Radical Republicans

The Radicals, were a faction of the regular Republican Party, and came to prominence on the national level after 1860. They didn’t achieve majority status within Republican ranks, but were successful with manipulating the other factions to their advantage. Radical influence was strong in the New England states. Their basic aims included:

  • They viewed the Civil War as a crusade against slavery and supported immediate emancipation.
  • They advocated enlistment of black soldiers
  • They led the fight for ratification of the 13th Amendment.

Radicals were critical of Abraham Lincoln during the war. They complained that Lincoln had hindered the emancipation efforts of two of his military commanders, John C. Fremont and David Hunter and that he had initially opposed the use of black soldiers in the Union Army.

Despite the criticism, Lincoln had the ability to manage the Radical opposition. His successor Andrew Johnson, didn’t have the same skills as Lincoln and his reconstruction plan was ignored by Congress.

In 1867 and 1868, the Radicals passed Reconstruction Acts featuring far harsher treatment of the South. The Radicals also played a leading role in the impeachment of Andrew Johnson and the succeeding trial.

The Radical Republicans in the early 1870s urged Ulysses Grant to take action against Ku Klux Klan, and later pressed for labor reforms, which included improved working conditions in factories and the eight-hour day.

Source: Radical Republicans
Copyright ©2008-2016 ushistory.org, owned by the Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia, founded 1942

Back to top