Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution

Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution

Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution

Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

Four years after the guns fell silent at Appomattox, Harvard historian George Ticknor reflected on the meaning of the Civil War. That national trauma had riven "a great gulf between what happened before in our century and what has happened since, or what is likely to happen hereafter. It does not seem to me as if I were living in the country in which I was born."

Ticknor had been born in 1791, during the third year of George Washington's presidency, in a country still basking in the glow of the Revolution that had given it birth. He had lived through eighteen presidential administrations and a Second American Revolution that gave the United States "a new birth of freedom" during the administration of its sixteenth president. This is a book about that president and the revolution he led, which so utterly transformed the nation that George Ticknor could scarcely recognize it. Nor could a Louisiana planter who returned home after four years as an officer in the Confederate army to discover that "society has been completely changed by the war. The [French] revolution of '89 did not produce a greater change in the 'Ancien Regime' than has this in our social life."

Abraham Lincoln was not Maximilien de Robespierre. No Confederate leaders went to the guillotine. Yet the Civil War . . .

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