Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution

by James M. McPherson
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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 328

Here are some quotes from Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution by James McPherson:

  • "Before 1861 the two words 'United States' were generally used as a plural noun: 'the United States are a republic.' After 1865 the United States became a singular noun. The loose union of states became a nation" (viii). McPherson writes that the Civil War unified the country—not only politically but also in terms of creating a unified national psyche.
  • "Angry and disillusioned, the president decided to embrace the revolution. That very evening he made up his mind to issue an emancipation proclamation" (33). McPherson traces the way in which Lincoln changed from pursuing a gradual approach to emancipation to pursuing a more radical approach, because congressmen from the border states continued to refuse to pass his measures. Rebuffed by the opposition, Lincoln became more radical in his approach to end slavery.
  • "It was the outcome of the war that transformed and expanded the concept of liberty to include abolition of slavery, and it was Lincoln who was the principal agent of this transformation" (45). Lincoln's decision to end slavery resulted in a radical change in the idea of liberty; formerly, it was associated mainly with freedom from government restrictions. After the war, liberty also became associated with the emancipation of the slaves.
  • "Here lies one of the secrets of Lincoln's success as a communicator: his skill in the use of figurative language, of which metaphor is the most common example" (95). Unlike Jefferson Davis, Lincoln employed well-chosen metaphors and other forms of figurative language to give life to the concepts he wanted to convey—concepts that were, like liberty, at times difficult for people to understand.
  • "But the notion of comparing Lincoln to a hedgehog was suggested by the Greek poet Archilocus: 'The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing'" (113). The author uses the comparison of Lincoln to a hedgehog to emphasize Lincoln's continual commitment to winning the war and pursuing emancipation.

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