When one thinks of radicals and the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party usually come up. Now, there is no denial that these entities were radical during the time in which they were active. However, is this as radical as we can go in the Civil War in terms of ideology? Well, let’s take a look.
For starters, let’s read a letter that was sent to Abraham Lincoln by a supporter, or an excerpt at least.
“While the workingmen, the true political powers of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war.
The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes”
Now, do you notice any words in that excerpt that would hint at radical ideology, particularly that pertaining to a class conflict?
Well, if you don’t know by now, that letter was written by Karl Marx to Abraham Lincoln. This was a letter in support of the Union and in hope that things would be better for the blacks in America, as well as the working class, after the Civil War ends in the Union’s favor.
Aside from Marx supporting the Union, there were people who had fought for the Union who had similar beliefs to Marx. August Willich, a Prussian general who led Union forces during the Civil War, was a radical leftist who had taken part in the Revolution of 1848 alongside another well known radical known as Friedrich Engels.
Seeing this was really interesting. Now, as to whether I endorse what Karl Marx says or preaches is not something I will divulge here on this blog. However, I will say that I got really interested into the ideology put behind the Civil War after reading about this correspondence between Lincoln and Marx. It seems interesting that the Republicans (and the Union as well) would have some kind of support from communists such as Karl Marx and it is funny that a communist like Marx would support the Republican Party, as a communist and Republican would never show any support for one another in current day American politics. It really shows how things change over time and it was definitely fascinating to look into.
The picture of Lincoln was taken by an unknown author, released by the Library of Congress, and is under public domain