Politician Abraham Lincoln

Table of Content

Abraham Lincoln

            James M. McPherson is a George Henry David Professor of American History at Princeton University. He is also the author of, “Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution”. In this book, he discusses Abraham Lincoln’s role in the Civil War, by using seven different essays. These essays help the American people understand how Lincoln led the way of no longer having our country be known as a Union, but as a “nation to invoke a new birth of freedom and nationhood” in the United States. (McPherson).  He is the man that I believe shaped our nation into the great country it is today with his expertise in the war, with our economy, his dedication in having positive liberty, and his use of metaphors.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

            The first essay titled, ‘The Second American Revolution’, mainly discusses how the Civil War had a dramatic change on the United States and how it had a huge impact on slavery. Before Abraham Lincoln’s role in the War, the United States was a nation who allowed slavery. In New England, where the Industrial Revolution was at, economically spread out and defeated the plantation economy. The prevailing order in the south was weakened, but not fully destroyed. The blacks were still not fully treated as equals, but they were earning more rights. For example, the congress passed the fourteenth amendment, which granted blacks equal civil right, but not equal voting rights. In the first essay, I believe McPherson is mainly interested in discussing the United States dramatic change in liberty.  During the Revolution the United States was known as having a negative liberty, because of our freedom from government oppression, but then it soon after turned into a positive liberty, because the U.S federal government helped protect our rights.

The second essay, ‘Abraham Lincoln and the Second Revolution’, discusses Lincoln’s role as the leader of the revolution. McPherson gives many examples of why people believed Abraham Lincoln was a conservative and a Revolutionary. For example, Lincoln himself wanted to “stand on middle ground”, avoid “dangerous extremes,” and achieve his goals through “the spirit of compromise and mutual concession”. (McPherson). James G. Randall stated that Lincoln believed in “evolution rather than revolution.”  Many other people like historians have agreed with Randall about this claim. I also agree with Randall about Lincoln being a conservative; Lincoln’s attitude during his presidency, mainly during the Revolutionary War, greatly improved our nation and how to handle issues in a civilized way. An influential wartime newspaper, “predicted that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation would accomplish the greatest social and political revolution of the age.” Otto Olsen believed Lincoln “led the nation in its achievements of this result.” (McPherson).  Which I greatly consider is the point McPherson is trying to prove in this essay.

In the third essay, ‘Lincoln and Liberty’, McPherson discusses how Lincoln’s idea of positive liberty, may have not been the same meaning as the American people. Lincoln stated that to “some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same may mean for some men to do as they please with other men and the product of other men’s labor.”  Lincoln’s point about liberty having different meanings was soon made; Maryland was debating on amending their own constitution on the issue of abolishing slavery in their own state. The disagreement on whether to abolish slavery or not, soon “split the white population down the middle, with one side supporting it as a step toward liberty, and the other condemning it as a despotic blow against liberty.” (McPherson).  Although, I agreed with Lincoln on his views on liberty one man greatly disagreed. A Maryland man was the one responsible for the assassination of Lincoln, claiming he shot him “in the name of liberty.” (McPherson).

In the fourth essay, ‘Lincoln and the Strategy of Unconditional Surrender’, McPherson claims that Lincoln’s role as supreme military commander in the Civil War was an issue that he did not receive enough credit for. Lincoln was very devoted to this war in fact, “military matters took up more of his time and attention than any other matter.” (McPherson).  He took his “constitutional duty as commander in chief of the army and navy seriously, by borrowing books on military strategy from the Library of Congress and burned the midnight oil reading them.” (McPherson). Lincoln, not only help free the slaves, but I believe he was one of the most dedicated Presidents in trying to make America a stronger and peaceful country, by using the interest of the people. Lincoln’s most important contribution was “his determination to accept no peace short of unconditional surrender.” (McPherson). He helped create one of the largest navy and army’s in the world, which is one of the many reasons that scared the south into making peace negotiations.

In the fifth essay, “How Lincoln Won the War with Metaphors, the subject McPherson mainly discusses is Lincoln’s use of metaphors. When comparing Jefferson Davis with Lincoln, McPherson states that Davis “did not communicate effectively with other confederate leaders and with the southern people.” (McPherson). Lincoln on the other hand “expressed himself in such a clear, forceful, logical manner”. (McPherson). His usage of metaphors in writing and speaking are what I believe made him a great communicator, which Davis did not do. In fact, if Lincoln’s role in the Civil War was so important that if had not been the leader of the South in the war, the confederacy might have maintained its independence.

The absence of such themes concurring through the book weakens the narrative, and it remains more an anthology than a focused monograph. Another such problem is the repetition between the essays. The final essay repeats almost all of the discussion about Isaiah Berlin’s concepts of positive and negative liberty, before launching into the new theme. That theme, the turning away from positive liberty back to negative liberty during reconstruction, is fascinating. During reconstruction, Republicans had to constantly use the military in order to enforce equality for blacks on the unwilling Southrons. The disillusionment from Reconstruction and the resurrected fear from governmental tyranny left the racist policies of the South for another century, when Martin Luther King finished that job that Abraham Lincoln has began.

The sixth essay, ‘The Hedgehog and the Foxes’, is basically comparing Lincoln to a hedgehog.  McPherson states that this notion was suggested by a Greek poet named Archilochus. Archilochus compares Lincoln to this by claiming “the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”  In trying to understand what the poet meant, a British philosopher Isaiah Berlin believed he meant that the “hedgehog was a thinker or leader who relates everything to a single central vision… a single, universal, organizing principle.” The fox on the other hand “pursues many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory.” Meaning Lincoln concentrated on his main goal, which was to make the United States free of slavery, and did not focus on other unnecessary issues. He concentrated on one issue at a time to make sure he handled every problem at the best of his abilities. The final essay, ‘Liberty and Power in the Second American Revolution’, is like many of the other essays because it is discussing Lincoln’s views about liberty once again.

“Abraham Lincoln and The Second Revolution” is mainly discussing how Lincoln used his skills and dedication in shaping our nation. For example, the author used quotes from numerous people, like authors and philosophers; Lincoln was compared to future presidents and many other people who made the U.S what it is today. Lincoln played the most important role in the Civil War, and without him the south would have taken over our nation. Without Lincoln, the United States, being unrecognizable in our time, could have been a nation that still allowed slavery.

Work Cited

McPherson, James M. Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991

Cite this page

Politician Abraham Lincoln. (2016, Jun 08). Retrieved from


Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront