The Republican Party - History
The Republican Party was born in the early 1850's by anti-slavery
activists and individuals who believed that government should
grant western lands to settlers free of charge. The first
informal meeting of the party took place in Ripon, Wisconsin,
a small town northwest of Milwaukee. The first official Republican
meeting took place on July 6th, 1854 in Jackson, Michigan.
The name "Republican" was chosen because it alluded
to equality and reminded individuals of Thomas Jefferson's
Democratic-Republican Party. At the Jackson convention, the
new party adopted a platform and nominated candidates for
office in Michigan.
In 1856, the Republicans became a national party when John
C. Fremont was nominated for President under the slogan: "Free
soil, free labor, free speech, free men, Fremont." Even
though they were considered a "third party" because
the Democrats and Whigs represented the two-party system at
the time, Fremont received 33% of the vote. Four years later,
Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican to win the White
The Civil War erupted in 1861 and lasted four grueling years.
During the war, against the advice of his cabinet, Lincoln
signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves.
The Republicans of their day worked to pass the Thirteenth
Amendment, which outlawed slavery, the Fourteenth, which guaranteed
equal protection under the laws, and the Fifteenth, which
helped secure voting rights for African-Americans.
The Republican Party also played a leading role in securing
women the right to vote. In 1896, Republicans were the first
major party to favor women's suffrage. When the 19th Amendment
finally was added to the Constitution, 26 of 36 state legislatures
that had voted to ratify it were under Republican control.
The first woman elected to Congress was a Republican, Jeanette
Rankin from Montana in 1917.
Presidents during most of the late nineteenth century and
the early part of the twentieth century were Republicans.
While the Democrats and Franklin Roosevelt tended to dominate
American politics in the 1930's and 40's, for 28 of the forty
years from 1952 through 1992, the White House was in Republican
hands - under Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and
Bush. Under the last two, Reagan and Bush, the United States
became the world's only superpower, winning the Cold War from
the old Soviet Union and releasing millions from Communist
Behind all the elected officials and the candidates of any
political party are thousands of hard-working staff and volunteers
who raise money, lick the envelopes, and make the phone calls
that every winning campaign must have. The national structure
of our party starts with the Republican National Committee.
Each state has its own Republican State Committee with a Chairman
and staff. The Republican structure goes right down to the
neighborhoods, where a Republican precinct captain every Election
Day organizes Republican workers to get out the vote.
Republicans have a long and rich history with basic principles:
Individuals, not government, can make the best decisions;
all people are entitled to equal rights; and decisions are
best made close to home. The symbol of the Republican Party
is the elephant. During the mid term elections way back in
1874, Democrats tried to scare voters into thinking President
Grant would seek to run for an unprecedented third term. Thomas
Nast, a cartoonist for Harper's Weekly, depicted a Democratic
jackass trying to scare a Republican elephant - and both symbols
stuck. For a long time Republicans have been known as the
"G.O.P." And party faithfuls thought it meant the
"Grand Old Party." But apparently the original meaning
(in 1875) was "gallant old party."