Republican Party - Early

The Republican nickname of "GOP," signifying "gallant old party," first appeared in 1875, when the party was twenty-one years old. Over subsequent decades, "grand" replaced "gallant" but the "old" remained. The elephant is, like the donkey, the creation of 19th-century cartoonist Thomas Nast. In a November 1874 Harper's Weekly cartoon, Nast depicted a Democratic donkey wearing a lion's skin frightening other "political animals," including an elephant representing the Republican vote. Nast used the elephant in later cartoons to stand in for the GOP; eventually the Republican Party adopted the elephant as its official symbol or service mark.

Notable Republicans include soldier and politician John C. Fremont, orator Robert G. Ingersoll, presidents Abraham Lincoln, Rutherford B. Hayes, Theodore Roosevelt, Warren Harding, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and senators Henry Cabot Lodge, George Norris and Barry Goldwater.

Today's Republican party traces its roots to a coalition of anti-slavery activists and territorial expansionists who first organized themselves into a political faction in Michigan in the early 1850s. Indiana Whigs had been united on a platform of internal improvements since the 1830s. By the 1850s, however, they were divided over the slavery question.

On July 6, 1854, just after the anniversary of the nation, an anti-slavery state convention was held in Jackson, Michigan. The hot day forced the large crowd outside to a nearby oak grove. At this “Under the Oaks Convention” the first statewide candidates were selected for what would become the Republican Party. United by desire to abolish slavery, it was in Jackson that the Platform of the Under the Oaks Convention read: “…we will cooperate and be known as REPUBLICANS…” Prior to July, smaller groups had gathered in intimate settings like the schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin. However, the meeting in Jackson would be the first ever mass gathering of the Republican Party.

The name “Republican” was chosen, alluding to Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party and conveying a commitment to the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This group adopted the "Republican" name to distance themselves from the Jacksonian Democracy. During the 1850s, Indiana’s Free Soil Party opposed the extension of slavery. Some members, such as Congressman George W. Julian, were abolitionists, demanding the emancipation of African Americans and even advocating for equal rights.

The Republican Party was organized expressly to meet the slavery issue. It refused its endorsement to the Compromise and Fugitive Slave Bill of 1850; it condemned the repeal of the Missouri Compromise; and, striking at the Principle and Policy of all these measures — the extension and nationalization of Slavery — it demands, the total prohibition of Slavery in all Federal Territory.

The Republicans fielded national candidates in the election of 1856; in 1860 the Republican presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln won the White House. Most Whigs became Republicans. Schulyer Colfax, a former Whig became a Republican around 1854. He was elected Vice President of the US in 1868. At the 1888 Republican convention in Chicago, abolitionist Frederick Douglass made history by becoming the first African American to receive a presidential nominee vote.

The controversies of the 1850s had destroyed the Whig Party, created the Republican Party, and divided the Democratic Party along regional lines. The Civil War demonstrated that the Whigs were gone beyond recall and the Republicans on the scene to stay. It also laid the basis for a reunited Democratic Party.

The Republicans could seamlessly replace the Whigs throughout the North and West because they were far more than a free-soil/antislavery force. Most of their leaders had started as Whigs and continued the Whig interest in federally assisted national development. The need to manage a war did not deter them from also enacting a protective tariff (1861) to foster American manufacturing, the Homestead Act (1862) to encourage Western settlement, the Morrill Act (1862) to establish “land grant” agricultural and technical colleges, and a series of Pacific Railway Acts (1862-64) to underwrite a transcontinental railway line. These measures rallied support throughout the Union from groups to whom slavery was a secondary issue and ensured the party’s continuance as the latest manifestation of a political creed that had been advanced by Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay.

Lincoln’s assassination, the rise of Radical Republicanism, and Johnson’s blundering leadership all played into a postwar pattern of politics in which the Republican Party suffered from over-reaching in its efforts to remake the South, while the Democrats, through their criticism of Reconstruction, allied themselves with the neo-Confederate Southern white majority. US Grant’s status as a national hero carried the Republicans through two presidential elections, but as the South emerged from Reconstruction, it became apparent that the country was nearly evenly divided between the two parties.

The Republicans were dominant in the industrial Northeast until the 1930s and strong in most of the rest of the country outside the South. However, their appeal as the party of strong government and national development increasingly would be perceived as one of allegiance to big business and finance.

When President Hayes ended Reconstruction, he hoped it would be possible to build the Republican Party in the South, using the old Whigs as a base and the appeal of regional development as a primary issue. By then, however, Republicanism as the South’s white majority perceived it was identified with a hated African-American supremacy. For the next three-quarters of a century, the South would be solidly Democratic. For much of that time, the national Democratic Party would pay solemn deference to states’ rights while ignoring civil rights. The group that would suffer the most as a legacy of Reconstruction was the African Americans.

During the Presidential campaign of 1884 a company of New York clergymen belonging to the Republican party met, Oct. 29, at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, to pay their respects to Blaine, their candidate. The Rev. Dr. Burchard, a prominent clergyman of the Presbyterian Church, addressed Blaine as spokesman for the group. In the course of his remarks, he declared that he and his brethren had no connection with “the party whose antecedents have been Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.” As soon as Dr. Burchard's remarks were made public, they were seized upon by the Democratic National Committee, and scattered broadcast as an official utterance of the Republican party. Thus an incident, of not the slightest importance in itself, for no one otherwise would have taken any notice of the would-be facetious clergyman, was magnified into a sufficient cause for great political excitement.

The Republican Party in its formative years stood for protectionist tariffs, an end to slavery on both moral and economic grounds, territorial expansion, industrial capitalism, the "hard money" gold standard, and prohibition of beverage alcohol. Weakened to the point of irrelevancy, southern Republicans after 1900 curried favor with the political power structure to preserve their grasp on local patronage jobs dispensed by the national party. Therefore, southern white GOP officials embraced Jim Crow. Through political factions such as the “lily white” movement, which excluded blacks, and “black and tan” societies, which extended only token political roles to blacks, the party gradually ceased to serve as an outlet for the politically active cadre of southern African Americans.

Gradually, African-American leaders at the national level began to abandon their loyalty to the GOP. While the party’s political strategy of creating a competitive wing in the postwar South was not incompatible with the promotion of black civil rights, by the 1890s party leaders were in agreement that this practical political end could not be achieved without attracting southern whites to the ticket.

Radical Republican

In 1854, Yankee abolitionists, believing that slavery was a moral and social evil, formed the Republican political party. The Republican split into two factions after the War: the Conservatives and the Radicals. The Conservatives wanted to recognize all non-Civil-War-related local and state laws made after secession in 1861. The Radicals insisted that all such laws should be declared null and void.

On May 04, 1864 the Wade–Davis Reconstruction Bill passed the House by a vote of 73 to 59. The measure set Congress’s agenda for postwar Reconstruction of the South and portended conflict with the President over that process. Named for its sponsors, Representative Henry Winter Davis of Maryland—a Baltimore Congressman and the chairman of the House Select Committee on the Rebellious States—and Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio, the bill firmly asserted congressional control over the rehabilitation of the defeated Confederacy. It formally abolished slavery and prohibited Confederate officials and veterans from voting. The most controversial provision required that a majority of the voters in each state swear their allegiance to the United States before re-admittance into the Union. Representative Davis declared that until Congress recognized “a state government organized under its auspices, there is no government in the rebel states except the authority of Congress.”

President Abraham Lincoln’s plan was far more lenient, requiring only 10 percent of the voting population to take a loyalty oath. Lincoln pocket vetoed the Wade–Davis measure. The two sponsors countered with the “Wade-Davis Manifesto,” denouncing President Lincoln for thwarting congressional powers; later, Congress resurrected portions on the un-enacted bill as a blue print for Reconstruction.

The Radical faction formed the Radical Republican Association, an organization of white and African-American Republicans. Radical Republicans in the 40th Congress (1867–1869) were pitted in a power struggle with President Andrew Johnson over the shape of Reconstruction policy in the South. The Radicals, who viewed Johnson as too lenient toward the former Confederate states and as a threat to their legislative agenda, sought avenues to remove him from office.

Johnson, however, was bent on confronting Congress. In February 1868, when the President dismissed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton—in violation of the Tenure of Office Act—congressional retribution was swift. The House voted 126 to 47 to impeach President Johnson, but the Senate later acquitted him by a slender margin.

Liberal Republican Party

Liberal Republican Party was an insurgent reform wing of the U.S. Republican Party, organized in May 1872. It challenged what it considered the corruption of President Ulysses S. Grant’s administration by nominating a rival slate of candidates in the national election of November 1872. Led by such prominent Americans as senators Charles Sumner and Carl Schurz and editor Horace Greeley, the dissidents resisted Grant’s renomination for the presidency, claiming that his first term in office was corrupt and inefficient.

Meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, in May 1872, the Liberal Republicans nominated Greeley for president and won the support of the Democratic Party by adopting a platform advocating governmental reform, particularly in the areas of civil service, lower tariffs, and a more conciliatory Reconstruction policy toward the South. Despite Democratic support, the Liberals were easily defeated by the regular Republican ticket in a climate of post-Civil War complacency and business prosperity. Grant was goaded, however, into advocating several of their proposals during his second term. The Liberal Republican Party vanished immediately after the election.

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Page last modified: 01-11-2017 19:29:12 ZULU