Radical Republicans

[rad-i-kuh l ri-puhb-li-kuh ns]

What does Radical Republicans mean?

The Radical Republicans were a faction of the Republican Party during the American Civil War. They were distinguished by their fierce advocacy for the abolition of slavery, enfranchisement of black citizens, and holding the Southern states financially and morally culpable for the war.

Examples of Radical Republicans


Examples of Radical Republicans
Radical Republicans are trying to push Texas further right
Bill McCann, Statesman (headline), March, 2018
Everyone should vote to remove Paul Ryan McConnell all of them all these radical Republicans that are in the pockets of the NRA and in the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies out of office they have made America worse not better they are greedy it’s keep the rich rich only
@oozzee, March, 2018
[Timothy] Sandefur is right that in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, Douglass did not join with Sumner and the other Radical Republicans in their call for confiscation and redistribution. Perhaps Sandefur is also right that Douglass’s “theory of freedom” led him to reject this path in those years. What Sandefur does not tell us, though, is that Douglass changed his mind.
Nicholas Buccola, New York Times, March, 2018

Where does Radical Republicans come from?

The Republican Party formed during the second half of the 1850s, primarily in response to growing tensions over the issue of slavery and its expansion in the United States. Representing an anti-slavery platform, the Republicans were largely Northern politicians from free states who had previously belonged to the defunct Whig Party (internally divided on the issue of slavery) or Know-Nothing Party (who took no official stance).

The Radical Republicans were so called because they consisted of members of the Republican Party who were particularly militant and extreme in their rhetoric and policies—that is, radical. Led by Representative Thaddeus Stevens (Pennsylvania) and Senator Charles Sumner (Massachusetts), the Radical Republicans championed the rights of black Americans, beginning with the abolition of slavery and moving on to enfranchisement, federal support, and shares of the property seized from Confederate Southerners during the war. The Radical Republicans were opposed by the conservative Democratic Party and by the more moderate Republicans, the latter of which were represented by President Abraham Lincoln. President Ulysses S. Grant aligned with the Radical Republicans.

Marking the end of the Civil War, the Radical Republicans led the passage of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1865 and pushed for strict penalties for captured Southern states. After the war and Lincoln’s death, the Radical Republicans spearheaded Reconstruction, the movement to reshape the South after the Civil War had ended. They passed the 14th Amendment, which enfranchised black men in 1868, and then installed a strong Northern military presence in the South and sought civil rights for newly freed black Americans. The first elected black officials in US history were Radical Republicans.

Political compromise and economic turmoil soon ended Reconstruction, and with many of their central objectives accomplished, the Radical Republicans dissolved by the 1870s.

Who uses Radical Republicans?

The Radical Republicans played an important role in US history, and they are widely referenced in formal discussions of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Contemporary liberal and progressive American politicians who push strongly for reforms and champion racial equality may be compared to the Radical Republicans, despite the irony that historic Democrats variously opposed the empowerment of black Americans.

Alternatively, members of the modern conservative Republican Party who are particularly vehement about their political ideologies may be called Radical Republicans, though their positions may far from resemble their party’s historic ones.

Outside of the United States, a Radical Republican Party existed in early 20th-century Spain, and is used in the context of Spanish history as well.

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