Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, by James M. McPherson, is a novel that is a compilation of seven separate essays created from papers and lectures that McPherson fabricated on his own. Due to the usage of these seven essays on the same subject, the novel creates some redundancy. Nevertheless, this gives McPherson the power to emphasize crucial components to Abraham Lincolns impact on the second American revolution. McPherson writes throughout the novel that the Civil war was a revolution that saw both political and an economic change due to the sectional conflict that arose between plantation agriculture and industrializing capitalism (McPherson 7).
Revolution can be defined as a period of major economic, political, or social change. Under this definition, the Civil War was revolutionary for many reasons. During the Civil War and Lincoln’s presidency, the United States underwent the biggest national transformation that has occurred thus far in American history. During this time, a few million slaves were emancipated, the southern king cotton political supremacy was brought to an end, and the country finally found itself a sound banking structure as well as a national currency. Despite being both an economic and political revolution, the war can in itself be compiled into a nationwide capitalist revolution. Overall, the war was a conflict between the two opposing capitalist structures of the time. One was very much so reactionary, based on slave labor, and fearful of change while the other was progressive, competitive, innovative, and fearful of change (McPherson 9).
Once the civil war officially began with the confederate bombing of Fort Sumter, Abraham Lincoln had one main goal that he would stop at nothing to achieve. That goal was the safeguarding of the United States of America as a single nation, ruled by the majority rather than the few. He would even result to war due to the inevitability of a bloody war that could possibly be the downfall of the Unites States of America. Lincoln saw his goal being achieved by having both a military and a national strategy for the war. Though Lincoln’s only military experience was being captain of a militia unit that never saw combat in 1832, his nationalism was profound and he was a quick, attentive learner on military strategy (McPherson 115). This could be seen with his ingenious Anaconda plan, where he would attempt to cut off all supplies to the south by blockading the coastlines. This turned the war into one of attrition, of which the industrialized north was far more equipped to handle than the slavery based south. On the national side of things, Lincoln saw no better way to attack a slavery driven economy then by attacking slavery itself.
For this he created the Emancipation Proclamation, that freed all the current slaves in all rebellious states. This began to tear apart the foundation of the south and its core of slavery through many slaves rebelling and joining the union’s cause. When the war was brought to an end, the United States of America was left standing, as a unified, free nation, led by the majority. This freedom and equality was guaranteed by the creation and signing of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. These amendments, known as the Civil War Amendments, were a constitutional revolution, ending slavery once and for all.
McPherson used the compilation of the seven essays to emphasize all the key components of Abraham Lincoln’s impact on the American Civil War.