Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution

Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution

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James McPherson has emerged as one of America's finest historians. Battle Cry of Freedom, his Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the Civil War, was a national bestseller that Hugh Brogan, in The New York Times Book Review, called "history writing of the highest order." In that volume, McPherson gathered in the broad sweep of events, the political, social, and cultural forces at work during the Civil War era. Now, in Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, he offers a series of thoughtful and engaging essays on aspects of Lincoln and the war that have rarely been discussed in depth. McPherson again displays his keen insight and sterling prose as he examines several critical themes in American history. He looks closely at the President's role as Commander-in-Chief of the Union forces, showing how Lincoln forged a national military strategy for victory. He explores the importance of Lincoln's great rhetorical skills, uncovering how-through parables and figurative language-he was uniquely able to communicate both the purpose of the war and a new meaning of liberty to the people of the North.In another section, McPherson examines the Civil War as a Second American Revolution, describing how the Republican Congress elected in 1860 passed an astonishing blitz of new laws (rivaling the first hundred days of the New Deal), and how the war not only destroyed the social structure of the old South, but radically altered the balance of power in America, ending 70 years of Southern power in the national government. The Civil War was the single most transforming and defining experience in American history, and Abraham Lincoln remains the most important figure in the pantheon of our mythology. These graceful essays, written by one of America's leading historians, offer fresh and unusual perspectives on both.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 192 pages
  • 136 x 198 x 10mm | 158.76g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0195076060
  • 9780195076066
  • 975,702

About James M. McPherson

Author of Battle Cry of Freedom (OUP/USA 1988)show more

Review quote

"A stimulating group of essays, incorporating both McPherson's own work on the Civil War along with others like Eric Foner on Reconstruction."--John Tricamo, San Francisco State University"Insightful, provocative, and thought provoking--A valuable source for understanding Lincoln and the longterm structural consequences of the Civil War."--Robert Ubriaco, Jr., Webster University"Essays that go right to the heart of the meaning of the war and Abraham Lincoln's role in it....Crystal-clear, well-reasoned, supremely informed essays....McPherson deftly and convincingly sketches out how Lincoln's vision and leadership made the necessary revolution possible."--The New York Times Book Review"McPherson makes a compelling case for the revolutionary nature of the war."--The Washington Post Book Worldshow more

Review Text

McPherson follows up his sprawling Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War epic Battle Cry of Freedom (1988) with a real change of pace: sparkling analytical essays on how Lincoln effected the most fundamental transformation of American society since the American Revolution. Picking up Charles Beard's concept of the Civil War as a second American Revolution, McPherson examines how the conflict "left a legacy of black educational and social institutions, a tradition of civil-rights activism, and constitutional amendments that provide the legal framework for the second Reconstruction of the 1960s." The seven essays woven around this theme - originally either delivered as lectures or printed in such publications as the Hayes Historical Journal and Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association - are, as befitting their origins, more academic and analytically rigorous than McPherson's earlier great narrative. In the opening and closing pieces, the author convincingly takes issue with the postrevisionist notion that Jim Crow laws wiped out all the advances toward freedom made by the Civil War. On the contrary, he demonstrates, the Union victory forever broke the South's "Slave Power" over the federal government. As thoughtful as these contentions, and more original, are essays on how Lincoln masterfully employed parables and figurative language to define the war's purpose, how he gave the war revolutionary momentum with his demand for the Confederacy's unconditional surrender, and how, unlike Horace Greeley and William H. Seward, he pursued a central vision of the conflict. Skillful as McPherson is, however, he can't disguise the fact that, because these essays approach the same theme from shifting points of view, the anecdotes buttressing his arguments sometimes sound recycled. Filled with the author's usual erudition and lucidity of style - although one wishes for a little more steak to go with the sizzle. (Kirkus Reviews)show more
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