The Second American Revolution: The Civil War-Era Struggle Over Cuba and the Rebirth of the American Republic

Gregory P. Downs (Author)


Much of the confusion about a central event in United States history begins with the name: the Civil War. In reality, the Civil War was not merely civil--meaning national--and not merely a war, but instead an international conflict of ideas as well as armies. Its implications transformed the U.S. Constitution and reshaped a world order, as political and economic systems grounded in slavery and empire clashed with the democratic process of republican forms of government. And it spilled over national boundaries, tying the United States together with Cuba, Spain, Mexico, Britain, and France in a struggle over the future of slavery and of republics.

Here Gregory P. Downs argues that we can see the Civil War anew by understanding it as a revolution. More than a fight to preserve the Union and end slavery, the conflict refashioned a nation, in part by remaking its Constitution. More than a struggle of brother against brother, it entailed remaking an Atlantic world that centered in surprising ways on Cuba and Spain. Downs introduces a range of actors not often considered as central to the conflict but clearly engaged in broader questions and acts they regarded as revolutionary. This expansive canvas allows Downs to describe a broad and world-shaking war with implications far greater than often recognized.

Product Details

University of North Carolina Press
Publish Date
November 25, 2019

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About the Author

Gregory P. Downs is assistant professor of history at the City College of New York. He is author of Spit Baths, a Flannery O'Connor Award-winning collection of short stories.


With graceful and forceful prose, Downs links the mid-nineteenth-century history of the United States to that of the broader Atlantic world--in particular, to Cuba and Mexico in their struggles against European powers to end slavery and establish anti-imperialist democracies.--Foreign Affairs

[A] thought-provoking . . . compelling. . . . Innovative book that contains a clear, original argument about defining the Civil War as a revolutionary event. Furthermore, it is an expansive monograph that contains new insights about the transnational nature of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Downs's work will undoubtedly spark stimulating debates and important conversations in the years to come about the meaning of one of the most significant and transformative periods in US history.--H-Net Reviews