The New International Encyclopædia/Republican Party
REPUBLICAN PARTY. In the history of American politics the term Republican has been applied to political organizations representing the most diverse principles. During the years 1791-92, under the leadership of Jefferson, the opponents of centralization in the National Government were molded into an effective political party, which assumed the official name Democratic-Republican, though its members generally called themselves Republicans. Later this organization became known as the Democratic Party (q.v.). During the years 1825-29 the followers of Clay and of Adams were known as National Republicans. (See Whig Party.) In ordinary usage, however, the term Republican is applied to the powerful party which was organized in 1854-56 and elected Lincoln in 1860.
The present Republican Party took its rise from one overpowering impulse — opposition to the extension of slavery. Northern Whigs acceded with great repugnance to the new Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 (see Compromise of 1850), and its enforcement became daily more odious. When the Kansas-Nebraska Bill (q.v.) became a law the revolt was instantaneous. On the very morning after the passing of this bill, May 27, 1854, a gathering of some thirty Congressmen discussed the necessity of organizing a new party, and it was agreed that ‘Republican’ would be its appropriate name. Previously, on February 28, 1854, a mass meeting of Whigs, Democrats, and Free Soilers, in Ripon, Wis., had resolved that if the Kansas-Nebraska Bill should pass, they would “throw old party organizations to the winds, and organize a new party on the sole issue of the non-extension of slavery.” Three weeks later local organization was effected, and the name ‘Republican’ was suggested as the one which the party should and probably would adopt. It was in Michigan, however, that the fusion of the opponents of the extension of slavery first completed a State organization, and formally adopted the name (July 6, 1854).
The new party was formed not so much by a coalition as by a fusion of diverse elements. There were: (a) a large proportion of the anti-slavery Whigs, like Seward, Greeley, and Lincoln; (b) the Free Soilers (see Free Soil Party), like Hale, Julian, and Sumner; (c) a great body of Know-Nothings, like Wilson, Banks, and Colfax; (d) some Abolitionists, who, though impatient with the Republicans' repeated assertion that they did not purpose to interfere with slavery where it actually existed, nevertheless found in the new party the best promise of effective opposition to slavery; and finally (e) anti-slavery Democrats, such as Hamlin, Cameron, and Bryant, who brought with them a strong popularizing influence. Later the war crisis led other Democrats into the Republican ranks, though in some instances, as in the cases of Butler and Johnson, their allegiance was but temporary.
Before the new party had been in existence a year it had secured a popular majority for the opponents of slavery in 15 of the 31 States, and had elected 11 United States Senators and a plurality in the House of Representatives. The first Republican national convention met at Philadelphia, on June 17, 1856, and was attended by delegates from all the Northern States, from the Territories of Minnesota, Nebraska, and Kansas, from the District of Columbia, from Virginia, and from the border States of Delaware, Maryland, and Kentucky. The nomination for the Presidency was given to John C. Frémont, whose career as an explorer and pioneer made him a magnetic leader. The platform declared it to be “both the right and the duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery;” it demanded the immediate admission of Kansas as a free State, and denounced the Ostend Manifesto (q. v.), “with its highwayman's plea that might makes right.” Whig influence was apparent in its strong declaration in favor of internal improvements at national expense, including the construction of a railway to the Pacific. Frémont obtained 114 electoral votes (Buchanan, the Democratic candidate, receiving 174), and polled a popular vote of 1,341,264, carrying all the free States with the exception of New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Illinois. (See Electoral Votes and United States, section History, for details on Presidential elections.) A slight falling off in Republican strength in Congress reflected the waning of the first enthusiasm and the defection of some of the least disinterested members, but their places were soon more than filled by new adherents from the shattered American Party and from Whigs and Democrats, to whom the Dred Scott decision and the Lecompton Bill were intolerable. During Buchanan's administration the Republicans devoted their efforts to protesting against the extension of slavery, and to unsuccessful attempts to secure the passage of a Homestead Bill and the appropriation of public lands for educational purposes. In 1860 the Republican national convention was held in Chicago. The platform denounced Democratic threats of disunion; insisted that the rights of the States should be maintained inviolate, especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively; declared that “the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom, which Congress is bound to preserve and defend;” demanded the prompt admission of Kansas as a free State, and the passage of a Homestead Bill; favored a protective tariff, and river and harbor improvements; and advocated a Pacific railway, to be aided by national grants. In the balloting for candidates the more prominent leaders, Seward and Chase, were soon passed over as having made too many enemies or aroused too great apprehensions, and on the third ballot the nomination fell to Lincoln, largely from considerations of ‘availability,’ for as yet the full measure of his strength had by no means been revealed. Governor Hamlin, of Maine, a former Democrat, was given the second place on the ticket. Out of the 303 electoral votes Lincoln received 180, and his plurality was nearly 500,000; but his strength was exclusively in the North, and his vote fell far short of a majority.
Republican rule began even before Lincoln's inauguration, for in the closing months of the 30th Congress the withdrawal of Southern members gave the Republicans a majority in both Houses, a fact promptly signalized by the admission of Kansas, and by the passage of a protective tariff act. The conduct of the war against the Confederate States was thrown into the hands of the loose-constructionist Republican Party; yet the opposition, especially in the later years of the conflict, was vigorous. The chief war measures were enacted by Republican votes, and favorite Republican policies were also brought to realization in the Homestead Bill of 1862, and the grants in aid of railways and of education. Really ‘pivotal,’ however, was the party's policy toward slavery. Here Lincoln himself took the lead. The preliminary Proclamation of Emancipation (q.v.), issued upon his own responsibility, served to “unite the South and divide the North.” Formidable reaction followed, and in the autumn elections of 1862 the very existence of the Union was at stake. No one could doubt that the loss of Republican ascendency would result in the ending of the war by some compromise which would involve the dissolution of the Union, yet the great States New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois all showed Democratic majorities; but the New England States, Kansas and Minnesota, California and Oregon followed the President's leading, and the border States, too, came to the support of his policy. In the resulting Congress the Republicans found themselves in control by a majority of about twenty votes. Lincoln's policy had been vindicated: he had been clear-sighted enough to recognize that the moment had come to commit the party to an aggressive policy, and on a question of right and wrong he had been willing to trust the people. But nothing less than an amendment to the Constitution could be relied upon actually to abolish slavery forever. Such an amendment was proposed in December, 1863, but went over to the next session, and therefore became one of the vital issues of the campaign of 1864. Lincoln insisted that the advocacy of such an amendment should be made the ‘keystone’ of the platform. In sharp contrast with the resolutions of 1860, the Republican Convention now declared that slavery was the cause and the strength of the rebellion; that it was “hostile to the principle of republican government,” and that “the national safety demanded its utter and complete extirpation from the soil of the Republic;” that the Constitution should be so amended as to “terminate and forever prohibit the existence of slavery within the limits or the jurisdiction of the United States;” and that no terms but unconditional surrender should be granted to the rebellious States. Lincoln was renominated by acclamation, and, as a mark of recognition of the patriotism of the loyal men of the border States, the nomination for the Vice-Presidency was given to Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee. Lincoln's vote in the electoral college exceeded that of his Democratic opponent, McClellan, ten to one, yet it is significant that his popular majority was less than 500,000. January 28, 1865, with the aid of eleven Democratic votes, the joint resolution (v. Amend. XIII. U. S. Const.) was passed by the House.
The end of the war found the Republican Party strong and united. But a severer test awaited it in the problem of reconstruction (q.v.), and but few weeks were needed to show how irreparable a loss the party had sustained in the death of Lincoln, and what a wretched blunder, from a purely Republican point of view, it had committed in making it possible for a strict-constructionist Democrat of Johnson's personality and antecedents to become President. During Johnson's administration the Republican majority in both Houses of Congress was overwhelming. Between the President and Congress there speedily arose over the policy to be pursued in reconstructing the South a controversy which culminated in the unsuccessful impeachment. The party in its platform of 1868 sanctioned the reconstruction policy of Congress, and insisted upon “equal suffrage to all loyal men in the South.” General Grant received the unanimous nomination for the Presidency. His election was made a certainty by the fact that in the South negro suffrage was protected by Federal arms, while many of the whites were still disfranchised. Consequently only four of the Southern States, Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Louisiana, chose Democratic electors. Republican majorities were maintained in both branches of Congress throughout Grant's first administration, although the opposition was gradually gaining strength. As a party measure the ratification of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments was exacted from Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia as a condition precedent to readmission, and the appointment of Federal supervisors of elections was authorized. Stimulated by protests against the manipulation of office for private or party purposes, the Republicans passed the first law for the reform of the civil service. The growing sentiment in favor of universal amnesty, universal enfranchisement, civil service reform, and the limiting of the power of the Federal Government over the local affairs of the States led to the breaking away of the Liberal Republicans (q.v.), who in 1872 made these the chief planks in their platform. Their avowed failure to come to any agreement as to the tariff, and their ill-advised nomination of Greeley, made the movement but a slight menace to the reëlection of Grant, whom the Republicans had unanimously renominated upon a platform consisting chiefly of a glorification of the party's past achievements and strongly advocating a protective tariff. As a result of the Crédit Mobilier (q.v.) and other scandals the feeling became widespread that the Republican Party's long tenure of office had lowered the ethical tone of the party, and had given it into the hands of self-seeking and overbearing leaders. Moreover, the Republicans, as the party in power, were held responsible for the panic of 1873. Hence defection grew to such an extent that many of the Northern States were carried by the Democrats, who in 1875 secured a majority of 182 to 110 in the House. The Republican national convention in 1876 indorsed civil service reform, and commended the provision already made for the resumption of specie payments. The nomination for the Presidency was given to Governor Hayes of Ohio, and in the ensuing campaign many of the Liberal Republican bolters returned to their former allegiance. The result of the election was long in doubt, but by the Electoral Commission (q.v.) all the questions at issue were decided in favor of Hayes, who was declared to have received 185 votes to 184 for Tilden, his Democratic opponent.
With the administration of Hayes there began a new period in the history of the Republican Party. The issues which had called it into existence had passed away, and the withdrawal by the President of the Federal troops from the South at the beginning of his administration may be said to have closed the strife between the two sections of the country. The old party leaders had left the field, for the most part, and their places had been taken by such men as Blaine, Garfield, Conkling, Sherman, Schurz, Hoar, and Edmunds. The task which faced them was new, for economic problems upon which neither party had developed well-united views had become dominant; the currency, the tariff, and commercial relations were to be adjusted to the new and rapidly expanding industrial life of the people. In the first two years of Hayes's administration the Democrats were in control of the House, and in the last two years of both branches of Congress, while from the members of his own party the President received but half-hearted support, for it was by the aid of Republican votes that the Bland Silver-Purchase Bill was passed over his veto, and that the further retirement of United States notes was forbidden. The Republican convention of 1880 favored a protective tariff, Federal aid to popular education, “the protection of the honest voter at the South,” and thorough civil service reform. Grant was for a time the leading candidate, but after a long contest the convention was ‘stampeded’ for Garfield, who was nominated on the thirty-sixth ballot. In order to conciliate the supporters of Grant, the second place on the ticket was given to Chester A. Arthur. During the administrations of Garfield and Arthur party lines were greatly blurred. The tariff act of 1883 and also the Pendleton Civil Service Bill received support from both sides of the chambers, yet they were in the main regarded as Republican measures. In 1884 the Republican platform was unusually pronounced in its advocacy of a protective tariff and urged international bi-metallism, the regulation of interstate commerce, and the restoration of the navy to its old-time strength and efficiency. The nomination of Blaine proved in many respects to be ill-advised. A large section of the party (see Mugwump) refused to support him, and gave their votes mainly for Cleveland, who was elected, carrying not only the ‘Solid South,’ but also New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Indiana. During his administration Democrats were in the majority in the House. Substantial gains were made in the reform of the civil service and in the regulation of interstate commerce (Act of 1887), both of which the Republican platform had urged. A protectionist faction in the Democratic Party aided the Republicans in preventing a reduction of import duties. Cleveland's message of December, 1887, made the tariff the dominant issue of the campaign of the following year. The Republican platform declared the party to be “uncompromisingly in favor of the American system of protection;” asserted its opposition to combinations organized “to control arbitrarily the conditions of trade among citizens;” favored the “use of both silver and gold as money,” and the building up of a strong navy. The nomination of Harrison, of Indiana, and Morton, of New York, helped the party to regain those States and win the election. A scanty majority was secured in both branches of Congress. The “Omnibus Bill” for the admission of the Dakotas, Montana, and Washington brought the Republicans some votes, and Speaker Reed's rules put the House under the firm control of the majority, although they aroused not a little opposition. The protectionist McKinley Tariff Bill was passed, with the addition of a reciprocity clause. But in the Congressional elections of 1890 the Republicans were overwhelmingly defeated, and the Democrats carried the Presidential election of 1892 by a large electoral majority. The Republican platform had been very similar to that of 1888, and the nominations had aroused little enthusiasm; a rise in retail prices had followed the going into effect of the McKinley tariff, and had made it unpopular. During the first half of Cleveland's second administration the Republicans were in a decided minority in both Houses. But the reaction due to the disastrous panic of 1893 and dissatisfaction with the long-deferred and inconsistent Wilson-Gorman Tariff Bill presently reversed the situation in Congress, again bringing the Republicans into control. In the campaign of 1896 the currency issue was the all-important one. Twenty-two Republican State conventions pronounced against the free coinage of silver, and the platform of the national convention asserted the party's opposition to free coinage except by international agreement. Upon the adoption of this resolution, thirty-four free-silver delegates withdrew from the convention. The platform further “renewed and emphasized the party's allegiance to the policy of protection,” and promised “to all of our products” “the most ample protection;” it favored a protectorate over Hawaii, and insisted that the United States “should actively use its influence and good offices to restore peace and give independence to Cuba.” In this campaign the Republicans received aid from the ‘Gold Democrats;’ even the ‘Solid South’ was broken. McKinley received a majority over all other candidates of 280,257. The appeal which the Democrats had made to class animosity had reacted in favor of the Republicans, as the party of conservatism. In the following year the Republicans found themselves in control of both branches of Congress, though their majority in the Senate was but narrow. The Dingley Bill was promptly passed, restoring the strongly protective character to the tariff. The war with Spain, in 1898, forced to the front questions of policy which had been quite unforeseen, and on which clean-cut party lines could not be drawn. The annexation of Hawaii had long been a favorite measure with some Republicans, and was effected by Republican votes. In 1899 the Republicans secured a strong majority in the Senate, and forthwith enacted a law making the gold dollar unequivocally the unit of value. Upon questions relating to the government of ‘dependencies,’ however, there was some crossing of party lines, a few leading Republicans with most of the Democrats taking the ground that the United States could not govern alien peoples without the consent of the governed. In the campaign of 1900 the great issue was that of ‘imperialistic expansion.’ The Republican platform renewed the pledge of independence to Cuba; and declared it to be “the high duty of the Government” “to put down armed insurrection and to confer the blessings of liberty and civilization upon all rescued peoples,” promising them the largest measure of self-government consistent with their welfare and our duties. Again McKinley was the Republican nominee against Bryan, and he increased his vote over that of 1896. Outside of the Southern States the Democrats secured only 13 electoral votes, all from States dominated by the silver interest. In the first Congress of the new century the Republicans increased their strength in both Houses. The pledge of Cuban independence was redeemed, but within the party there arose serious differences as to the policy to be pursued toward the Philippines and also over reciprocity, which had been strongly indorsed in Republican platforms, but to which large financial interests, of great weight in Republican councils, stood inflexibly opposed.
The Republican Party began its career through a fusion of various party elements opposed to the extension of slavery. Its original task was accomplished with the close of the reconstruction period. New tasks have caused a differentiation in the party's personnel and in its centres of influence. In the industrial agitations of the closing years of the nineteenth century it found itself forced to stand upon the defensive as the party of conservatism. It has ever represented strong nationalizing forces at home, and a vigorous foreign policy, and its principles of broad interpretation of the Constitution have led it to enter with confidence upon the solution of problems imposed upon the United States by the expansion which followed the war with Spain.
Bibliography. Wilson, Rise and Fall of the Slave Power (Boston, 1872); Greeley, The American Conflict (Hartford, 1864); Bancroft, Life of Seward (New York, 1900); Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress (Norwich, 1884); an article by Johnston, in Lalor's Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and United States History (Chicago, 1881); Rhodes, History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 (New York, 1896); Stanwood, History of the Presidency (Boston, 1900); Smith, The Liberty and Free Soil Parties in the Northwest (New York, 1897); Nicolay and Hay, Ahraham Lincoln, a History (New York, 1890); J. T. Morse, Life of Lincoln (Boston, 1898); Autobiography of Thurlow Weed (Boston, 1884); Geo. W. Julian, Political Recollections, 1840 to 1872 (Chicago, 1884); H. E. von Holst, Political and Constitutional History of the United States, vols. iv. to viii. (Chicago, 1876-92); J. P. Gordy, History of Political Parties and Political History of the United States (Columbus, Ohio, 1895-98).