Political Parties--Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- )



The Republican Party is a national political party in the United States. It was formed in 1854 in the wake of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and dissolved previous restrictions to slavery in the western territories of the United States. Anti-slavery members of the Whig and Democratic political parties broke from these groups and joined with members of the singularly focused Free Soil Party to develop a major third party challenger for national politics. The Republican Party strongly opposed the expansion of slavery into the territories but did not advocate for the immediate abolition of slavery in the country. The party was more successful than the preceding Free Soil party because it developed a broader political platform than the territorial issue, adopting Whig-inspired economic principles. The growing success of the Republicans in the late 1850s caused the Whig Party to collapse.

Republicans ran their first presidential candidate in 1856, John C. Frémont. He lost to Democratic candidate James Buchanan, but came in second in a three-way race, winning 11 northern states. Republicans did win congressional and some state elections, and by the 1860 presidential election had established themselves as the most dominant party within the free states.

The Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln for president in 1860. The party’s platform included the declaration that “the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom,” and included several other criticisms of slavery. Lincoln and the Republican Party clarified that the federal government could not interfere with slavery in the southern states, but their overt anti-slavery position alarmed southerners who saw the Republicans as a fundamental threat to southern way of life. Southern politicians warned of disunion should Lincoln win, and the 1860 election turned into a contest among four candidates. The Democratic Party split along north-south sectional lines, and Lincoln did not appear on presidential ballots in most slaveholding states. Still, Lincoln and the Republicans won the 1860 presidential election with only northern (free state) votes. The election victory sparked a secessionist movement in the south, even before Lincoln took office.

Lincoln and the Republican Party led the federal government against secession and through the Civil War, from 1861 to 1865. The party fractured some during the war over differences of abolition and punishment of the south. Party members who harbored greater interests in abolition, African American rights, and punishing Confederates became known as the Radical Republicans. Lincoln remained more moderate. He advocated more leniency to former Confederates, and was slower to adopt policies that forced social change within the country.

When Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, Radical Republicans sought to punish the south and enforce their more extreme policies. Andrew Johnson, the vice president who entered the presidency upon Lincoln’s death, opposed the Radicals. However, his policies frustrated many moderate Republicans, and the party took a more forceful role in southern civil and political affairs when former Confederates tried to limit the rights of African Americans during Reconstruction. The Republican Party had a presence within the south during Reconstruction, but mostly among African Americans and northerners who traveled south for political or economic reasons. The party was still seen by most white southerners as a northern party oppressing the south.

By 1868 most of the Republican Party had turned on Johnson, even impeaching him. War hero Ulysses S. Grant was then elected as the Republican Party candidate in 1868 with support from the radicals. His administration faced accusations of corruption, especially in the south and the west. By the 1876 election, national support for Reconstruction was low, and initial voter counts appeared to show the Democratic candidate the winner. Republicans in Congress complained of voter intimidation in the south and after tense political negotiations with Democrats managed to have the Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes declared the winner with the agreement to end Reconstruction in the south.

The Republican Party continues to be one of the top two political parties in the United States. (Wikipedia)

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republican_Party_(United_States)

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