On March 4, 1865, during the culmination of the Civil War and a month prior to his assassination by John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865), US 16th President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) delivered his second inaugural address. Based on the book ‘Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution’ by James M. McPherson which was published in 1991 by Oxford University Press, the speech of President Lincoln was central to the Civil War and Slavery which the utterance have emphasized the following:
“Without iniquity to no one, with generosity and helpfulness for all and with rightful determination, God blessed us to see righteousness. Let us endeavor to finish the task we have; to heal the wound of our nation; be concerned for the motherland and who fought for her freedom, and for the widowed and orphaned—to do all which may accomplish and value a just and lasting peace, amongst us and with all countries abroad”. (5)
In his book, McPherson (1991) described the Second American Revolution in seven essays. It referred to the struggle of forming the Union and the Confederate States America, wherein the government has waged war on various issues that confronted the US government under the leadership of President Lincoln. This paper will discuss and review the works of McPherson (1991), relating the legacy of President Lincoln on how the Second American Revolution received both positive and negative feedback from various fronts, and yet, the dwindling political career of President Lincoln was rescued amidst turbulent criticisms.
James M. McPherson (1991) has revealed America’s historical accounts in “one broad sweep of events” on the socio-political and socio-cultural forces during the American Civil War period. McPherson has presented sequential thoughts and insightful themes on the breadth and depth of context in American history. The book adeptly examined President Lincoln’s critical leadership as the Union forces’ Commander-in-Chief, describing how Lincoln devised national strategic moves of the military forces. Likewise, exploring the significant capabilities of President Lincoln how he managed the turbulent political criticism of his government.
Throughout the book, McPherson (1991) examined the Civil War which he referred as the Second American Revolution, recounting how the Congressional leadership or dominance of the Republicans has enacted the laws in the 1860s, and how the Civil War not only destructed the “social structure” of the old South but drastically changed the equilibrium of American political power in America, ceasing 70 years of “Southern power” in the State (national) government. The American Civil War was the sole transformative and reverberating American life experience which is monumental in Abraham Lincoln’s leadership. Thus, McPherson has acquired the historical accounts that usher both present and future perspectives.
Critique of the Dictator
Accordingly, President Lincoln was badly criticized by his detractors from the ruling British elites and its allies, as he declared the emancipation of slavery. McPherson (1991) wrote and described the following accounts:
“In October 1862, President Lincoln asserted that the armed conflict must be destroyed together with the immoral practices of slavery that are held by the social elites and aristocrat families who have controlled our homeland, and from which must be replaced with the virtues of Republicans”. (4)
It was then the reaction of the elite families and political warlords who were responded by the Republican government with drastic measures. As cited, the defiance has faced the enigmatic response of the State, wherein the habeas corpus was suspended, which was attributed as tarnishing the Constitutional rights of the aristocrat families, and to the point that freedom of the press was inflicted by the Executive Mandamus (Presidential Order) to “limit the publication of insignificant news”, pertaining to the reaction of the elite social groups that openly criticized the Lincoln administration (6).
Socio-Economic and Political Interest
To briefly discuss some of the significant historical accounts of McPherson (1991), he also examined the socio-economic and political interest of the newly installed Republican government. McPherson (1991) quoted that the “comprehensive strategy in gaining the equilibrium (balance) of socio-economic and political power from Northern to Southern American states has merited the domestic hostilities” (9), in which the liberation of 4 million slaves has escalated the popular call for social justice and racial equality.
However, the socio-economic restructuring from the control of internal and external elites have affected the migrant families, for the reasons that only Americans must first benefit from the economic reforms, from which the liberated African slaves must be returned to their home countries. As cited, the reconfiguration of the American economy in the 1860s was meant for the American families, and therefore, the freedom of the slaves must be enjoyed in their own countries, in which President Lincoln directed the deportation of African slaves (10).
It may be analyzed that the historical account of McPherson (1991) in this section of the book review foretells the “conflict of interest” in the distribution or sharing of economic resources, wherein the presence of the liberated 4 million African slaves would hurt the economic distribution to the legitimate citizens of the Republican state.
Findings and Conclusion
The brief review of McPherson’s (1991) book has found significant and substantial historical information on how the American Civil War has ushered the present perspectives of the US Federal government in nurturing its “balance of power” within its internal and external governmental affairs. Of which, McPherson (1991) concluded in his statement that “the optimistic freedom of centralized power gave way to the pessimistic autonomy of decentralized federalism” (84). Meaning, the effects of drastic socio-economic and political changes brought about by the “revolutionized” Republican reform has indeed “confederated” the American states within a unified governmental leadership.
The above interpretation exemplifies what the American political system has today in leading Federal governance. In a sense, history tells how the “union” of State Confederacy has made and outlived the American nation as truly a United States of America. In retrospection on the book of McPherson (1991), I am intensely moved by the historical accounts that seemed unrevealing from other American history books. In conclusion, the book of McPherson is a contemporary finding of historical artifacts that would harness everyone’s insights and interests to revisit the richness of life experiences in the past; the birthright of present and future American generations.
- McPherson, J. M. 1991. “Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution”.
- Oxford University Press, ISBN13: 9780195076066. 08 May 2009