How Rad Can You Go?

File:Abraham Lincoln head on shoulders photo portrait.jpg



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


5 thoughts on “How Rad Can You Go?

  1. I agree that communist support for American political leaders is a very interesting issue. I feel that this post really illustrates how things change over time, because no communist would support the modern-day Republican Party. No communist would support most Democratic Party candidates either. I feel that this post really does ask the question of how sweeping and radical of a change people will support. I felt that Marx wasn’t that radical in comparison to some radical abolitionists, but for the time he was pretty radical. It also shows how the definition of “radical” changes with time.

  2. I really like the fact that you broke down what this excerpt meant, so that in a way, it would help those that aren’t quite understanding of dialogues/excerpts.
    It is true that you don’t normally see a communist and a Republican ‘conspiring’ together, and I just find it interesting how you compared Republicans and communists in the Civil War era with Republicans and communists of current times. It definitely casts a new light on this whole Republican-communist relationship. Not only that, but the fact that you used two different points to make your statements was also really good! Kudos.

  3. It’s kind of crazy how most people probably don’t know about the correspondence between Karl Marx and Lincoln. It’s definitely something that seems out of the ordinary and I love that you brought it to our attention. It’s a strange thing to think that the Republicans and communists may be connected and giving this evidence makes it really stand out and makes you wonder about other things that also may be just so strange together that we don’t ever look into them. Awesome post! I love it!

  4. I really like the layout of this. You took an interesting letter and just broke it apart. And yes, the crazy flip between Democrats and Republicans . . . Ahh, American Politics. I think this illustrates a cool point, that when things are just falling apart, people might be willing to work together and support those they normally wouldn’t. Also, I like the prose, straight forward style of writing. Great Job, This is Awesome!

  5. The idea of writing about the ideology behind the Civil War is a really interesting idea. No one every really thinks about the motivations and aspirations of those on either side, Union or Confederate, that didn’t really involve slavery or states rights. I never thought about who the radicals were on the Union side, so it was really cool to see it here.

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