Republican Party

Republican Party REPUBLICAN PARTY The Republican party is one of the two major POLITICAL PARTIES in the United States, the other being the DEMOCRATIC PARTY party. It is popularly known as the GOP, from its earlier nickname Grand Old Party. From the time it ran its first PRESIDENTIAL candidate, John C. Fremont, in 1856, until the inauguration of Republican George BUSH in 1989, Republican presidents occupied the WHITE HOUSE for 80 years. Traditionally, Republican strength came primarily from New England and the Midwest. After World War II, however, it greatly increased in the Sunbelt states and the West.

Generally speaking, after World War I the Republican party became the more conservative of the two major parties, with its support coming from the upper middle class and from the corporate, financial, and farming interests. It has taken political stances generally in favor of laissez- faire, free enterprise, and fiscal responsibility (at least until 1981) and against the welfare state. The Founding of the Party Scholars agree that the origins of the party grew out of the sectional conflicts regarding the expansion of slavery into the new Western territories. The stimulus for political realignment was provided by the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. That law repealed earlier compromises that had excluded slavery from the territories.

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The passage of this act served as the unifying agent for abolitionists and split the Democrats and the WHIG party. Anti-Nebraska protest meetings spread rapidly through the country. Two such meetings were held in Ripon, Wis., on Feb. 28 and Mar. 20, 1854, and were attended by a group of abolitionist FREE SOILERS, Democrats, and Whigs. They decided to call themselves Republicans–because they professed to be political descendants of Thomas JEFFERSON’s Democratic- Republican party.

The name was formally adopted by a state convention held in Jackson, Mich., on July 6, 1854. The new party was a success from the beginning. In the 1854 congressional elections 44 Republicans were elected as a part of the anti-Nebraskan majority in the HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, and several Republicans were elected to the SENATE and to various state houses. In 1856, at the first Republican national convention, Sen. John C. Fremont was nominated for the presidency but was defeated by Democrat James BUCHANAN.

During the campaign the northern wing of the KNOW-NOTHING PARTY split off and endorsed the Republican ticket, making the Republicans the principal antislavery party. Two days after the inauguration of James Buchanan, the Supreme Court handed down the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, which increased sectional dissension and was denounced by the Republicans. At this time the nation was also gripped by economic chaos. Business blamed tariff reductions, and Republican leaders called for greater tariff protection.

The split in the Democratic party over the issue of slavery continued, and in 1858 the Republicans won control of the House of Representatives for the first time. One Republican who failed that year was Abraham LINCOLN, defeated in his bid for a U.S. Senate seat by Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln, the Civil War, and Reconstruction At the second Republican national convention, in 1860, a hard- fought contest resulted in the presidential nomination of Abraham Lincoln. The Republican platform specifically pledged not to extend slavery and called for enactment of free- homestead legislation, prompt establishment of a daily overland mail service, a transcontinental railroad, and support of the protective tariff. Lincoln was opposed by three major candidates–Douglas (Northern Democrat), John Cabell BRECKINRIDGE (Southern Democrat), and John Bell (Constitutional Union party).

Lincoln collected almost half a million votes more than Douglas, his nearest competitor, but he won the election with only 39.8 percent of the popular vote. Shortly thereafter, the Civil War began. Reverses on the battlefield, disaffection over the draft and taxes, and the failures of army leadership brought Lincoln and the Republicans into the 1864 election with small hope for victory. Party leaders saw the need to broaden the base of the party, and accordingly, they adopted the name National Union party. Andrew JOHNSON of Tennessee, a War Democrat, was nominated as Lincoln’s running mate. Significant military victories intervened before election day and contributed to Lincoln’s overwhelming reelection. After Lincoln’s assassination the Radical Republicans, led by Sen.

Charles Sumner and Rep. Thaddeus Stevens, fought President Johnson’s moderate Reconstruction policies. Ultimately, relations between Johnson and CONGRESS deteriorated, culminating in impeachment of the president; he was acquitted by a single vote. The Republican Era The defeat of the South left the Democratic party–closely allied with the Confederacy–in shambles. The Republicans, on the other hand, were in the ascendancy. With the election of Ulysses S.

GRANT, the Republicans began a period of national dominance that lasted for more than 70 years and was only occasionally breached by a Democratic victory. Between 1860 and 1932 the Democrats controlled the White House for only 16 years. Grant’s administration, with its support from the northern industrialists who had made fortunes in the Civil War, became riddled with scandal and corruption–the worst in the nation’s history. Grant was not personally involved, however, and was renominated in 1872. A split among the Republicans ensued: the more liberal elements, opposed to the harshness of the Radical Republicans on the Reconstruction issue and the scandals of the administration, broke away and took the name Liberal Republican party.

They, along with a faction of the Democratic party, nominated Horace Greeley for president. Despite this opposition, Grant was reelected by a substantial margin. A continuation of the scandals along with the panic of 1873 caused the Republicans to lose control of the Congress in 1874 in one of the greatest turnovers in history. The Republicans did, however, emerge from that election with a new party symbol, the elephant, after it first appeared in a newspaper cartoon by Thomas Nast. In 1876 the Republicans nominated a virtual unknown, Rutherford B. HAYES of Ohio.

The warring factions of the party were reunited as Hayes promised to remove the federal troops from the South and urged civil service reform. The Democratic candidate, Samuel J. TILDEN of New York, received the greatest number of popular votes, but widespread charges of electoral irregularities led to the appointment of a congressional electoral commission to review the results and decide who should receive disputed votes in four states. The commission, controlled by Republicans, granted all the votes to Hayes, thereby giving him the election by an electoral-college margin of 185 to 184. The Hayes administration was tarnished by the means in which it came to office but was generally efficient. Hayes ended Reconstruction, reformed the civil service, and espoused sound money policies.

All these actions were unpopular with the old- guard Republicans led by Roscoe Conkling, and Hayes did not seek a second term. Instead, James A. GARFIELD was nominated as the Republican candidate in 1880. Chester A. ARTHUR of New York was nominated for vice-president. After winning a close election, Garfield was assassinated and Arthur became president.

In spite of a past record as a spoilsman, one who placed the party faithful in government jobs, Arthur astonished many with his success in getting passed the Pendleton Act, creating a civil service based on the merit system. He was never able to gain control of his party, however, and was the only president denied renomination by his party’s convention. James G. Blaine of Maine received the nomination instead and faced Democrat Grover CLEVELAND of New York in the 1884 election. In a campaign that became infamous as one of the dirtiest in history, Cleveland, aided by the Mugwups led by Carl Schurz, defeated Blaine by a narrow margin. Much of Cleveland’s presidency was dominated by debate over the protective tariff.

In 1888, after Blaine declined to run, the Republicans chose Benjamin HARRISON of Indiana as their nominee. Campaigning strongly in favor of the protective tariff, Harrison defeated Cleveland by an electoral vote of 233 to 168, although he received 100,000 fewer popular votes. For the first time in years the Republicans also captured both houses of Congress. The Republicans passed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, admitted several new states to the Union, and passed the highly protective McKinley Tariff Act. In the congressional elections of 1890 the party suffered its worst defeat since 1874. President Harrison, although not popular within his party, was renominated in 1892 but lost the election to Grover Cleveland. This defeat was the worst the Republicans had suffered since the party’s birth. A severe depression and the panic of 1893–and a generally lackluster Cleveland administration–provided hope for the Republicans. The advent of a surprisingly strong Populist party in 1892 siphoned off votes from the Republicans in the border states and from the Democrats in the South.

Even so, the Populist thrust was relatively short-lived. By tying themselves too closely to Free Silver as a major issue the Democrats weakened themselves. In 1896, William MCKINLEY of Ohio became the Republican candidate after a campaign orchestrated by Mark Hanna, a Cleveland politician-businessman who feared the rise of populism and a decline in business prosperity. In what many political historians believe was the most significant election since 1860, McKinley beat William Jennings BRYAN by a substantial margin. McKinley received support from the industrial Northeast and the business community. Bryan received his votes from agricultural areas, the South, the West, and from the laboring man. These alliances presaged those that were ultimately to …


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