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Radical Republican

From Academic Kids

Radical Republicans were a group of politicians during the Reconstruction era that believed freed slaves should have political and social equality with all other citizens. In addition, they believed that punitive measures should be taken against the Southern states for seceding from the Union. After the 1860 elections, Radical Republicans temporarily dominated the United States Congress. Radical Republicans were often critical of President Abraham Lincoln whom they felt was too slow in freeing slaves and supporting their equality. But Lincoln had Radical Republicans in his cabinet, including Treasury Secretary, Salmon P. Chase (whom Lincoln later appointed to the Supreme Court), Edwin M. Stanton and James Speed.

Following the Civil War, during Reconstruction, Radical Republicans in Congress were in favor of harsher measures concerning the South than was the president, and there is much historical speculation as to how Reconstruction would have proceeded if Lincoln had not been assassinated. Following Lincoln's assassination Andrew Johnson became President, and differences over Reconstruction policy (among them, Johnson's perceived racism) became clear when Congress passed measures dealing with the former slaves over Johnson's veto —the first time that Congress had overridden a President on an important bill.

Radicals also passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which established African-Americans as American citizens and forbade discrimination against them. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution (with its equal protection clause) was also the work of the Radical Republicans. The Radical Republicans led the Reconstruction of the South and the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, and had an influence on future presidents including Ulysses S. Grant. But in the late 1880s, the Radical Republicans agreed to hand over control of the Southern States to the Southern Democrats in exchange for having its candidate declared the winner in a dead-heat election.

The Radical Republicans were viewed as outrageous in their own time, but their progressive goals of civil rights and equal treatment for African-Americans following emancipation were brought back into popularity within the United States with the rise of the 1960s and its struggles against racism.

Famous Radical Republicans

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