Jan 12, 2018 in Analysis

The Radical and the Republican

The Radical and the Republican is a book written by James Oakes. It talks about Fredrick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and the triumph of the Antislavery politics. Oakes’ book is not a biography of the two men. It is a book that entails the story of the men, who shaped the history of slavery in the United States of America. It also entails their politics and the war that engrossed their era. The book also compares and contrasts the two. At the end of the book one gets to answer the questions, who the radical is and who the republican is. The two leaders have had different ideologies. Lincoln was a lawyer and a politician; this characterizes his ideologies, which were shaped on that line. Douglass was an activist and an abolitionist. Radical abolitionists were those, who had refused to participate in politics, since they believed that the constitution of the country was unethical as it permitted slavery. They believed that slavery had tarnished the whole political system of the country (Oakes, 2008).

For understanding, who the radical is and who the republican is  I will give a close look at the history of the two leaders, one at a time. Abraham Lincoln was born to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. He was born in Kentucky in the county of Hardin. Lincoln was a lawyer; he educated himself by reading books on the law. He spent his early years practicing law, and it is then that the issue of slavery engrossed his mind. He, however, had a political mind. This made him to approach the issue of slavery with a political understanding. He did not see slavery as such a big moral wrong as it had been approved, and endorsed by the majority of the Americans. He saw slavery as an obstacle to the economic growth (Oakes, 2008).

Abraham Lincoln’s entrance in the political arena is what shaped him to be the iconic figure and one of the most celebrated presidents the United States of America has ever had. His story is a story of endurance and perseverance marked by a short spell of being a president. Slavery and recession are some of the two things that engaged his term in office. While Abraham was a dedicated leader, his part as a family man was overshadowed by his busy schedules at work that engulfed his life. He advanced from serving in the House of Representatives to serving in the highest office in the country. It is during his term in office as a president when he created many enemies. This even led to his murder after the end of the civil war. He was a republican. He is also remembered as having run the affairs of the party with the best interests at heart. He would involve even his party members in running ministerial positions. Lincoln is referred to as the “great emancipator”. This is the contrary to his reluctance to bring slavery to an end. His patience in ending the war is what brought the big debate between him and Douglass. While Lincoln was against slavery, he was afraid of enacting immediate measures that would bring it to a halt. He was afraid of an outbreak of a civil war if he brought slavery to an end (Oakes, 2008).

Lincoln’s patience to stopping slavery brings the question whether he was a radical or a republican.  The fact is that Lincoln abhorred slavery since he was a child. His main argument on slavery was that it barred one from gaining from the fruits of his labor. This means that he did not view slavery as a cruelty towards human. This would mean that Lincoln was a radical. He argued that liberated slaves should move to Central America, Liberia, or the Caribbean, where they would be treated fairly and in a better way. He was of the view that blacks and whites could not co-exist on a social and political basis. His fight against slavery is one of the mixed feelings. Here was Lincoln, the emancipator, and here was Lincoln, the politician. Lincoln’s debates on slavery are still memorable. The speeches, however, leave one unsure of whether Lincoln held on to what he was saying (Oakes, 2008).

Oakes presents the two leaders, who got close to each other. Lincoln got attracted to Douglass, while Douglass got attracted to the politics of Lincoln and ideas. The Radical and the Republican written by James Oakes also entails the civil war. Oakes has, however, consigned the real occurrences of the war. Oakes has chosen to enlighten the reader on the thrilling arena of the political intrigues and conflicting beliefs between Lincoln and Douglass (Oakes, 2008).

Frederick Douglass was born in 1817 and died in 1895. His life is a story of a slave to an African American leader. He was an abolitionist up to a certain point in his life, when he became a republican. He was also an author and an activist. Douglass was a slave, but he managed to escape from slavery. His fear of being re-enslaved led him to fleeing to the Great Britain, where he had lived for two years. It is in Britain that he started giving speeches on slavery. He supported the anti-slavery movement back in his home country, America. Douglass had to buy his own freedom, and it was not until in 1847 with the help of English Quakers that he was able to return to America as a liberated man. Douglass is also remembered for his scornful attack during a speech in Rochester. He scorned the insincerity of the American nation that was rejoicing in freedom and sovereignty with speeches, processions and inanity; while within its borders the slaves, who accounted to more than a million, were languishing. Douglass would carry on giving speeches that marked him as an activist. He became a vocal speaker against enslavement and racial inequality. Like Lincoln, Douglass endeavored to educate himself. He became a lecturer after his heart-touching speech in Nantucket. Douglass main mentor was Garrison. The only difference between the two was that Garrison was a radical abolitionist, who deplored Christianity, politics, and even voting in elections (Oakes, 2008).

Douglass saw the political forum as an arena, where he would fight slavery. He grew to become a free thinker and a realistic leader. He is also remembered as a man who fought for the rights of women and black Americans. He died in 1895, at a time when he was supposed to give a speech on women’s rights at a rally (Oakes, 2008).

Douglass first got drawn to Lincoln in 1858. It was a time, when Lincoln had already shown his obligation to the fight against slavery. The Republican Party was, however, of no attraction to Douglass, as it did not meet his stands on anti-slavery. He conferred with Lincoln’s ideologies on slavery. He, however, criticized Lincoln, since he could not bring himself into eradicating slavery. He also conferred with Lincoln during the war. He was, however, still sentimental on Lincoln’s efforts to halt slavery. He questioned Abraham’s caution on stopping the enslavement. Lincoln’s liberation proclamation saw Douglass change his feelings on Lincoln’s approach to slavery. It was the time, when he started supporting the Republican Party. Douglass role as an activist saw him talking about the involvement of the black soldiers who were participating in the war (Oakes, 2008).

The book describes the two great men with different ideologies. It portrays Douglass as a man, who fought slavery on an ethical front and Lincoln, who fought slavery on a political front. This meant that Lincoln integrated politics and principles, unlike Douglass. Lincoln did not sincerely believe in integration of the free slaves with the white race, unlike Douglass. Douglass believed that the two races would live together in harmony. The two men then grew to respect each another, and they shared visions and ideas. Lincoln became more of a radical person, while Douglass became more of a republican one. Lincoln turned to the radicals because of his meddling of principles and politics; Douglass, on the other hand, chose the republicans because of his pure principles on slavery (Oakes, 2008).

In conclusion, Oakes provides an ideological narrative; he illustrates the connection between the two prominent men in the history of America. They were both devoted to making America an ideal society. As one reads the book, he or she is able to understand that Lincoln is the radical, while Douglass is the republican (Oakes, 2008).

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