The author of Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, James McPherson, has come to be recognized among America’s leading historians. His other acclaimed book, Battle Cry of Freedom, won him Pulitzer Prize and was a national bestseller. The current book is made up of seven essays, which have been taken from papers and lectures which McPherson had presented at various lectures. The author admits that gathering the essays in the form of a book exposes one to the risk of redundancy (McPherson, 1991). This risk appears to have caught up with the author because these essays have frequently cited the same incidents, quotations, and anecdotes so as to drive the same point home. To put it simply, the material here does not warrant an entire book but one excellent article.
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However, we must acknowledge that McPherson has mastered his topic rather well. The main concept is the change which the Civil War brought upon the American’s idea of liberty. Before the war, Americans saw liberty as that restraint of government from tyrannizing over the people (or states); once the war ended, liberty had entailed broadening of the opportunity. This was especially in regards to the freed slaves, and this resulted from the extended powers of the national government. McPherson’s thesis in this book is that the redefined liberty and the role the government had to play to ensure that it was fostered was a direct result of Abraham Lincoln’s steady resolve. He had excellent communication skills and recognized that the abolition of slavery had to go hand in hand with the restoration of the union being one of the war aims (McPherson, 1991). This was if the revolution of the American promises was going to be fulfilled. As such, the author displays sterling prose and keen insight while examining several themes that have persisted within American history.
He dwells on the role played by Abraham Lincoln as the commander-in-chief of overseeing the union forces. He has shown how the president was able to forge the nation’s military strategy culminating in a victory. McPherson has further examined many critical themes. For instance, McPherson has explored the importance of Abraham Lincoln’s acclaimed rhetorical skills. He uncovers how by the use of figurative language and parables, the president was able to give a new meaning of liberty to the Northern people and also the purpose of the war (McPherson, 1991).
McPherson has examined that the Civil War has been the second American Revolution and described the way Republican Congress (which was elected in 1860) was able to pass a raft of new laws that rivaled those passed within hundred years of the New Deal. It further shows how the war destroyed social structures found in the old south but with time changed the balance of power in the United States, and, as a result, ending the 70 years of southern power in the national government. This Civil War was the single most defining and transforming experience within American history as Abraham Lincoln remained the most important personality in the mythology's pantheon (McPherson, 1991).
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However, McPherson has scarcely mentioned the social and economic innovations or the political mayhem which marked the years of the Civil War. The only instance he mentions is where he shows the revolutionary phase of an increase in powers of the federal government. This can, however, be attributed to the fact that his main emphasis lies on the topic of individual liberty. The author has quite rightly insisted on the importance of the issues attached to freedom in the United States during the years immediately before, during and after the war ended. He has demonstrated how those issues ended up preying upon Lincoln's mind and how through inborn ingenuity and courage Lincoln handled these problems (McPherson, 1991).
He later turned it into a weapon for winning the Civil War and later converted it into an end in itself. This sparkling analysis of the essays shows how the president was able to affect some of the most fundamental milestones in the United States since the American Revolution. He has examined factors that made the conflict leave a legacy of social and educational institutions among the blacks, other minorities and white communities (McPherson, 1991). Further, he shows that this conflict provided a platform for civil activism as well as constitutional amendments.
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Thus, where McPherson is concerned, the Civil War was all about liberty, the protection, and extension, of which the United States of America ought to be held responsible for by both historians and in the international court of opinion. Therefore, we can say that this book offers engaging and thoughtful essays on aspects of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln. The areas dealt with have rarely been discussed in-depth and being expounded by one of America's finest historians is welcome. Furthermore, McPherson has examined several important themes in American history providing unusual and fresh perspectives on both the president of that important era and the attendants of the Civil War (McPherson, 1991). Finally, as skillful as the author is, he cannot disguise the fact that because the essays are approaching the same topic from changing points of view, the arguments which buttress his arguments sound recycled.