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The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics Paperback – January 17, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (January 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393330656
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393330656
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,850 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The perennial tension between principle and pragmatism in politics frames this engaging account of two Civil War Era icons. Historian Oakes (Slavery and Freedom) charts the course by which Douglass and Lincoln, initially far apart on the antislavery spectrum, gravitated toward each other. Lincoln began as a moderate who advocated banning slavery in the territories while tolerating it in the South, rejected social equality for blacks and wanted to send freedmen overseas—and wound up abolishing slavery outright and increasingly supporting black voting rights. Conversely, the abolitionist firebrand Douglass moved from an impatient, self-marginalizing moral rectitude to a recognition of compromise, coalition building and incremental goals as necessary steps forward in a democracy. Douglass's views on race were essentially modern; the book is really a study through his eyes of the more complex figure of Lincoln. Oakes lucidly explores how political realities and military necessity influenced Lincoln's tortuous path to emancipation, and asks whether his often bigoted pronouncements represented real conviction or strategic concessions to white racism. As Douglass shifts from denouncing Lincoln's foot-dragging to revering his achievements, Oakes vividly conveys both the immense distance America traveled to arrive at a more enlightened place and the fraught politics that brought it there. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

James Oakes is the author of several acclaimed books on slavery and the Civil War. His most recent book, Freedom National, won the Lincoln Prize and was a long-list selection for the National Book Award. He lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

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It was very easy to read, comprehensive, and never lagged.
Nikki
Lincoln had acted in order to keep on good terms with the border states whose support he deemed necessary to a successful war effort.
Robin Friedman
Oakes gives us a quick glance at his hypothesis within the subtitle of his book: the triumph of antislavery politics.
Jesse Steven Hargrave

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Abraham Lincoln (1809 --1865) and Frederick Douglass (1818 -- 1895)are American heroes with each exemplifying a unique aspect of the American spirit. In his recent study, "The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics" (2007), Professor James Oakes traces the intersecting careers of both men, pointing out their initial differences and how their goals and visions ultimately converged. Oakes is Graduate School Humanities Professor and Professor of History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has written extensively on the history of slavery in the Old South.

Oakes reminds the reader of how much Lincoln and Douglass originally shared. Lincoln and Douglass were self-made, self-educated, and ambitious, and each rose to success from humble backgrounds. Douglass, of course, was an escaped slave. Douglass certainly and Lincoln most likely detested slavery from his youngest days. But Lincoln from his young manhood was a consummate politican devoted to compromise, consensus-building, moderation and indirection. Douglass was a reformer who spoke and wrote eloquently and with passion for the abolition of slavery and for equal rights for African Americans.

Much of Oakes's book explores the difficult subject of Lincoln's attitude towards civil rights -- as opposed simply to the ending of slavery -- and of how Lincoln's views developed during the Civil War. Oakes uses Douglass as a foil for Lincoln beginning with the Lincoln -- Stephen Douglas debates in Illinois in 1858. Steven Douglas tried hard to link Lincoln to Frederick Douglass and to abolitionism. He claimed that Lincoln favored equal rights for Negroes and raised the spectre of intermarriage between white women and black men.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Steven Hargrave on April 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Author James Oakes tells us this: in 1860 Frederick Douglass wrote of the upcoming presidential election "I cannot support Lincoln." But in 1888, Douglass said he had met no man "possessing a more godlike nature than did Abraham Lincoln." What had happened?

Oakes gives us a quick glance at his hypothesis within the subtitle of his book: the triumph of antislavery politics. As he explains, this doesn't apply to Lincoln. Lincoln was always an anti-slavery politician, although his thinking on how and how fast slavery should be destroyed changed over time. But with regards to the use of politics as the means to abolish slavery, the man whose thinking moved more was Frederick Douglass. And although the two men share the billing in Oakes' title, this is far more a book about Douglass than Lincoln. It is a book about the evolution of the reasoning of Frederick Douglass.

That evolution, as Oakes paints it, began for Douglass from the belief that the issue of slavery transcended politics and the compromises that came with it. Oakes traces how Douglass the reformer began to be drawn into the political arena, alienating the abolitionists who had first supported his career. But still he carried with him that insistence on absolutism. He brooked no delays, no strategic maneuverings. Lincoln and the Republicans were gradualists, and therefore were deemed irresolute and untrustworthy.

After the Civil War began, Douglass found even more reasons for outrage. Lincoln refused to immediately emancipate the slaves. The President even countermanded the Union generals who issued proclamations freeing the slaves in the territories they conquered.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Clio on May 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
One of the easiest things to do, especially on the web, is to take a highly regarded leader of the past, say, Abraham Lincoln, pull a few of his quotes or actions out of their historical context, and supposedly "prove" how horrible that leader actually was. In contrast, author James Oakes explains Lincoln to us postmoderns the way an historian should - by reminding us of Lincoln's circumstances and explaining Lincoln's overarching purposes. Oakes does this without resorting to making Lincoln a saint. According to Oakes' compellingly-supported evidence, Lincoln refused to compromise two essential commitments - to antislavery and to the American political system. Lincoln would not compromise his antislavery position to get more votes, nor would he compromise his oaths to uphold the Constitution to undermine slavery. This dual commitment of Lincoln's goes very far in helping us understand why Lincoln limited his goal to preventing the spread of slavery before he became president, why he didn't just go ahead and free all the slaves when he became president, why he moved slowly towards emancipation during the war, etc. Furthermore, the author's discussion of Lincoln's overwhelming desire to change the hearts and minds of Americans about slavery instead of merely forcing through political change regardless of wider support was especially useful. As the "Republican" in the title, Lincoln wanted a government that represented the will of the people; therefore, the will of the people needed to be converted before the government could make radical change. The fact that Lincoln helped accomplish this more widespread change is quite a testament to his legacy of leadership.

The "Radical" in the title is another great American, Frederick Douglass.
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