James Mcpherson's Essay: Abraham Lincoln And The Civil War

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James McPherson’s collection of essays discusses the claims for and against Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War as revolutionary. McPherson holds that both of the aforementioned subjects are revolutionary in nature. The Civil War, he suggests when it is not being looked at through “presentism” is by nature a social and political revolution. Abraham Lincoln, he explains, is a conservative revolutionary; Lincoln’s purpose was always to preserve the union through whichever means presented them as necessary including abolitionism. McPherson explains how the war was revolutionary by dissecting Lincoln’s Presidency in regards to his actions and seemingly contradictory ideologies that led him to the emancipation, unconditional surrender, and constitutional…show more content…
Lincoln had never professed a personal acceptance of the institution of slavery. However, he had established, that if it were necessary to keep the union intact he would not dissolve slavery. When he was sworn in office Lincoln took an oath to the Constitution that protected slavery, and recited his responsibility as president to preserve the nation. The modification in means originated from his position as Commander and Chief of the military during wartime. Although his national strategy was to protect the union, the military strategy that he used to achieve it involved the abolition of slaves and using freed black men to fight alongside the Union soldiers. By this time, the war had shifted from a “limited” war to a “total” war with the purpose to over throw the social, economic, and political format of the southern government and culture. In the transition to a total war, it became clear that Lincoln was no longer to be considered conservative but rather more radical on the issue of slavery. McPherson, however, asserts that he was a “conservative revolutionary” in that he began conservatively, and under the circumstances—of both sides requiring total surrender--- was pushed toward a more radical standpoint to achieve his primary focus of saving the union. His radical stance ultimately led to the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendment to create an
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