Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution Article Review

In James M. McPherson’s Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, McPherson describes how the Civil War changed over time, and how Abraham Lincoln changed with the war. McPherson suggested that Lincoln could be viewed as a “conservative revolutionary,” and proposed that there were three main ways in which Lincoln as a revolutionary leader was seen as.
The first way that McPherson describes the Civil War as a revolution was “the frequent invocation of the right of revolution by southern leaders to justify their secession.” (p.24) This means that the real revolution of the Civil War era lied in the secession of the South. McPherson says that according to the South, their rebellion just exercising the right to rebel as so greatly portrayed by the revolutionary forefathers in 1776, and that it was not necessarily a revolution, but rather a counterrevolution to the revolution the North was creating with abolition. On the other hand, the North saw the secession as a “wicked exercise,” and that a successful secession would make the experiment of a government of the people and by the people a “laughing stock of the world.” McPherson suggests that if the secession was viewed as a revolution from the South, then Lincoln’s plans to keep the Union in tact were conservative. However, if it was a counterrevolution that the South carried out against the North’s revolution, then Lincoln was indeed a revolutionary with his abolition and civil rights movements.
The second way in which McPherson describes the Civil War as revolutionary is in the abolition of slavery.   He puts Lincoln into the category of ‘definitely revolutionary’ in this one. McPherson explains how the North’s goal at first was just to preserve the Union—as well as Lincoln’s. Although he would’ve liked to have slavery abolished right away, in 1861 Lincoln “couldn’t act officially on his private judgment [on] the moral question of slavery.” Therefore, he at first took on a conservative role by keeping the...