Radical Republican (USA)

Radical Republican (USA)

The Radical Republicans is a term applied to a loose faction of American politicians within the Republican party from about 1854 (before the American Civil War) until the end of Reconstruction in 1877. Their main demand was harsh policies toward slavery and the Confederacy during the war, and toward ex-Confederates after the war, as well as support for equal rights for Freedmen (the newly freed slaves). . At all times they were vigorously opposed by the entire Democratic party, and also by numerous moderate Republicans. [ Trefousse (1969)]

The Radical Republicans opposed Lincoln's "too easy" terms for reuniting the United States during Reconstruction, which began in 1863. They proposed an "Ironclad oath" which Lincoln blocked, and the Wade-Davis bill, which Lincoln vetoed in 1864. However the Radicals did control the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, where they demanded a more aggressive prosecution of the war, the faster end to slavery and total destruction of the Confederacy. [ Donald (1996)]

Although President Andrew Johnson at first appeared to be a radical, [ Senator Chandler, a Radical leader, said the new president was "as radical as I am"; Blackburn (1969), p. 113; also McKitrick, "Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction" (1961) p. 60. ] he broke with them and became their chief opponent. They tried, and failed to impeach him, but after the 1866 elections the Radicals generally controlled Congress and could overturn Johnson's vetoes. They rewrote the election laws for the South to enable the Republicans to take power away from the ex-Confederates whom Johnson had appointed there. The Radicals generally promoted these state Republican regimes until the last remaining three collapsed in 1877. [ Scroggs (1958)]

During the American Civil War, and later into the primary part of Reconstruction, the leading Radicals were Thaddeus Stevens in the House, Charles Sumner in the Senate, and John C. Frémont as the 1864 U.S. presidential candidate of the Radical Republicans. Ulysses Grant was elected as a Republican in 1868; after the election he generally sided with the Radicals on Reconstruction policies. The Radicals split in 1872 over Grant's reelection, and lost power after the Democrats gained control of Congress in the elections of 1874. [ Trefousse (1969)]


After the 1860 elections, moderate Republicans dominated the United States Congress. Radical Republicans were often critical of Lincoln, whom they believed was too slow in freeing slaves and supporting their legal equality. Lincoln put all factions in his cabinet, including Radicals like Salmon P. Chase (Secretary of the Treasury), whom he later appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, James Speed (Attorney General) and Edwin M. Stanton (Secretary of War). Lincoln appointed many Radical Republicans, such as journalist James Shepherd Pike,to key diplomatic positions. Angry with Lincoln, In 1864 some Radicals briefly formed a political party called the Radical Democracy Party with John C. Frémont as their candidate for president, until he withdrew.

An important Republican opponent of the Radical Republicans was Henry Jarvis Raymond. Raymond was both editor of the "New York Times" and also a chairman of the Republican National Committee. In Congress the most influential Radical Republicans during the war and later reconstruction were U.S. Senator Charles Sumner and U.S. Representative Thaddeus Stevens (who died in 1868). They led the call for a war that would end slavery. [ Trefousse, "Thaddeus Stevens: Nineteenth-Century Egalitarian" (2001)]


During Reconstruction, Radical Republicans increasingly took control, led by Sumner and Stevens. They demanded harsher measures in the South, and more protection for the Freedmen, and more guarantees that the Confederate nationalism was totally eliminated. Following Lincoln's assassination in 1865, Andrew Johnson, a former War Democrat, became President.

The Radicals at first admired Johnson's hard-line talk. When they discovered his ambivalence on key issues by his veto of Civil Rights Act of 1866, they overrode his veto. This was the first time that Congress had overridden a President on an important bill. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 made African Americans United States citizens and forbade discrimination against them. It was to be enforced in Federal courts. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution of 1868, (with its Equal Protection Clause) was the work of a coalition formed of both moderate and Radical Republicans. [ Trefousse, "Thaddeus Stevens: Nineteenth-Century Egalitarian" (2001)]

By 1866 the Radical Republicans supported federal civil rights for freedmen, which Johnson opposed By 1867 they defined terms for suffrage for freed slaves and limited early suffrage for many ex-Confederates. While Johnson opposed the Radical Republicans on some issues, the decisive Congressional elections of 1866 gave the radicals enough votes to enact their legislation over Johnson's vetoes. Through elections in the South, ex-Confederate officeholders were gradually replaced with a coalition of Freedmen, southern whites and northerners who had settled in the South, sometimes called Carpetbaggers. The Radical Republicans impeached Andrew Johnson in the House but failed by one vote to remove him from office. [ Trefousse, "Thaddeus Stevens: Nineteenth-Century Egalitarian" (2001)]
250px|thumb|right|Grant's last outrage in Louisiana">
in Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper
January 23, 1875
The Radical Republicans led the Reconstruction of the South. All Republican factions supported Ulysses S. Grant for president in 1868. Once in office, Grant forced Sumner out of the party. Grant used Federal power to try to break up the Ku Klux Klan organization. Insurgents, however, and community riots continued harassment and violence against African Americans and their allies into the early 20th century. By 1872 the Liberal Republicans thought that Reconstruction had succeeded and should end. Many moderates joined their cause as well as Radical Republican leader Charles Sumner. They lost as Grant was easily reelected. [ Hesseltine, "Ulysses S. Grant: Politician" (1935)]

In state after state in the south, the Redeemers movement seized control from the Republicans, until only three Republican states were left in 1876: South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana. Rutherford B. Hayes was a moderate Republican. When he became president after the Compromise of 1877, he ordered the removal of federal troops and Redeemers took over.

Liberal Republicans (in 1872) and Democrats argued the Radical Republicans were corrupt by the acts of accepting bribes (notably during the Grant Administration). These opponents of the Radicals demanded amnesty for all ex-Confederates. "Amnesty" in 1872 meant restoring the right to vote and hold office to ex-Confederates, and thus was linked to the founding American principle of consent of the governed. [Ross (1910), pp. 16, 48, 175-76; Robert W. Burg, "Amnesty, Civil Rights, and the Meaning Of Liberal Republicanism, 1862-1872". "American Nineteenth Century History" 2003 4(3): 29-60. ] Foner's history of Reconstruction pointed out that sometimes the financial chicanery was as much a question of extortion as bribes. By 1872 the Radicals were increasingly splintered; in the Congressional elections of 1874 the anti-Radical Democrats took control of Congress. Many former radicals joined the "Stalwart" faction of the GOP, while many opponents joined the "Half-Breeds", but they differed primarily on patronage rather than policy. [ John G. Sproat, "'Old Ideals' and 'New Realities' in the Gilded Age," "Reviews in American History," Vol. 1, No. 4 (Dec., 1973), pp. 565-570]


In the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction, new battles took place over the construction of memory and the meaning of historical events. During the years from the 1890s to the 1940s, for instance, the "Dunning School", based at Columbia University in New York, had outsize influence. It focused on corruption in state governments during Reconstruction, and accused the Republicans of violating the democratic rights of ex-Confederates. Despite efforts by some historians such as W.E.B. Du Bois to provide the perspective of the freedmen, the negative Dunning view of Reconstruction and Negro suffrage held for years.

The progressive and responsible role of Radical Republicans in creating public school systems, charitable institutions and other social infrastructure in the South was ignored. Since the 1960s and the influence of the moral crusade of the Civil Rights era, recent historians in a school of thought sometimes referred to as neoabolitionist have reevaluated the periods of Reconstruction and upgraded the reputation of the Radical Republicans. They argued that the Radical Republicans' advancement of civil rights and suffrage for African Americans following emancipation was more significant than the financial corruption which took place. They also pointed to the African Americans' central, active roles in reaching toward education (both individually and by creating public school systems) and their desire to acquire land as a means of self-support.

Leading Radical Republicans

*John C. Frémont: the 1864 U.S. presidential candidate of the Radical Republicans.
*John Bingham: U.S. Representative from Ohio and principal framer of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
*William Gannaway Brownlow: publisher of the "Knoxville Whig"; Tennessee Governor; U.S. Senator
*Benjamin Butler: Massachusetts politician-soldier; hated by rebels for restoring control in New Orleans.
*Zachariah Chandler: U.S. Senator from Michigan and Secretary of the Interior under Ulysses S. Grant.
*Salmon P. Chase: U.S. Treasury Secretary under President Lincoln; Supreme Court chief justice; sought 1868 Democratic nomination as moderate.
*Henry Winter Davis: U.S. Representative from Maryland.
*James A. Garfield: U.S. House of Representatives leader; less radical than others; U.S. President 1881.
*Hannibal Hamlin: Maine politician; Vice President during Lincoln's first term.
*James H. Lane: U.S. Senator from Kansas, leader of the Jayhawkers abolitionist movement.
*Thaddeus Stevens: Radical leader in the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania.
*Charles Sumner: U.S. Senator from Massachusetts; dominant Radical leader in Senate; specialist in foreign affairs; broke with Grant in 1872
*Benjamin Wade: U.S. Senator from Ohio; he was next in line to become President if Johnson was removed
*Henry Wilson: Massachusetts leader; Vice President under Grant

ee also

*National Union Convention
*Knoxville Whig



Secondary sources

* Belz, Herman. "Abraham Lincoln, Constitutionalism and Equal Rights in the Civil War Era" Fordham University Press, 1998 [http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&docId=53306008 online edition]
* Belz, Herman. "Emancipation and Equal Rights: Politics and Constitutionalism in the Civil War Era" (1978) [http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=103250477 online edition]
* Belz, Herman. "A New Birth of Freedom: The Republican Party and Freedman's Rights, 1861-1866" (2000)
* Benedict, Michael Les. "The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson" (1999)
* Blackburn, George M. "Radical Republican Motivation: A Case History," "The Journal of Negro History," Vol. 54, No. 2 (Apr., 1969), pp. 109-126 [http://www.jstor.org/stable/2716688 in JSTOR] , re: Michigan Senator Zachariah Chandler
* Castel, Albert E. "The Presidency of Andrew Johnson " (1979)
* Donald, David. "Charles Sumner and the Rights of Man" (1970) Major critical analysis.
* Donald, David. "Lincoln" (1996).
* Goodwin, Doris Kearns. "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" (2005).
* Foner, Eric. "Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877" (2002), major synthesis; Bancroft Prize, Parkman Prize, Avery O. Craven Prize and Trilling Prize.
* Harris, William C. "With Charity for All: Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union" (1997) Lincoln as moderate and opponent of Radicals.
* Hesseltine; William B. "Ulysses S. Grant: Politician" (1935), postwar years. [http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=1072175 online edition]
* McFeeley, William S. "Grant: A Biography" (1981). Pulitzer Prize.
* McKitrick, Eric L. "Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction" (1961).
* Milton, George Fort; "The Age of Hate: Andrew Johnson and the Radicals" (1930).
* Nevins, Allan. "Hamilton Fish: The Inner History of the Grant Administration" (1936) Pulitzer Prize.
* Randall, James G. "Lincoln the President: Last Full Measure" (1955).
* Rhodes, James Ford. "History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 to the McKinley-Bryan Campaign of 1896." Volume 6 and 7 (1920) Pulitzer Prize.
* Riddleberger, Patrick W. "The Break in the Radical Ranks: Liberals vs Stalwarts in the Election of 1872," "The Journal of Negro History," Vol. 44, No. 2 (Apr., 1959), pp. 136-157 [http://www.jstor.org/stable/2716035 in JSTOR]
* Ross, Earle Dudley. "The Liberal Republican Movement" (1910) [http://books.google.com/books?id=ZX2q-h-xYFcC&pg=PA202&dq=%22liberal+republicans%22+%22consent%22&lr=&num=100&as_brr=0&ei=su24SKSzAY32sgPo8pDFDg#PPA16,M1 full text online]
* Scroggs, Jack B. "Southern Reconstruction: A Radical View," "The Journal of Southern History," Vol. 24, No. 4 (Nov., 1958), pp. 407-429 [http://www.jstor.org/stable/2954670 in JSTOR]
* Stampp, Kenneth M. "The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877" (1967).
* Simpson, Brooks D. "Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction, 1861-1868" (1991).
* Simpson, Brooks D. "The Reconstruction Presidents" (1998).
* Summers, Mark Wahlgren."The Press Gang: Newspapers and Politics, 1865-1878" (1994)
* Trefousse, Hans. "The Radical Republicans" (1969).
* Trefousse, Hans L. "Thaddeus Stevens: Nineteenth-Century Egalitarian" (2001)] .
* Williams, T. Harry. "Lincoln and the Radicals" (1941).

Primary sources

* [http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war-1865.htm "Harper's Weekly"] news magazine
* [http://www.hti.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?sid=70e7f9526905ba30&idno=ABZ4229.0001.001&view=header&c=moa Barnes, William H., ed. "History of the Thirty-ninth Congress of the United States." (1868) ] useful summary of Congressional activity.
* Blaine, James."Twenty Years of Congress: From Lincoln to Garfield. With a review of the events which led to the political revolution of 1860" (1886). By Republican Congressional leader
* Fleming, Walter L. "Documentary History of Reconstruction: Political, Military, Social, Religious, Educational, and Industrial" 2 vol (1906). Uses broad collection of primary sources; vol 1 on national politics; vol 2 on states
* Hyman, Harold M., ed. "The Radical Republicans and Reconstruction, 1861-1870". (1967), collection of long political speeches and pamphlets.
* Edward McPherson, [http://books.google.com/books?vid=LCCN04007498&id=kaG2Am68tuAC&pg=PP3&dq=mcpherson+period+of+reconstruction " The Political History of the United States of America During the Period of Reconstruction" (1875)] , large collection of speeches and primary documents, 1865-1870, complete text online. [The copyright has expired.]
* Palmer, Beverly Wilson and Holly Byers Ochoa, eds. "The Selected Papers of Thaddeus Stevens" 2 vol (1998), 900pp; his speeches plus and letters to and from Stevens
* Palmer, Beverly Wilson, ed/ "The Selected Letters of Charles Sumner" 2 vol (1990); vol 2 covers 1859-1874
* [http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/moa/moa-cgi?notisid=ABK2934-0012-69 Charles Sumner, "Our Domestic Relations: or, How to Treat the Rebel States" "Atlantic Monthly" September 1863] , early Radical manifesto

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