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A Brief History of the GOP

Updated on December 4, 2016
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Essays in politics & spirituality are part of my writing tool-kit. The challenge of supporting a claim strengthens the mind & imagination.

Republican Party Logo


The first Republican candidate to run for office was John C. Frémont, and his campaign slogan was, “Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men, Frémont.” Frémont lost to Democrat James Buchanan.

The party was in its infancy at the time that John C. Frémont ran and was considered a “third party.”

Even so, Frémont managed to receive a third of the electoral vote.

As with all third parties, the success of the party seemed unlikely, but the issues that it continues to embrace were based an freedom and equality, the very issues that prompted the founding of the nation known as the United States of America.

Little White Schoolhouse


Formal Organization

The Republican Party began its formal organization on July 6, 1854, in Jackson, Michigan, after an informal meeting had occurred earlier that year in Ripon, Wisconsin, in a little building that functioned as a schoolhouse.

After passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise, disagreement arose regarding the expansion of slavery into the western territories.

The following groups voiced opposition to that expansion and other issues and began to fill the ranks of the newly forming party:

1. Northern Democrats, who opposed slavery.

2. The Know-Nothings, whose movement had been sparked by and sustained through opposition to immigrants, especially to Roman Catholic immigrants.

3. The Free-Soil Party members, who remained without a strong leader, but who had effectively won considerable support in several earlier elections.

4. Northern Whigs, who opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act but also remained without a leader after Henry Clay and Daniel Webster died in 1852.

The name “Republican” was adopted at the July 6, 1854, meeting; they felt themselves to be heirs to the legacy of Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican party.

In the 1854 congressional election, the new party won 44 seats in the House of Representatives, several Senate seats, and several state congressional seats. So the new party was successful even at its beginning.

Issues that further united the party were: (1) Repealing the Kansas-Nebraska Act; (2) Supporting the transcontinental railroad; (3) Supporting the Homestead Act, and (4) Supporting high protective tariffs and lax immigration laws.

Abraham Lincoln


Abraham Lincoln, First Republican President

The first Republican candidate to win election was Abraham Lincoln in 1860. His election was repugnant to the South, and by the time of his inauguration in March 1861, seven states had seceded from the Union.

Although his inaugural address tried to placate, it had no effect on the South. On April 12, 1861, South Carolina, the state that led the secession fired on Ft. Sumter, which had symbolized federal authority, and the Civil War began. Despite contrary advice from his cabinet, Lincoln signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished slavery.

Later the Republican Party was responsible for passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, outlawing slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing equal protection under the law, and Fifteenth Amendment, securing voting rights for newly freed slaves.

Jeannette Rankin


First Major Party to Favor the Vote for Women

In 1896, Republicans were the first major party to favor women’s suffrage. When the Nineteenth Amendment became part of the Constitution, 26 of the 36 state legislatures that ratified that amendment were under control of the Republican party. The first woman elected to the House of Representative was Republican Jeanette Rankin from Montana in 1917.

Most of the presidents of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century have been Republicans. Although the Democrats, including Franklin Roosevelt, dominated politics during the 1930s and 1940s, from 1952 to 1992—for 28 of those 40 years—the Republicans held the White House: Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush. Reagan and Bush can claim the distinction of winning the Cold War, giving the United States the position of the world’s only superpower.

And with the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States was instrumental in bringing freedom from oppressive communism to millions of people.

Origin of Nickname GOP?

In 1888, the Chicago Tribune announced: "Let us be thankful that under the rule of the Grand Old Party ... these United States will resume the onward and upward march which the election of Grover Cleveland in 1884 partially arrested."

George W. Bush Victory Speech 2000

Donald Trump Victory Speech 2016

A History of the Republican Party

The Republican Party of the 21st Century

The 21st century began with the election of Republican, George W. Bush, who also enjoyed majorities in the both congressional houses. In 2006, half way through Bush's second term, with a downturn in support for the wars on terror in Afghanistan and particularly Iraq, the Democrats secured majorities in the House and Senate.

In 2008, Democrat, Barack Obama, was elected president, and enjoyed the continued majorities in both the House and Senate.

After the Democrats pushed through without one Republican vote and against the will of the majority of Americans the very unpopular Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in March 2010, the election of 2010 saw both houses of congress flip back to the Republicans.

Continuing to lose in the congress as well as a number of state governorships and state legislatures because of the continuing failure of Obamacare and President Obama's feckless foreign policies and executive overreach, the 2012 election saw further erosion of the Democrat presence even though Obama gained a second term.

By 2016, the voters had had enough of Obama and the Democrats, and Republican Donald Trump was elected. The congressional houses remained in the hands of the Republicans as well. An unprecedented number of Republican governorships and state legislatures continued to dog the Democrats.

The damage done to the economy had begun to show up in the financial situation of individuals as jobs continued to leave the country because of the unfriendly atmosphere toward business fostered by the Democrats and Obama, whose party had become nearly obsolete in its ability to appeal to voters.

The Democrats did not help their cause when they nominated the feckless Hillary Clinton, whose reputation for prevarication, obfuscation, and even criminally negligent activity as secretary of state, had doomed her candidacy.

The Republican Party presently is in position to restore the United States to its earlier economic power and effective leadership in the world.

Cleaning up the disaster left by the Democrats that started in 2006 will no doubt be a gigantic task. But the highly successful business magnate, Donald Trump, is poised to complete that daunting task with economic, domestic, and foreign policies that actually work and a strong, effective cadre of highly motivated individuals working with him.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes


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