Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution (Magill Book Reviews)
ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND THE SECOND AMERICAN REVOLUTION comprises seven essays drawn from lectures and papers McPherson presented on various occasions. To gather these into book form, as the author freely admits in his preface, runs the risk of redundancy. It is a risk that McPherson loses, as the essays frequently cite the same anecdotes, incidents, and quotations to make the same point. Simply put, there is material here for one excellent scholarly essay; there is not enough for a book.
Having said which, however, one must acknowledge McPherson’s mastery of his topic—the change the Civil War effected in America’s concept of liberty. Prior to the war, Americans thought of liberty as the restraint of government from tyrannizing over the individual (or state); after the war, liberty became the broadening of opportunity (particularly for its freed slaves), resulting from an extension of the power of the national government. McPherson’s thesis is that this redefinition of liberty and the role the government must play in fostering it was a direct result of Abraham Lincoln’s steady resolve, his genius as a communicator, and his recognition that the abolition of slavery had to be included along with the restoration of the Union as a war aim if the promise of the first America Revolution was to be fulfilled.
McPherson scarcely mentions the economic and social innovations or the political upheaval that mark the Civil War years, except insofar as...
(The entire section is 437 words.)
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Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
No other part of the American past has inspired as many written words as the Civil War. Each year, hundreds of new volumes join the thousands that clog shelves in libraries all over the world. With millions of pages already devoted to the subject, some might argue that there is nothing left to write about the war. When an event transcends the normal pattern of history to become a turning point in the life of a particular society, however, the very best historical interpretation often becomes much more than a simple narrative; it becomes a metaphorical evocation of the meaning of that particular culture. James M. McPherson’s Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution is just such a work.
McPherson, Edwards Professor of American History at Princeton University, established himself as a leading authority on the Civil War with his Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1988). In his new collection of essays, whose title is taken from the second essay, “Lincoln and the Second American Revolution,” McPherson ties together seven separate arguments with one central theme, the revolutionary nature of the Civil War experience. While each essay could stand alone and has appeared in other versions, placing them in the same volume strengthens each and provides a more coherent overall image.
The opening and closing essays deal with the central theme directly by addressing the question of what the war...
(The entire section is 1844 words.)