Today, March 20, 2008, marks the 154th anniversary of the Republican Party. In 1854, Democrats controlled Congress and were in the process of passing their Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would legalize slavery in the western territories. Yes, you heard that right, the Democrat Party was pro-slavery. Michael Zak expounds on what caused the GOP to launch.
Amid the intense reaction, a grassroots movement arose to oppose the pro-slavery policies of the Democratic Party. In just a few months, these town meetings and demonstrations coalesced into the Republican Party.
Several sites share the credit as its birthplace, but the GOP was named in Ripon, Wisconsin. At a March 20, 1854 meeting convened by anti-slavery activist Alvan Bovay, fifty-five men and three women called for all opponents of slavery to unite in a new organization, to be called “the Republican Party.” This name had a past as well as a future. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and many other Founding Fathers had called themselves “Republicans.”
The Ripon meeting was widely reported in the newspapers. Just two months later, Members of Congress who opposed slavery declared themselves to be Republicans. In July, the Republican Party held its first state convention, in Jackson, Michigan.
Within two years, the GOP became a major national party, controlling the U.S. House of Representatives, and in 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected the first Republican President of the United States.
The Republican Party, at one time, was the party of black Americans. It was responsible for their freedom. Democrats figured the most effective way to con them into switching parties was to trade government programs for votes, which is essentially what we’ve seen happen in the last forty years.