From the Family of the Lionnby M.E. Bradfordn’There is a kind of revolution of so general a character that it changes the tastesnas well as the fortunes of the world.”n— La RochefoucauldnAbraham Lincoln and the SecondnAmerican Revolutionnhy James M. McPhersonnNew York: Oxford University Press;n192 pp., $17.95nThere is a popular myth of AbrahamnLincoln, our 16th President,nthat is known to most Americans. Accordingnto the orthodox version of thisnhighly sympathetic construct, Lincolnnwas a plain and honest fellow, called bynother plain, uncalculating men to preserventhe handiwork of the Fathers, thenOld Republic, perfecting that inheritancenin the process of keeping it together.nThis Lincoln is no illustration ofnfrenzied ambition, but rather a simplensoul who had stumbled first into thenpractice of law and then into Illinoisnpolitics. He hated war but was determinednto honor a trust put into hisnhands, even if that commitment meantnmore killing than in all other Americannwars put together. A reluctant andngentle conqueror, he stood ready, oncensecession had ended, to welcome thenSouth back into the national family: likenthe father in the parable, rejoicing at thenreturn of foolish children. Such is thenM.E. Bradford is a professor ofnEnglish at the University of Dallas.n30/CHRONICLESnLincoln who grew melancholy in thinkingnof what blacks endured and whon”died to make them free.” This FathernAbraham, the sad man of Illinois, thenprairie republican/Republican, in hisnspirit still hovers over this nation, givingndirection and encouragement to successivengenerations of his countrymen. Ofnhis early life we know that he identifiednwith the poor, that he read by firelight,nlost his sweetheart, deplored the MexicannWar, and served a frontier communitynas a member of the state legislaturenand the U.S. Congress. As a spokesmannfor wholesome, local ways, he debatednStephen Douglas. And he truly sufferednin presiding over his country at war,nspending blood only with agonized reluctance—ncertainly with no idea ofnreshaping its social and political order sonas to make of it a vehicle for his privatendreams of what power in the state mightnaccomplish. So goes the myth.nIn making, over a period of twondecades, a series of scholarly objectionsnto the distortion and oversimplificationnembodied in this myth, I had the pleasurenof being treated briefly as the objectnof national puzzlement and irritation.nFor about five weeks I was cast as thenleading villain in a political melodramanof what a public servant is allowed tonbelieve: anathema because of what Insaid about the American past. Obvious­nnnly, what I thought of Lincoln was notnthe real issue behind this affected andnrhetorical outrage at my political heresy.nBut to my surprise, it is now evident thatnin most fashionable academic neighborhoodsnmy understanding of Lincoln asntransforming agent (which is, in essence,nWillmoore Kendall’s view of thenevidence) has come all the way aroundnto seem not at all farfetched. Or at leastnthat is true of the descriptive componentnof my analysis.nJames M. McPherson’s AbrahamnLincoln and the Second AmericannRevolution summarizes the currentntrend in interpretive historiography onnthis subject. His Lincoln is a radicalnrefounder of the “Old Republic of thenFathers,” like the “lion” and “eagle” ofnwhich Lincoln had first spoken in hisn1838 “Springfield Lyceum Speech”;nan American Caesar who, in McPherson’snphrase, through “his own superbnleadership, strategy, and sense ofntiming . . . determined the pace of thenrevolution [of 1860] and ensured itsnsuccess.” Arguing more or less to thensame effect, Carl N. Degler in thenNew York Times last February 12nmaintained that Lincoln was thenAmerican Bismarck and that “Whatnthe [Civil] War represented, in thenend, was the forceful incorporation ofnthe South into a newly created na-n