Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution book by James M. McPherson is a collection of essays that describe how the American Civil War changed over time. The author displays authentic and keen prose as he evaluates various vital themes in the history of America. The book present short essays, which attempt to bring out the true meaning of the American Civil War and the role that Abraham Lincoln played in it. The essays try to explain the following questions: how the North and the south would have adopted opposite ideas of liberty; were the Northerners fighting against slavery or for the Union; what was the real feeling of Lincoln regarding slavery and what did it finally achieve.
The seven prevailing essays examine Abraham Lincoln himself, as a revolutionary or as a conservative, as a champion of the changing liberty concept, as a writer, as a speaker, as a Commander in Chief, and as a persistent hero among crafting indecisive personalities. The central theme that connects all the essays is that the very purpose and nature of the Civil War transformed from 1861 to 1865 and that Abraham Lincoln fiercely perceived this, directed the conflict and saw it succeed. Initially, the Civil War was a restricted war. Its only goal was to stop insurrection. However, between the initial Union disaster and the Gettysburgs high point, the conflict evolved to become a full-scale war, then to a total war.
The essays also provide a comprehensive description of how Abraham Lincoln changed with the Civil war. Throughout this book, Abraham Lincoln can be perceived as a conservative revolutionary. The author proposes that there exists three major ways through which Abraham Lincoln gets depicted as a revolutionary leader. These essays describe the Civil war as a revolution because of the recurrent invocation of the revolution right by leaders of the South in order to justify their succession. In other words, this is to say that the real revolution of the American Civil war period dependent in the Souths succession, not on the North. The rebellion of the South exercising the right for rebellion gets portrayed by the revolutionary forefathers during 1776. It was not essentially a revolution, but a counterrevolution to a revolution that the North was developing with the abolition of slavery.
The Northerners saw the succession be a wicked exercise, and that a succession was to become successful could make the experiment of democracy a joke for the world. McPherson highlights that, if the succession from the South got viewed as a revolution, the plans by Lincoln to maintain the Union intact would be considered to be conservative. On the other hand, if the South carried a counterrevolution against the revolution in the North, then Lincoln was to be regarded as a revolutionary with his civil rights and abolition movements.
This essays focus on the American Civil War, as well as Lincolns role in the majority of the transformations, which came about from the war; for instance, the political social order that occurred in the South and millions of slaves who got liberated. Basically, the author of these essays tries to support his claim that Abraham Lincoln, who was the 16th president of the United States, was both a revolutionary and a conservative. On the other hand, one major significant aspect of this book is that the author explores something that the majority of historians and scholars tend to pay no attention to, the war leadership strategy and ability of Abraham Lincoln.
Through the abolition of slavery, the essays illustrate the Civil War to be a revolutionary. In this context, Abraham Lincoln gets categorized as definitely revolutionary. On the other hand, the essays describe how the goal of the Northerners was initially to sustain the Union and Lincoln. However, it can be noted that, Lincoln also took a conservative role. This occurred in 1861 when Lincoln would not officially act on his private judgment regarding the morality of slavery.
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What the author seems to be more interested is in philosophical change. From the first essays, it is evident that, throughout the Civil War, there was a shift in negative liberty. This implies freedom from oppression by the government, to positive liberty. This means the right to protection. As a result, it became guaranteed by the government and the war played a major role in making it possible. The other essays look at the role that Abraham Lincoln played as a revolution leader and the aspects that made him become popular. McPherson looks closely at the role of the president as the Commander-in-Chief of the Union forces, portraying how Lincoln was able to forge a national military strategy that enabled the Union to achieve victory. On the other hand, the essays explore and bring into right the significance of Abraham Lincolns impressive rhetoric skills, revealing how, through figurative language and parables, he was exclusively capable to communicate the aim of the war, as well as a new implication of liberty to the Northerners.
Abraham Lincoln exclusively grasped the implication of the Civil War. Since the South institutions would have been smashed before they could surrender, emancipation could have become the strategy of the war. On the other hand, since the Souths economy could have been thrown, Abraham Lincoln could have turned to total-war general such as Philip Sheridan and William Tecumseh Sherman. As emancipation turned out to be the cause, it necessitated a brand new liberty concept in America: freedom from intrusion by the government ought to yield to the freedom enforced by the power of the government. However, Lincoln saw this and offered it a powerful, eloquent voice, and Lincolns determined single-mindedness allowed him to contemplate unswervingly on conserving America while everyone around him panicked and hedged.
The essays also examine the American Civil War as a Second Revolution, unfolding how the Republican Congress, which was elected in 1860, passed an amazing blitz of new laws. These laws rivalled the first hundred years of the New Deal. Also, the author shows how the Civil war, not only dismantled the old South social structure, but also how it radically transformed the power balance in America, bringing to an end the 70 years of the national government power in the South. American Civil became the most single defining, as well as transforming experience in the history of America and Abraham Lincoln still remains the most vital figure in history.
The first and the last essays try to address what the Civil War ultimately accomplished. From these essays, it can be noted that the war left regional power balance in the country forever reversed, the economy of the South, which was based on slavery devastated and the blacks better off. However, what is important is that the Civil War gave liberty a brand new meaning. Initially, liberty meant freedom from the power of the government, but the Civil War made it imply freedom of opportunity, which the government power can only guarantee. As a result, the federal government turned out to be a freedom agent instead of an enemy. The majority of the revolutionary gains that the war won became overturned in the counterrevolution on the mid-1860s when there was reconstruction abandonment.
It is evident from this essays that Lincolns goal was the conservation of the Union as the founding fathers revolutionary heritage. Lincoln was responsible for the absolute union victory. The essays express the lasting significance of Lincolns words and ideas in aspects such as the implication of freedom, limits of individual liberty and the government power in times of conflicts and wartime leadership problems.