The first American Revolution spanned from 1775 to 1783, after which the United States received recognition of independence by and from Great Britain. Rhetorical or hyperbolic references to a Second American Revolution have been made on a number of occasions throughout the history of the United States.
A second (or third, or fourth) American revolution was conceived early on as attainable via the Article V Convention, as set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Occasional conventions were envisioned by many of the country's founding generation of leaders to be a sort of institutionalized avenue toward the ideal of revolution every twenty years, often attributed to Thomas Jefferson. According to Samuel Williams of Vermont (1743–1817), it was to be the means to accomplish periodic constitutional adaptation to changing times. Born the same year as Jefferson, Williams saw the federal constitutional convention as the vehicle for what loose constructionists today term the “living, breathing constitution.”
The War of 1812 between the United States and the United Kingdom is sometimes referred to as the second American Revolution, stemming from the second British recognition of 1781 American borders.John C. Calhoun was perhaps the first to make this claim.
The Confederates thought they were fighting a second American Revolution by attempting to secede from the United States during the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865. It was also used in the 1920s by historian Charles A. Beard to emphasize the changes brought on by the Union's victory.
Historian Charles A. Beard first proposed--in 1927--that the US Civil War and emancipation amounted to a second American revolution. Subsequently, many historians--including James M. McPherson, Gregory P. Downs, and Bruce Levine--have argued that that the fight against and victory over slavery amounts to a second American Revolution.
In the dystopian novelThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. a Christian fundamentalist movement known as the "Sons of Jacob" set off a Second Revolution by staging an attack that kills the President and most of Congress. They win the war and suspend the US Constitution under the pretext of restoring order. The new regime, known as the Republic of Gilead, moves quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical regime of Old Testament-inspired social and religious fanaticism among its newly created social classes. In this society, human rights are severely limited and women's rights are even more curtailed; for example, women are forbidden to read or work normal jobs. The Republic of Gilead is quickly able to take away women's rights, largely attributed to financial records being stored electronically and labelled by gender.
The National Secessional Forces in the 2000 video game Deus Ex are stated to believe that they are fighting the Second American Revolution.
In the upcoming alternative history video game Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, the United States is occupied by Nazi forces after losing the Second World War due to the Nazi's anachronistically advanced technology. The game's protagonist, B.J. Blazkowicz, reunites with his allies from the previous game with the intention of staging a second American Revolution to overthrow the occupation and the puppet government that supports it.
^Samuel Williams, The Natural and Civil History of Vermont, 2 vols. (Burlington VT, Samuel Mills, 1809) 2:395-96. Congregational minister, Harvard professor, author of the first history of Vermont, and founder of Vermont's oldest continuously published newspaper; Rev. Williams considered a rigid, unchanging constitution to be high folly, in that "no policy would appear more puerile or contemptible to the people of America, than an attempt to bind posterity to our forms, or to confine them to our degrees of knowledge, and improvement: The aim is altogether the reverse, to make provision for the perpetual improvement and progression of the government itself….”