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Tuesday January 19, 2010
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A Brief History Of The Republican Party
The Republican Party evolved during the 1850's when the issue of slavery forced divisions within the existingWhig and Democratic Republican parties. Faced with political turmoil, a new party -- dedicated to states rightsand a restricted role of government in economic and social life -- began making history.Alan Earl Bovay, one of the founders of the Republican Party, believed that a new party should be formed torepresent the interests of the North and the abolitionists. He decided to call that party "Republican" because itwas a simple, yet significant word synonymous with equality. Moreover, Thomas Jefferson had earlier chosen"Republican" to refer to his party, which gave the name respect borne of historical significance.The first stirrings of the Republican Party came in February, 1854, when Whig Party defectors met privately inCrawfordsville, Iowa, to call for the creation of a new political party. The first public meeting was held onemonth later at a small church in Ripon, Wisconsin, when Alan Bovay rallied anti-slavery forces and adoptedresolutions opposing the Kansas Nebraska Act.A second meeting was held in a one story schoolhouse in Ripon on March 20, 1854. Fifty-four citizens, includingthree women, dissolved their local committees and chose five men to serve as the committee of the new party:Alan Bovay, Jebediah Bowen, Amos Loper, Abram Thomas, and Jacob Woodruff. Said Mr. Bovay: "We went intothe little meeting Whigs, Free Soilers, and Democrats. We came out Republicans and...were the firstRepublicans in the Union."In July of the same year, when the meeting hall was too small, the "Anti- Nebraska Convention" met in a groveof oak trees in Jackson, Michigan, to write a national platform and concentrate its efforts to counter theDemocrats plan to extend slavery to new territories joining the Union. The new party adopted a platform,nominated candidates for state offices, and produced two anti-slavery resolutions, one of which stated,"Resolved...in view of the necessity of battling against the schemes of an aristocracy, the most revolting andoppressive with which the Earth was ever cursed or man debased, we will cooperate and be known asRepublicans."In 1856, "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Men, Freemont!" was the slogan of the Republican Party. Atits first national convention in Philadelphia, the party nominated John C. Freemont for president (AbrahamLincoln was proposed for vice-president, but Senator William L. Dayton won the nomination). Although the partylost the election to the Democrats, it captured a third of the total vote, boosting its optimism for the 1860elections.
The Republican Party had existed for only six years when Lincoln displaced the Democrats and gave theRepublicans their first presidential victory. Immediately following his election, Lincoln was confronted withsecession of one of the seven Southern states followed by the outbreak of civil war. Barely one month after theinauguration, the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter, launching the bloodiest war in the nation's history.Preserving the Union was Lincoln's greatest challenge - and no doubt his greatest achievement - but by nomeans his only accomplishment. During his presidency, the Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of InternalRevenue, and a national banking system were established. Lincoln also signed the Homestead Act, opening theAmerican frontier to settlement through public land grants, and the Land Grant College Act, donating land to thestates for agricultural and technical colleges. In 1 865, Lincoln submitted to the states the ThirteenthAmendment to the Constitution which, coupled with his Emancipation Proclamation, dealt the death blow toslavery. Shortly afterward, on April 14, President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater inWashington. He died several hours later across the street at Petersen House.Under the rules of the Constitution, Vice President Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency. He proposed theFifteenth Amendment, which guaranteed voting rights regardless of race, creed, or previous servitude.Additionally, it was during Johnson's presidency that U.S. continental expansion was completed when hisSecretary of State, William H. Seward, bought Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million.In 1868, Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant was nominated for president by the Republican Party, won easily andwas re-elected in 1872. The Grant Administration continued the Republican commitment to sound monetarypolicies, and established the Department of Justice and the Weather Bureau. President Grant was notconsidered for reelection in 1876 because Republicans, embracing a tradition established by GeorgeWashington, had gone on record opposing a third term for any president.Rutherford B. Hayes, successful three- term governor of Ohio and Civil War General, won the presidency by aone- electoral-vote margin in 1 876 against Samuel J. Tilden in the most bitterly disputed election in Americanhistory. Cooperation between the White House and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives wasnearly impossible after the election. Nevertheless, Hayes managed to keep his campaign promises to withdrawfederal troops from the South, take measures to reverse inequalities suffered by women, and adopt the meritsystem within the civil service.In 1880, the party won the last of six successive presidential elections with the election of another Civil Warhero, James A. Garfield. A few months after his inauguration, Garfield was assassinated and Vice PresidentChester A. Arthur succeeded him. Among Arthur's accomplishments were the rebirth of the Navy and thePendleton Act, which set up a bipartisan Civil Service Commission, established written examinations for certaingovernment positions, and protected employees from being fired for political reasons.In 1884, the Republicans lost the White House for the first time in 24 years. However, the party had become apermanent force in American politics. The Republican Party had preserved the sanctity of the Union, and hadled the nation through Reconstruction.In 1888, Republican candidate Benjamin Harrison was elected to the presidency, heralding a new era for thecommon man, industry, and a strong America with a growing international reputation for military power. Rapidindustrialization prompted the Harrison Administration to check excessive profiteering with the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. But, adverse reaction to policies of high protective tariffs - the main campaign issue in 1892 - led thecountry to elect Democrat Grover Cleveland to another term.
A New Century
Promising a national rebuilding effort and sound money policies, the party regained the presidency with William