The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery

James Oakes, Author . Norton $26.95 (328p) ISBN 978-0-393-06194-9

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.)

Reviewed on: 11/13/2006
Release date: 01/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 328 pages - 978-0-393-33065-6
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-0-393-07872-5
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