent president of the United States.
It would be his elusive personal qualities that made Abraham Lincoln our greatest president.
The balance, however, lies in the intangible qualities: the ones that no one notices until they are tested. Lincoln’s fifty years of self-education had provided him with a capacity for broad conceptual thinking, and the ability to learn from all sources. He could and would change his mind, if he saw the error. He could and would be able to work with most people. He could and would grow. It would be because of his rare and elusive qualities rather than paper credentials that he ranks as our foremost president.
Davis, perhaps from a lifetime of being in command, was not flexible. He would remain rigid in his philosophies and attitudes throughout his life. He had favorites, and he had implacable enemies. He would never change. His leadership was flawed, and he pales in comparison.
Lincoln, of course, would become the martyr, but he did not have the martyr’s character. It would be Davis who truly had the martyr qualifications.
- DAVIS, VARINA – Jefferson Davis, Ex-President of the Confederate States of America: A Memoir by his Wife, 1890
- DAVIS, W.C. – The Man and his Hour, HarperCollins, 1991
- DONALD, David Herbert – Lincoln – Simon and Schuster, 1995
About Feather Schwartz FosterFeather Schwartz Foster is an author-historian who has made more than 500 appearances discussing presidential history. She teaches adult education at the Christopher Wren Association (affiliated with William and; Mary College), and adult Education programs at Christopher Newport University. She has been a guest on the C-SPAN "First Ladies" program. She has written five books.
View all posts by Feather Schwartz Foster →
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by Gordon Leidner of Great American History
The following article appeared in the academic journal Columbiad: A Quarterly Review of the War Between the States in their Spring 1998 issue. Reprinted by courtesy of PRIMEDIA Special Interest Publications from Columbiad Spring 1998 issue. Used with permission.
Measuring the Presidents: Modern leadership theory provides a framework for comparing the presidential skills of Lincoln and Davis
by Gordon Leidner
Historians have written hundreds of interesting biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. Generally, however, they have shied away from any serious comparison of the rival American presidents' leadership skills, limiting any such comparison to just a few pages in otherwise extensive works. Of the few in-depth comparisons available, virtually all lack the methodology offered by the relatively new discipline of leadership theory. (1)
Modern leadership theory provides a scientific approach to the study of human abilities and accomplishments. Practitioners of this discipline define and analyze various forms of leadership--charismatic, transactional, situational, transformational-and use them to measure the effectiveness of leadership in given situations, or as practiced by specific leaders.
Surprisingly, leadership theorists have largely ignored Lincoln and Davis. Theorists have occasionally brought up Lincoln and Davis as examplars of one leadership quality or another, but have done little in the way of serious analysis or direct comparison.(2) Nevertheless, the comparison is a natural one, and lends itself readily to scientific examination.
Before we enter into our comparison of Lincoln and Davis, we must choose which leadership theory to use as our yardstick. To make this choice, we need to take into account the objectives the two men were trying to accomplish. Davis was trying to establish a separate republic; to do this, he had both to defeat the invading armies of the North and to establish the Confederacy's legitimacy in the world and among his own people. Lincoln, on the other hand, was trying to preserve the Union. Like Davis, he had two primary challenges: first, to invade and militarily overwhelm the South; and second, to maintain a Union "worthy of saving."(3) (Clearly, Lincoln did not consider a Union that allowed human slavery to be fully "worthy," but he was willing to settle for such a Union at the war's outset.)
Both men's objectives, embodied in the Civil War, involved motivating entire national populations to bring about substantial changes in the face of powerful opposition. Consequently, it would seem that the best leadership theory for the purpose of our comparison is that of "transformational leadership." According to Bernard M. Bass, a leading authority on the subject, "transformational" leaders transform or move followers to "go beyond their own self-interests" for the good of their group.(4) The transformational leader motivates followers by making them aware of the importance of accomplishing certain tasks, and by activating their "higher order" needs-moral values such as liberty, justice, and equality-as opposed to baser needs such as fear, greed, jealousy, and hatred.(5)
Although there are variations of transformational leadership theory, most theorists accept Bass's position on what a successful transformational leader does. The extent the leader is considered transformational is measured primarily in terms of his or her effect on followers. Followers usually feel trust, loyalty, and respect toward the leader. They are motivated to do more than they originally expected to, and they continue to make sacrifices in spite of difficulties or severe hardship.(6)
An advantage in analyzing Lincoln and Davis through modern leadership theory is that it is no longer necessary to use the success or failure of the war effort as the sole measure of effective leadership. The South lost the war, but this does not necessarily mean Davis was a failure as a transformational leader; the North's victory does not necessarily mean Lincoln was a successful one.
To compare Lincoln and Davis' transformational leadership skills, we will need to review at least three kinds of accomplishments: first, the effectiveness of each man's appeal to followers' moral values in order to inspire them to "higher morality" and willing sacrifice; second, each man's ability to inspire followers to keep making sacrifices in spite of hardships; and third, the degree to which each man acquired the trust, loyalty, and respect of followers.
APPEAL TO MORAL VALUES
Making an effective appeal to the followers' moral principles is essential to the transformational leader. So, it is important to identify the primary moral issue of the Civil War and measure how effectively Lincoln and Davis used it to motivate their followers. Regardless of how important slavery was as a cause of the war compared to state rights, there can be little doubt that human was the primary moral issue of the day.(7)
Davis's Vice President, Alexander Stephens, said: "Our new government is founded upon....the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery--subordination to the superior race--is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."(8) Lincoln summed up the controversy over slavery in a letter to Stephens: " You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub."(9)
Interestingly enough, though Davis was leader of a nation founded upon the great "moral truth" that the black man was not the equal of the white man, he never publicly acknowledged this. Davis owned slaves, had spent his Senate career defending the rights of slaveholders, and agreed to secession when the Lincoln administration, which was opposed to allowing slavery in the new territories, took office. But Davis would not allow himself to believe slavery was more than a peripheral issue.
William C. Davis, in his recent biography of the Confederate president, writes that Davis believed the Northern states had abolished slavery chiefly because its economic benefits had dwindled. Besides, the small number of black people in the North ensured that emancipation would have only minimal effects on society. The South's situation was different, said President Davis; "I think there is no foundation for the presumption of moral change."(10) Jefferson Davis took the stand that maintaining Southern slavery was in the best interest of black people, and was the only moral option.
The Confederate president, a magnanimous slaveholder who allowed his own slaves freedoms unheard of, could neither see the abolitionists' position nor admit to their sincerity of purpose. He believed black people truly were inferior and had to be taken care of by the "superior" race. It was a moral duty for white people to do so.
Regardless of how disingenuous this sounds today, the argument that slavery was a moral good had been propagated in the South for decades. Various historians have found that Southern ministers of the Gospel argued that slavery was not only acceptable (after all, Jesus had "accepted" the institution), it was actually beneficial to the African race. The white race had taken black people out of a "heathen" continent and brought them to the New World where they could be educated on the Gospel of Christ.(11) In addition, Southerners argued they were providing a kind of cradle to grave care for slaves, seeing to their physical and spiritual needs. According to one historian, "(T)he overwhelming majority of Southern clergymen had for a generation given the church's blessing to the institution of slavery and its right to spread into the territories."(12)
It was confusion about the morality of slavery that caused such enmity between slaveholders and abolitionists. Slaveholders frequently perceived their slaves to be well taken care of, happy, and contented. They recognized the difficulties slaves would have if suddenly turned loose into the world to make a living on their own. Abolitionists could see the slave only in light of the words of the Declaration of Independence: "...All men are created equal." They thought of the terrible beatings and the degrading slave auctions where children and their mothers were separated.
The Southern economy was based upon slavery and cotton, and the Confederacy's constitution guaranteed slavery.(13) Although only about one in four Southern households owned slaves, the majority of the Southern people supported the existence of the "peculiar institution."(14) Southern political leaders maintained the support of the majority by convincing non-slaveholders that in threatening slavery, the North was actually threatening the entire South, its way of life, and its livelihood. The only logical solution was for the South to secede from the Union and establish a country founded on slavery, guaranteeing the Southern way of life.(15)
In spite of politicians' efforts to justify slavery from a socio-economic basis and religious leaders' efforts to justify it morally, many Southerners remained unconvinced of the moral soundness of founding a nation upon the principle of human .(16) As religious people, many Southerners saw success or failure on the battlefield as indication of whether God approved of their cause. When they were winning, God was heaping favor on His chosen people. But when they were losing, God was either chastising them or showing disfavor.(17)
It was up to Davis, as a transformational leader, to continue to convince the Southern people that, despite military setbacks, God truly supported their cause, and that founding the Confederacy upon slavery was morally sound. If he could not win the war or support this position, his people would have to accept the idea that either a separate nation was not justified or the new nation should be founded without slavery as an absolute. Nevertheless, eliminating slavery in the Confederacy-even only partially-would require a significant transformation of the Southern people's attitudes.
As tools to convince his people of slavery's morality, Davis had his own leadership skills and the aid of the Southern religious leaders. Although no adequate study of how well Davis used ministers to motivate civilians exists, Gardiner Shattuck writes that Davis failed to place sufficient emphasis on religious guidance of his troops. Davis and Secretary of War James A. Seddon, Shattuck writes, "thought that ministers would be more useful to the country as soldiers than as preachers"(18) and did little to aid in the establishment and maintenance of religious leadership for soldiers.
Without executive leadership, Southern ministers were left to their own devices and interpretation when it came to maintaining morale. According to James W. Silver, "when war weariness caused the people to hesitate and falter, the men of God boldly attempted to sustain and strengthen civilian tenacity by resort to the use of atrocity stories and fear techniques."(19) In light of Silver's findings that "there is overwhelming evidence that preachers as a whole retained a higher degree of morale than they were able to instill in their parishioners," and the fact that Southern ministers had effectively supported slavery for decades prior to the war, Davis' inaction on the part of religious leadership may have been a serious blunder.(20)
Lincoln's use of religious leaders to reinforce his policies during the war stands in sharp contrast to Davis's refusal to do so. Early in the war, Lincoln insisted that every regiment have a chaplain of "a Christian denomination" and did what he could to assist civilian organizations such as the U. S. Christian Commission in evangelizing and ministering to the troops.(21) Christian Commission clergy were generally in favor of emancipation, and the ministers' presence in the army had a significant impact on the attitudes of soldiers.
Historians have maligned Davis' personality and leadership skills. Although the Confederate president was perceived by many as a cold, indifferent man, the opposite was true. He displayed a generous spirit with many people, especially with acknowledged subordinates and close friends. With his slaves he was paternal in nature, happily passing out gifts to the slave children when he returned from a long journey. With friends he was the most devoted of men--doing all within his power to overlook their faults and provide means for their benefit. (When it came to the selection and placement of generals, this latter quality would eventually work to the detriment of the Confederacy.)
Davis was much less capable of dealing effectively with his peers. As a product of the planter class, he was used to being lord over all he surveyed. When forced to deal with people that were not his subordinates, he displayed a lack of ability in the normal give and take of politics. He frequently had neither the patience nor the inclination to reconcile differences with political foes. His wife, Varina, knowing her husband's strengths and weaknesses, had hoped that he would be appointed commanding general of the Confederacy rather than its president. She summed up his political skills when she said "he did not know the arts of the politician and would not practice them if understood." She also said, "As a party manger, he would not succeed."(22)
So Davis was handicapped on the morality issue by his lack of natural abilities as a politician. Could he make up for these shortcomings by effective use of his oratory skills? While he was a U. S. senator, word that Davis was to speak had often packed the galleries. When he resigned his seat prior to joining the Confederacy, people thronged to the Senate Chamber to hear his farewell address. But the oratory skills he displayed in the Senate seemed to elude him as president of the Confederacy. Davis was unable to articulate effectively the moral justification for a separate nation. According to one historian, Davis "never said anything people could remember."(23) When military reverses came, he attempted to motivate followers by warning them of what terrible things would happen if the North won, rather than encouraging them with words about the righteousness of their cause.
The story of Davis' encounter with Richmond housewives rioting for bread serves as an example of his poor communications skills during the war. First he made a short speech and promised future distribution of food. He then threw his pocket money at them, demanded they go home, and told them that they had five minutes to leave. The soldiers with him prepared their weapons to fire upon the crowd. The people left unsatisfied, to say the least.
Typical of Davis' cumbersome speech is his second inaugural address.(24) In one its introductory paragraphs, he tried to explain the reasons for the formation of the Confederacy. As usual, he chose to berate the United States government instead of painting an inspiring picture of the noble causes the Confederate States:
"When a long course of class legislation, directed not to the general welfare, but to the aggrandizement of the Northern section of the Union, culminated in a warfare on the domestic institutions of the Southern States -when the dogmas of a sectional party, substituted for the provisions of the constitutional compact, threatened to destroy the sovereign rights of the States, six of those States, withdrawing from the Union, confederated together to exercise the right and perform the duty of instituting a Government which would better secure the liberties for the preservation of which that Union was established."(25)
Robert E. Lee recognized two key issues that, had Davis listened, might have extended the life of the Confederacy. Lee's statement that he would feel no apprehension about the outcome of the war "if the people will sustain the soldiers and evince the same resolution as the army" showed genuine insight into the importance of civilian morale.(26) He recognized more clearly than Davis that the South would not win the war if the people did not have their hearts in it. Lee also recognized the importance of enlisting slaves into the army. He encouraged Davis to push legislation that would allow the enlistment of black troops. In order for the slaves to gain "personal interest" in the outcome, he proposed, they should be granted "immediate freedom."(27)
Davis procrastinated on the idea of enlisting slaves. When he finally pushed it forward, late in the war, many violently resisted the idea. Major General Howell Cobb's reaction was typical: "(I)f slaves make good soldiers, our whole theory of slavery is wrong."(28)
Davis did not effectively use the moral issue of slavery to appeal to his followers' higher selves and to motivate them to sacrifice for the benefit of society. To late-twentieth century Americans, promoting the morality of slavery seems an impossible task. But who can say how difficult that would have been among people who had lived with slavery as the norm for generations? For Davis to enlist black troops into the Confederate armies, it would have been necessary for him to transform the attitudes of the entire nation about slavery and its morality. As it was, his efforts were so ineffectual that even the threat of military defeat in the latter months of the war proved too little, too late.
At the beginning of the war, Lincoln was content to leave slavery alone in the South and coax the "erring sisters" back into the Union with slavery intact. He was willing to do this in spite of the fact that he hated slavery, an institution that had, he said, "the power to make me miserable."(29) Lincoln recognized that slavery was a divisive rather than uniting issue in the North. It would have been difficult at the beginning of the war to find a Northern soldier who would say he was fighting against slavery. Consequently, Lincoln did not announce the war as a struggle to free the slaves. He knew that to do so would be to invite disaster. Instead he announced it as a fight to "maintain the Union," a cause to which all Northerners could rally.
But there should be little doubt Lincoln wanted to strike a blow at slavery. He personally believed that the Founding Fathers had intended that slavery die out. Although everything Lincoln did in regard to slavery he did with maintenance of the Union in mind, by the summer of 1862 he recognized a shift in the North's attitude towards slavery and saw in it an opportunity to use it as a weapon against the South. With the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln transformed the war from an effort simply to maintain the Union to one that was also to end slavery.
To successfully transform the purpose of the war, Lincoln's timing was critical. Union Major Generals John C. Fremont in Missouri and David Hunter in South Carolina had attempted to declare slaves free within their jurisdictions before Lincoln was ready. He countermanded their actions, explaining that it was essential they not alienate the border states too soon. Lincoln's eyes were also on the armies. Few soldiers wanted to risk their lives for the sake of slaves early in the war. Lincoln's commander in the East, Major General George B. McClellan, was a Democrat who made no secret of his belief that the South should be restored to the Union with slavery intact.
Lincoln first introduced the idea of the Emancipation Proclamation at a cabinet meeting and subsequently explained he did so as a result of a "solemn vow" to his "Maker."(30) He knew it would still be a controversial, and he was prepared to use a combination of transformational and what are today called "transactional" leadership skills to gain support.
Transactional leadership involves simple bargaining or trading of one need for another. A politician may offer his vote in the support of a fellow legislator's bill for similar support on a bill of his own. An employer may offer bonuses for superior work by employees. In transactional leadership there is no attempt to motivate by appealing to the follower's desire to benefit the group out of self-sacrifice.
Lincoln convinced those that were indifferent to the moral benefit of freeing the slaves by persuading them that black soldiers would be able to share in the sacrifice and hardship of the war, removing a source of strength from the Confederacy and lessening the cost in white soldiers' lives. This was transactional leadership. Lincoln also displayed transformational leadership when he convinced others that freeing the slaves was the moral thing to do. As a result of this combination of transformational and transactional leadership, most of the North supported the Emancipation Proclamation, and later the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution freeing all slaves, when Lincoln pushed it through Congress.
Demonstrating his transformational leadership skills in appealing to the morals of the people, Lincoln spoke inspiring words in his December, 1862 annual message to Congress:
"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free - honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last, best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just -a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless."(31)
In his 1863 address at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, he concluded with the uplifting words:
"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us --that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."(32)
To those that would not respond to the moral issue, Lincoln provided transactional arguments such as this:
"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving the others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union."(33)
Lincoln successfully extended the war's goals from simply maintaining the Union to eliminating slavery. To do this he employed the transformational leadership skills of appealing to the morals of his followers as well as transactional leadership skills to appeal to the baser needs of those unconvinced by the moral issue.
In contrast, Davis was not only unable to use transformational leadership skills on the slavery issue, but as a relatively unskilled politician he was not capable of effectively putting forward transactional leadership arguments on this subject either. He failed to convince a sufficient number of congressmen and governors that if they did not enlist blacks into the army, it would lose the war.
INSPIRATION TO PERSEVERE
Was Davis successful in the second transformational leadership quality-inspiring followers to keep sacrificing for the benefit of society in spite of hardships? To attempt to answer this, it is necessary to review briefly the issue of whether or not the South was defeated as a result of the North's overwhelming material strength or of a loss of will to fight.
Those who argue the South lost its will to fight are legion. They believe Southerners either never had a true desire for independence or else had it initially and, during the course of the war, lost their desire to continue the fight. Those that would argue the South maintained a strong willingness to fight but were overwhelmed by Northern military might have been very much in the minority in recent years. As Gary Gallagher points out in his recent book, the South continued the struggle for nearly two years after the terrible losses at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July 1863. This was done in spite of a tightening of the blockade, loss of all hope that England and France would intervene, a continuous loss of territory to the Northern armies, and a virtual collapse of the Southern economy. After July 1863-and even earlier, some historians would argue-the South had little hope short of Lincoln's defeat in the fall 1864 elections.(34)
Somehow, the Davis administration kept the war effort alive. This Davis did in the face of a deteriorating relationship with Congress, an obstructionist mindset on the part of Governor Joseph E. Brown of Georgia and Governor Zebulon B. Vance of North Carolina, an inept head of the Commissary Department, a shuffling cabinet, bitter newspaper enemies, a vice president with whom he was publicly at odds, Western commanders that were either incompetent or lacking in confidence, and failing health. Of course, some of these problems were of Davis' own making, but others were outside of his control.
Despite caustic rhetoric from his foes, Davis was generally successful with Congress. As one author points out, in spite of all the antagonistic feelings between Davis and many of the leaders of Congress, the president generally got what he wanted out of that body. Only one of his vetoes was ever overridden during the war. And even though the governors of Georgia and North Carolina were difficult to deal with, the governors of the remaining states were generally cooperative.(35)
Still, one cannot ignore the fact that by the time Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was retreating towards Appomattox, it was down to less than 40,000 effectives. This, along with significantly smaller forces under General Joseph E. Johnston in North Carolina and Lieutenant General E. Kirby Smith in the Trans-Mississippi, represented at war's end the military might of a nation of more than 5 million whites. But Lee's army fought on. The question becomes, in the final stages of the war, what were they fighting for? Was it for Jefferson Davis and an independent nation? Or was it out of dedication to their beloved general, Robert E. Lee? The pleas of Lee's soldiers at Appomattox, "General, say the word and we'll go in and fight 'em yet!"(36) may indicate that their dedication was to Lee more than anything else.
To determine whether or not Davis was fulfilling the transformational leadership requirement of continuously inspiring followers to make personal sacrifices is a question that deserves additional study. The fact that at least three major armies stayed in the field long after all hope for victory had disappeared, despite the many hardships the South endured and the handicaps Davis faced, could be interpreted as strong evidence Davis was successfully fulfilling the transformational leadership quality of motivating followers to continue making sacrifices.
How effective was Lincoln in inspiring his followers to persevere? While many consider it remarkable that the Southern armies maintained the struggle for four long years in spite of increasing odds against them, they were fighting a defensive war against an invading army. As historian James M. McPherson observes, most of the Southern soldiers had an advantage in that they considered themselves to be fighting for "their homes" and "independence."(37)
To Lincoln's credit, he maintained the North's focus on a war that, for Union armies, had much more abstract purpose. Maintaining the Union was always a less concrete reason for fighting and dying than "gaining independence"was. To "free the slaves" was less immediately compelling than to "defend ones' home." Yet the Federal armies kept coming across the murderous fields of Spotsylvania Court House and Cold Harbor and trudging along after the elusive foe on the road to Appomattox. Considering this and the fact that Union armies were larger and more powerful than ever, Lincoln clearly demonstrated the ability to inspire continuous sacrifice among followers.
TRUST, LOYALTY, AND RESPECT
The last question, whether or not Lincoln and Davis fulfilled the transformational leadership quality of developing the trust, loyalty, and respect of their followers, is even more difficult to resolve. Both men had their admirers and detractors. William C. Davis' statement that it is possible "to find somewhere all the statements and citations necessary to assert just about any theory"(38) no doubt applies to this issue as well.
Both men had powerful political enemies during the Civil War. Davis had his Senator Louis T. Wigfall to deal with and Lincoln, his Senator Benjamin F. Wade. Davis had John Daniel, editor of the Richmond Examiner, and Lincoln had Manton Marble, editor of the New York World. Davis had Governor Brown of Georgia, and Lincoln Governor Horatio Seymour of New York. But did these detractors speak for the majority? Obviously not. Both Lincoln and Davis remained in office and maintained effective war efforts for four long years.
The trust and loyalty these leaders continued to inspire after the war, as measured by comments of friends and critics alike, would normally be useful in resolving this question. The reliability of these accounts is highly biased, however, because of the martyrdom of both Lincoln and Davis. The assassination of Lincoln, of course, caused friend and foe alike to bury virtually all criticism of him. But even Davis achieved a similar status when he was shackled and chained in Fort Monroe after the war. This action so outraged the country, North and South alike, that the "Lost Cause" suddenly became synonymous with the chained, defiant limbs of Jefferson Davis. Even Horace Greely, editor of the powerful New York Tribune, stepped forward with an offer to post bail for Davis.
The best way to resolve objectively the question of whether or not Lincoln and Davis inspired trust, loyalty, and respect is to study systematically the opinions of selected followers, preferably those who worked with them official capacities at different times during the course of the war. Diaries and personal correspondence would be great benefit in such a study.
This paper is only an introduction to the analysis of Lincoln and Davis as transformational leaders. Transformational leadership is a broad subject, and few management theorists attempt to use it alone to analyze a situation, group, or individual. According to Bass, the full range of leadership includes both transformational and transactional leadership. Every leader displays both, but effective leaders are more transformational and less transactional. Lincoln was a visionary statesman (transformational) as well as an astute politician (transactional). Davis' transformational skills appear to have been less effective than Lincoln's, and his transactional or political skills significantly less, but additional study of Davis is clearly justified.
This is an appeal for scholars to use modern leadership theory to perform more in-depth comparisons of Lincoln and Davis, as well as in-depth investigations of each of them individually. From this, much could be learned, not only about these historical figures but also about the effectiveness of presidential leadership in crises. Management theorists tell us that transformational leadership skills can be taught and learned.(39) We have much to learn from the leader who exhorted us with the following, transforming words:
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."(40)
1) See Irvine Werstein, Abraham Lincoln vs. Jefferson Davis (New York: Thomas Y, 1959); T. H. Williams, Two War Leaders: Lincoln and Davis (Illinois: Abraham Lincoln Association, 1972); D.A. Lindsey, Lincoln/Jefferson Davis: The House Divided (Cleveland: H. Allen, 1960); William E. Gienapp "Lincoln and Presidential Leadership" in James McPherson, ed., We Cannot Escape History: Lincoln and the Last Best Hope of Earth (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1993); S. C. Mercer, The Two Kentuckians (Louisville: Press of S. T. Copeland, 1901); Bruce Catton, Two Roads to Sumter (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963); Ludwell H. Johnson, "Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln as War Presidents: Nothing Succeeds Like Success" Civil War History, 27 (1981), 49-63; and William J. Freehling's "The Civil War: Lincoln's Majority Rule or Davis' Consent of the Governed," Social Education, Nov-Dec, (1978), 590-592.
2) For an exception to this statement, see G. W. Cardinale, An Analysis of the Management Style of Abraham Lincoln (EDD Dissertation, University of La Verne, 1980). Cardinale provides a detailed comparison of Lincoln and Davis' conflict resolution techniques and situational leadership skills. A brief study of Lincoln (without comparison to Davis) can be found in Bernard M. Bass, The Ethics of Transformational Leadership (New York: State University of New York Center for Leadership Studies, 1996). Bass states that "the Union survived due to Lincoln's transformational coupled with transactional leadership." See also D. T. Phillips, Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times (New York: Warner, 1992). Phillips reviews Lincoln's leadership skills in light of many of the leadership lessons of modern-day leadership theorist James M. Burns. Finally, see James M. Burns' Presidential Government: The Crucible of Leadership (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966) for an analysis of some of Lincoln's presidential leadership skills.
3) Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1953) Vol. II, 276.
4) Bernard M. Bass, The Ethics of Transformational Leadership.
5) Bernard M. Bass, Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations (New York: Free Press, 1985).
6) For further study, see Bernard M. Bass, Transformational Leadership: Industrial, Military , and Educational Impact (Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1998); or Bernard M. Bass and R. M. Stogdill, Bass and Stogdill's Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research, and Managerial Applications (New York: Free Press, 1990).
7) Sydney E. Ahlstrome, in his monumental study on religion in America, A Religious History of the American People (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972) stated, on p. 649, that "Had there had been no slavery, there would have been no war. Had there been no moral condemnation of slavery, there would have been no war."
8) Henry Cleveland, Alexander H. Stephens, in Public and Private: With Letters and Speeches, Before, During, and Since the War (Philadelphia, 1886), 717.
9) Basler, Collected Works, Vol. IV, 160.
10) William C. Davis, Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour (New York: Harper Collins, 1991), 182.
11) Typical arguments are found in Samuel S. Hill, Jr. The South and North in American Religion (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1980).
12) James W. Silver Confederate Morale and Church Propaganda (Tuscaloosa: Confederate Publishing Company, 1957), 23.
13) See Section 9, Article 4 of the Confederate Constitution: "No bill of attainder, or ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves, shall be passed."
14) In Carl N. Degler, Place over Time: The Continuity of Southern Distinctiveness (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1977), p. 76 the author states "the overwhelming majority of white Southerners accepted slavery and the values that surrounded it, because that kind of slavery served their interests as well as those of the slaveholder."
15) James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 241-242; and Hill, The South and North, 33.
16) See Bell I. Wileys Road to Appomattox (New York: Atheneum, 1968), 104-105; Kenneth Stampps The Imperilled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980); Richard E. Beringer, Herman Hattaway, Archer Jones, and William N. Stills Why the South Lost the Civil War (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986), 439 and 425-426; Charles G. Sellers, Jr. "The Travail of Slavery" in Charles G. Sellers, Jr., ed., The Southerner as American (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1960).
17) See Anne C. Loveland, Southern Evangelicals and Social Order, 1800-1860 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980), 128-129; Samuel S. Hill, ed., Religion in the Southern States: A Historical Survey (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1983), 14; Silver, Confederate Morale, 31; and Robert Manson Myers, ed., The Children of Pride: A True Story of Georgia and the Civil War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), 993.
18) Gardiner H. Shattuck, A Shield and Hiding Place: Religious Life of the Civil War Armies (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1987), 63-64.
19) Silver, Confederate Morale, 93.
20) ibid., 55.
21) General Orders No. 49, August 3, 1861, OR, 3, 1:382.
22) William C. Davis Jefferson Davis, 297.
23) T. Harry Williams Two War Leaders: Lincoln and Davis, 12.
24) Davis first inaugural was on February 18, 1861, in Montgomery AL when he was selected president of the provisional Confederate government. His second inaugural was on February 22, 1862, when he was formally elected president of the permanent Confederate government.
25) Dunbar Rowland, ed., Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist: His Letters, Papers, and Speeches (New York: AMS Press, 1923), 199.
26) From the Richmond Dispatch, Feb. 9, 1865, quoted in Charles H. Wesley The Collapse of the Confederacy (Washington, DC: Associated Publishers), 91.
27) Lee to Hunter, January 11, 1865, War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, (hereafter OR), 128 vols. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), Series 4, 3:1013-1014.
28) Cobb to Seddon, January 8, 1865, OR, 4, 3:1009-1010..
29) Basler, Collected Works, Vol. II, 320.
30) Stephen B. Oates, With Malice Toward None (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 319.
31) Basler, Collected Works, Vol. V, 537.
32) ibid., Vol. VII, 23.
33) ibid., Vol. V, 388.
34) For loss of will to fight, see Wesleys The Collapse of the Confederacy; Wileys Road to Appomattox; James Oakes The Ruling Race: A History of American Slaveholders (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982); Stampps The Imperiled Union; Beringer, et. al., Why the South Lost, and Shattuck, A Shield and Hiding Place. For the opposite opinion, see Gary Gallaghers The Confederate War (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1997). Gallagher proposes that the Southern people maintained the will to fight up until the final weeks of the war, and it was by the Norths overwhelming force that they were ultimately defeated.
35) William C. Davis, Jefferson Davis, 584.
36) Douglas S. Freeman, R. E. Lee (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1935), Vol. 4, 144.
37) James McPherson For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 98.
38) William C. Davis, The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1996), 113.
39) See Gary Yukl, Leadership in Organizations (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1994).
40) Basler, Collected Works, Vol. VIII, 333.
About the Author: Gordon Leidner received his MGA in Applied Management from The University of Maryland, University College. He is a PMI-registered Project Management Professional (PMP).