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Republican Party

The term "Republican Party" has been used twice in American history. The first Republican Party was organized by Thomas Jefferson in opposition to the Federalist Party after he resigned from Washington's cabinet in 1793. It is more often referred to as the Democratic-Republican Party. Andrew Jackson dropped the Republican part of the name, which became simply the Democratic Party around 1830. Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams adopted the name "National Republican" for a time, but when all the major opponents to Jackson merged into the Whig Party in 1834, the name "Republican" went into abeyance for twenty years.

It was revived in 1854, following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The exact date of the formation of the Republican Party is not certain, but it is generally credited to a meeting in Ripon, Wisconsin, on February 28, 1854. The first convention that endorsed a statewide slate of candidates was in Jackson, Michigan, on July 6, 1854. Many more conventions and meetings were held on July 13, the anniversary of the passage of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which had prohibited slavery north of the Ohio River. In fact, the use of the word "Republican" recalled the first Jeffersonian Republican Party, and Jefferson was regarded as one of the instigators of the Northwest Ordinance.

Support for the new Republican party came principally from the dying Whig Party and the Free-Soil Party, plus some disaffected Northern Democrats. By 1856, the Republicans had coalesced into a national party. The first presidential candidate of the Republican Party was John C. Fremont in 1856. Although he didn't win, he carried eleven states.

Support for Fremont could be dangerous for a Southerner. The phrase "black Republicans" was frequently used, and it did not refer to race. Professor Benjamin S. Hedrick, who taught chemistry at the University of North Carolina, publicly expressed his support for the Fremont ticket, and was publicly attacked. When he declined to resign, the board of trustees dismissed him.

In 1858, Republicans increased their representation in Congress and in 1860 nominated Abraham Lincoln for president. In a four-way contest in November, Lincoln received a plurality of the popular vote and a clear majority in the Electoral College.

Southern states began to secede soon after Lincoln's election and the first actual combat of the Civil War took place not long after his inauguration. The Republican Party during the Civil War was not united behind Lincoln. The Radical Republicans in Congress criticized him for being slow on emancipation, and soft on Southerners. For the election of 1864, the Republican Party substituted "National Union Party" for their original name and matched Lincoln with a Democrat, Andrew Johnson. This presented a serious problem after Lincoln's assassination in 1865, when Johnson's preferences for reconstruction came into sharp conflict with the Congressional Republicans. After Johnson fired Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War in defiance of the Tenure of Office Act, Republicans obtained his impeachment and came within a vote of convicting him in the Senate.

Ulysses S. Grant was the choice of the Republican Party in 1868 and again in 1872. As a popular war hero, and with the southern states still held in check by Reconstruction, Grant won easily both times, although the dismay which the rampant corruption of his administration generated led to an alternative Liberal Republican faction in 1872 that lasted only one election.

After Grant, the Republican Party was convulsed by a struggle between proponents of civil service and other anti-graft measures, called Half-Breeds, and opponents, called Stalwarts. The party generally supported high tariffs to protect domestic manufacturers and sound money. The epitome of this tendency was the election of William McKinley, with the backing of Mark Hanna, on a decidedly pro-business platform in 1896, defeating the populist William Jennings Bryan.

When McKinley's vice president Garrat Hobart died in 1899, the Republican Party needed a replacement for the ticket in 1900. Largely with the intent of removing an irritating person from a position of influence, party leaders pressured New York governor Theodore Roosevelt to take the spot. This backfired when McKinley was assassinated in 1901 and Roosevelt assumed the presidency. Within a few months, he began to make it clear that he intended to take a different approach to big business, as well as conservation. During his presidency, he goaded the Republican Party into supporting a progressive agenda.

Not choosing to run again in 1908, Theodore Roosevelt put his support behind William Howard Taft, whom he considered to be a useful instrument for the continuation of his policies. When Taft proved unsatisfactory to Roosevelt, a campaign was undertaken to give Roosevelt rather than Taft the Republican Party nomination for the election of 1912. The convention, however, stayed with Taft and Roosevelt's partisans bolted to form the Progressive Party. Roosevelt drew away so many Republican votes that Taft finished third, but the winner was Woodrow Wilson of the Democrats. Although the progressives returned to the fold, Wilson won again in the election of 1916 with the slogan, "He kept us out of war." Soon after his second inauguration, Wilson led the country into war.

During the Roaring Twenties, the Republican Party supported prohibition and maintained a pro-business attitude. It's first president of the decade, Warren G. Harding, was amiable and attractive but allowed corruption to infect his administration. After his death, Calvin Coolidge restored public confidence in the integrity of government. In 1928, Coolidge passed the baton to his Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, who brought a solid reputation as a humanitarian and effective administrator.

Unfortunately for Hoover, the Republican Party and, of course, the whole country, the United States entered the Great Depression within the first year of Hoover's administration. Hoover was not complacent about the depression, but his endeavors, such as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation of 1932, struck many as aimed at helping the rich and powerful more than those most in need. In the election of 1932, the Republicans were swept from office by Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democrats. In 1936, the party hit bottom, winning only two states behind Alf Landon, governor of Kansas.

In the next two elections, the Democrats won again with Roosevelt but the Republicans were able to chip away at his winning percentage. Following the war, the Republicans seemed poised to regain the White House in the election of 1948. Candidate Thomas Dewey, encouraged by the belief that victory was in the bag, ran the equivalent of a football "prevent defense" for his campaign, while Harry S. Truman conducted an active "whistlestop campaign that gained him popular sympathy and, in November, election to the presidency in his own right.

Republicans finally returned to national power in 1952, with the election of World War II hero Dwight D. Eisenhower as president. Although he won again in 1956, Eisenhower's "coattails" were not strong and the Republicans did not control Congress except in 1952. In 1956, Eisenhower became the first president since Zachary Taylor to begin his term facing opposition control of both houses.

Eisenhower's vice-president Richard M. Nixon was nominated by the Republican Party for the election of 1960 and lost narrowly to John F. Kennedy. Kennedy was able to exploit public concerns about the missile gap and overcame enough of the prejudice against Catholics to become the first president of that faith. After Kennedy's assassination, Lyndon Johnson pushed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress, fulfilling a pledge to continue Kennedy's programs but deeply alienating the conservative Southern Democrats. When the Republican Party nominated the ultraconservative Barry Goldwater to oppose Johnson in the election of 1964, Republicans lost the support almost every state except some from the Deep South.

The Republicans malaise didn't last long. Despite a crushing defeat at the polls in 1964, the Republicans soon found themselves watching a Democratic Party tear itself apart over the Vietnam War. The renascent Richard Nixon was nominated in 1968 and defeated Hubert Humphrey by a modest margin in that year, and a weak opponent by a larger margin in 1972. The Watergate Scandal ended Nixon's second term prematurely and the aftershocks brought defeat at the polls in the 1974 midterms and the 1976 general election.

Meanwhile, conservatives were reasserting themselves. With a new standard bearer in Ronald Reagan, the conservative wing had challenged Gerald Ford strongly in the 1976 convention. By 1980, they were in a position to take control. Reagan skillfully packaged programs that were not much different from Goldwater's in a manner that was acceptable to a majority of Americans. Republican victories from 1980 to 1988 were based on policies of a strong military and tax cuts regardless of budget deficits.

The term GOP is an abbreviation for "Grand Old Party," a phrase first applied to the Republican party by the Chicago Tribune after the election of 1888. "Grand Old Party" is no longer current, but the abbreviation GOP is handy for newspaper headlines.

Important Republican party dates:

Date of First Meeting: Ripon, Wisconsin, February 28, 1854Date of First Convention: Jackson, Michigan, July 6, 1854Date of First National Convention: Philadelphia, June 17, 1856Date of First National Election Win: November 6, 1860

---- Selected Quotes ----

Quotes by Republican Party.

Regarding Election of 1928
A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage.
Republican campaign slogan in 1928

Quotes regarding Republican Party.

By Samuel Dickinson Burchard
We are Republicans and don't propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents are rum, Romanism, and rebellion.
Speech in New York City, 1884
By Susan B. Anthony
I shall work for the Republican party and call on all women to join me, precisely... for what that party has done and promises to do for women, nothing more, nothing less.
Letter to Elizabeth Cady Stanton^ in 1872
By Alfred M. Landon
I would say practical progressive, which means that the Republican party or any political party has got to recognize the problems of a growing and complex industrial civilization. And I don't think the Republican party is really wide awake to that.
When asked in 1961 to describe his political philosophy
By Abraham Lincoln
A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved ~ez_mdash~ I do not expect the house to fall ~ez_mdash~ but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other."
Speech to the Illinois Republican Convention, 1858

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Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield by Kenneth D. Ackerman.
Capitol Hill veteran Kenneth Ackerman re-creates an American political landscape where fierce battles for power unfolded against a chivalrous code of ...
Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant: James Longstreet and His Place in Southern History by William Garrett Piston.
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