Lincoln’s combination of cautiousness and radicalism is aptly described by LeeAnna Keith ... In discussing these antislavery champions, Ms. Keith omits mentioning several key works by other historians who have covered similar territory, such as Stephen B. Oates. Still, her book seems fresh, because it covers militants who have never been juxtaposed before ... Americans, as...Ms. Keith remind[s] us, only by working in tandem finally succeeded in defeating slavery—the greatest moral victory the nation has yet achieved.
Keith writes at length and with eloquence about the role of black abolitionists in pressing for emancipation before and during the war; black military service during the war; and radicals’ efforts to use confiscation, loyalty oaths, and especially black enfranchisement to reconstruct the South during and after the war. Some scholars might be surprised by Keith’s assertion that radicals brought on secession and war by their uncompromising politics ... A new perspective on the Civil War. All will appreciate the gripping accounts of partisanship, political ambition, civil disobedience, and the creative ways that radicals used print and speech to persuade Americans to understand and accept the necessity of emancipation and the importance of equal rights.
Author Keith...casts light on the important role of so-called Radical Republicans in inculcating the idea of abolition into mainstream American thinking ... If not a definitive account, When It Was Grand shows that noble ideas can still be made manifest, whoever ends up carrying them through.