Roots of the Republican Party

This week marks the 168th anniversary of the founding of the Republican Party in America.
In the mid-19th-century, the two most powerful political parties in the United States were the Democrats and the Whigs. In two presidential elections, 1840 and 1848, Americans voted a Whig into the White House. And some of the most prominent political voices of the contentious pre-Civil War era were Whigs, including Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and a one-term Illinois congressman named Abraham Lincoln.
The Whig Party was formed in 1834 to oppose the “tyranny” of President Andrew Jackson. It was made up of a loose coalition of diverse political interests led by Protestant moral reformers who wanted to pass prohibition laws and defenders of Native Americans who were angered at Jackson’s relocation orders that led to the infamous Trail of Tears. While there was a strong anti-slavery sentiment among some Whigs, it wasn’t an abolitionist party.
But with the successful introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854, an act that dissolved the terms of the Missouri Compromise and allowed slave or free status to be decided in the territories by popular sovereignty, many Whigs feared that slavery would become a permanent part of American life.
By February 1854, anti-slavery Whigs had begun meeting in the upper midwestern states to discuss the formation of a new party focused on combating the evil practice of slavery in America once and for all.
One such meeting, in Wisconsin on March 20, 1854, is generally remembered as the founding meeting of the Republican Party.
The Republicans rapidly gained supporters in the North, and in 1856 their first presidential candidate, John C. Fremont, won 11 of the 16 Northern states (but lost to Democrat James Buchanan). By 1860, the majority of the Southern states were publicly threatening secession if the Republicans won the presidency.
In November 1860, now-Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected as the first Republican president. Just six weeks later, Democrat-led South Carolina formally seceded from the Union. Within six more weeks, five other Southern states had followed South Carolina’s lead, and in April 1861 the Civil War began.
The Civil War was the bloodiest war in American history. When it ended, the Republican-dominated Congress forced a “Radical Reconstruction” policy on the South, which saw the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution.
The 13th amendment freed the slaves, the 14th amendment granted them citizenship, and the 15th amendment gave them the right to vote.

In 1870, the first black senator and the first black congressman were sworn in— both Republicans. In fact, every black representative in the House until 1935 was a Republican and every black senator until 1979 was too.
As time went on, the Republican Party became known for other priorities such as: limited government, fiscal responsibility, and strong foreign policy, but we must always remember our roots.
The Republican Party was founded to fight for a moral good, to protect and honor the inalienable rights of ALL Americans. If we continue to boldly defend those rights today, we will once again be found on the right side of history.

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