History of the Republican Party


The Republican Party was formed in 1854 by anti-slavery elements from the Whig Party and the Democratic Party. The founders of the party selected the name “Republican Party” out of admiration for the values of republicanism that formed the foundation of Thomas Jefferson’s Republican Party. Republicanism is a system of political values that stresses liberty, unalienable rights, and the sovereignty of the people, rejects aristocracy and inherited political power, expects citizens to be independent in the performance of their civic duties and condemns corruption. The first public meeting where the name Republican was proposed for the new anti-slavery party was March 20, 1854 at a schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin. The first party convention was held on July 6, 1854 in Jackson, Michigan. In 1856 the Republicans became a national party by nominating John C. Fremont for President. Fremont lost the election to Democrat James Buchanan 174 to 114 electoral votes (Millard Fillmore, American Party/Whig received 8).

In 1860 the Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln to be its presidential candidate. Lincoln defeated Southern Democratic candidate John C. Breckinridge 180 to 72 electoral votes with John Bell (Constitutional Union) receiving 39 and Stephen A. Douglas (Northern Democrat) 12. After the election of Lincoln in 1860 the Republican Party dominated national politics until 1932 and the election of Franklin Roosevelt.

Accomplishments 1860 to 1932:

During its seventy-two year period of political dominance the notable positions and accomplishments of the Republican Party include:

  • Remaining steadfast in the face of successive failures on the battlefield early in the Civil War, Lincoln held the Union together and defeated the Confederacy.
  • Against the advice of his cabinet Lincoln issued an Executive Order called the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 declaring freedom for slaves.
  • February 1, 1865 President Lincoln signed the 13th amendment to the constitution abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States.
  • The Republican dominated congress passed the 14th amendment on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments. The amendment addressed citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws and was proposed in response to issues related to former slaves after the Civil War.
  • The Fifteenth Amendment prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color or previous condition of servitude". It was ratified on February 3, 1870 during the administration of Republican President Ulysses Grant as the third and last of the Reconstruction Amendments.
  • The Republican Party also played a leading role in securing women the right to vote. In 1896 the Republican Party was the first major political party to support women's suffrage. When the 19th Amendment finally was added to the Constitution 26 of the 36 state legislatures that had voted to ratify it were under Republican control. The first woman elected to congress was a Republican, Jeanette Rankin from Montana in 1917.

Accomplishments 1860 to 1932:

  • When President Warren Harding took office in 1921, the American economy was in the depths of a depression with an unemployment rate of 20% and runaway inflation. The income tax, which was established in 1913, saw the high end marginal rate increased to 77% under Woodrow Wilson. On August 2, 1923, President Harding died suddenly while on a speaking tour of the western United States. His Vice President, Calvin Coolidge, assumed the presidency and continued Harding's policy of reducing federal debt, lower tax rates (the high end marginal rate was reduced to 25%) and limiting government intrusion into private business. The Harding/Coolidge policies led to an economic boom in the decade of the 1920's, commonly referred to as "The Roaring Twenties".
  • Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation, encouraging peaceful applications in space science.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964: In the House of Representatives Republicans voted in favor 138 to 34 in favor and Democrats voted 152 to 96 in favor. In the Senate on June 19, 1964, the civil rights bill was passed 73 to 27 with six Republicans and 21 Democrats voting against it.
  • President Nixon's 1972 trip to China began the process of normalization of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China.
  • Ronald Regan came into office with an economic "misery index" (unemployment plus inflation) of 19.72 and left office having reduced it to 9.72.
  • President Regan was instrumental in bringing the "Cold War" to an end. His famous words, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" while giving a speech at the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987 helped set in motion changes in Eastern Europe that led to the opening of the East German borders on June 9, 1990, the demolishing of the Berlin wall beginning June 30 1990 (George H.W. Bush was then President), and the reunification of East and West Germany on October 3, 1990. The Soviet Union began to fall apart and was formally dissolved on December 26, 1991.
  • When Iraq's Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, President George H. W. Bush responded by creating a military coalition of thirty-four nations and gave Iraq a withdrawal deadline of January 15, 1991. The deadline was not met and on January 17, 1991 ordered military operations to begin. One hundred hours after the ground campaign started on February 28, President Bush declared a ceasefire and also declared that Kuwait had been liberated.
  • On September 11, 2001, nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four civilian airliners and flew two of them into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and one into the Pentagon. The fourth airliner never struck its intended target in Washington, D.C. when passengers attacked the terrorists and caused them to crash the airliner into the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing everyone on board. The attacks resulted in the deaths of 2, 996 people, including the nineteen terrorists and 2,977 victims. The victims included 246 on the four airliners (there were no survivors), 2,606 in New York City in the World trade Center towers and on the ground and 125 at the Pentagon. President George W. Bush rallied a shocked nation, launched an investigation which identified the terrorists as members of al-Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden and based in Afghanistan. Bush authorized military operations that led to al-Qaeda being driven out of Afghanistan and the replacement of the Taliban led government with a democratically elected government.

Some other interesting facts about the Republicans:

What does the acronym GOP stand for?

GOP originated in 1875 in the Congressional Record making reference to the party that had the Union to success in the Civil War as "the gallant old party". An article n the Cincinnati Commercial a year later referred to the Republicans as the "grand old paarty". The first use of the GOP abbreviation is dated 1884.

How did the republican mascot become an elephant?

A political cartoon published by Thomas Nast in Harper's Week on November 7, 1874 was the first significant use of an elephant as an animal symbol for the Republican Party. The Democrats also owe their party's animal symbol to Thomas Nast who published a political cartoon in Harper's Weekly on January 19, 1870 under the caption, "A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion".

Additional information