12th Annual Presidential Symposium

The Transition That Ignited A War, 1860-1861

Via Zoom on Sunday, January 24, 2021

2PM – 4:00PM

Members Only!

They called it the “Great Secession Winter,” the crisis-filled four months between Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 election and his 1861 inauguration. This period may have produced America’s greatest president, but it also triggered the breakup of the United States and a devastating civil war—the price of a reckless overreaction to a so-called illegitimate national election. Our event will explore the crises that followed Lincoln’s victory as a powerful reminder of the perils of questioning our time-honored voting process.

The armed rebellion that followed Lincoln’s successful swearing-in did establish the U. S. as a unified power, and did end slavery in America.  But our symposium will explore whether such goals might have been achieved had Lincoln been universally welcomed as president of all Americans, and permitted to deal with our differences and divisions without war. To be discussed: the legal, political, and cultural arguments for secession and rebellion, Lincoln’s inaugural journey, and the threats against his life, his new Cabinet, his speeches en route to Washington, and the growing resistance (and alternative government) forming in the South.


Chief Justice Frank J. Williams, retired chief justice of Rhode Island, chairman emeritus of The Lincoln Forum, author of Lincoln as Hero, and an expert on the legal issues of the Civil War era

Dr. Ted Widmer, Distinguished Lecturer at the Macaulay Honors Program, City University of New York

Dr. Edna Medford, Professor, and Chairperson at the Department of History at Howard University

Moderator: Harold Holzer, Jonathan F. Fanton Director, Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute

Register here

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The Presidential Symposium is presented with the support of Jean and Bill Soman, and David Lawrence Jr. The Children’s Movement of Florida.

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Live captioning is available for this program

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