timberland eurosprint tree History of the Republican Party United States
See also: History of the Democratic Party (United States)
The Republican Party began in 1854 with the formation of the Third Party System. Since around 1880, it has come to be known as the GOP (or “Grand Old Party”). It was the dominant national political party until 1932. After which time it struggled while the Democratic Party under the New Deal Coalition was dominant. Since 1968, the GOP has won 7 of 10 presidential elections (losing in 1976, 1992, and 1996), but infrequently controlling Congress. Its great rival is the Democratic Party.
The Republican party began as a spontaneous grass roots protest against the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed slavery into western territories where it had been forbidden by earlier compromises. The creation of the new party, along with the death of the Whig Party, realigned American politics. The central issues were new, as were the voter alignments, and the balance of power in Congress. The name “Republican” gained such favor in 1854 because “republicanism” was the paramount political value the new party meant to uphold. The name also echoed the former Jeffersonian party of the First Party System. The party founders adopted the name “Republican” to indicate it was the carrier of “republican” beliefs about civic virtue, and opposition to aristocracy and corruption. 
Two small cities of the Yankee diaspora, Ripon, Wisconsin, and Jackson, Michigan, claim the birthplace honors.  Ripon held the first county convention on March 20, 1854. Jackson held the first statewide convention where delegates on July 6, 1854 declared their new party opposed to the expansion of slavery into new territories and selected a state wide slate of candidates. The Midwest took the lead in forming state party tickets, while the eastern states lagged a year or so. There were no efforts to organize the party in the South, apart from a few areas adjacent to free states. The new party was sectional, based in the northeast and northern Midwest areas with a strong Yankee presence. It had only scattered support in slave states before the Civil War.
The first presidential nomination in 1856 when to an obscure western explorer John C. Fremont, as the party crusaded against the Slave Power with the slogan, “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free men, Fremont and victory!” Democrats warned darkly that disunion and Civil War would result. The remnants of the Know Nothing movement prevented the new party from sweeping the North, and the Democrats elected James Buchanan. By 1858 the Know Nothings were gone and the Republicans swept the North. The 1860 election seemed a certain victory, for the party had majorities in states with a majority of the electoral votes. In the event the opposition split three ways, and Abraham Lincoln coasted to an easy victory, carrying 18 states with 190 electoral votes, while the opposition carried 15 states (mostly in the South) with 123 electoral votes. It vigorously argued that free market labor was superior to slavery and the very foundation of civic virtue and true American values this is the “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men” ideology explored by historian Eric Foner . The Republicans absorbed the previous traditions of its members, most of whom had been Whigs, and some of whom had been Democrats or members of third parties (especially the Free Soil Party and Know Nothings (American Party). Many Democrats who joined up were rewarded with governorships. The churches also provided social networks that politicians used to sign up voters. The pietistic churches, heavily influenced by the revivals of the Second Great Awakening, emphasized the duty of the Christian to purge sin from society. Sin took many forms alcoholism, polygamy and slavery became special targets for the Republicans. The Yankees, who dominated New England, much of upstate New York, and much of the upper Midwest were the strongest supporters of the new party. This was especially true for the pietistic Congregationalists and Presbyterians among them and (during the war), the Methodists, along with Scandinavian Lutherans. The Quakers were a small tight knit group that was heavily Republican. The liturgical churches (Roman Catholic, Episcopal, German Lutheran), by contrast, largely rejected the moralism of the GOP; most of their adherents voted Democratic. John C. Frmont ran as the first Republican nominee for President in 1856, using the political slogan: “Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men, Frmont.” Although Frmont’s bid was unsuccessful, the party showed a strong base. It dominated in New England, New York and the northern Midwest, and had a strong presence in the rest of the North. It had almost no support in the South, where it was roundly denounced in 1856 60 as a divisive force that threatened civil war. The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 ended the domination of the fragile coalition of pro slavery southern Democrats and conciliatory northern Democrats which had existed since the days of Andrew Jackson. Instead, a new era of Republican dominance based in the industrial and agricultural north ensued. Republicans still often refer to their party as the “party of Lincoln” in honor of the first Republican President.
See also: American election campaigns in the 19th century
See also: Third Party System
Civil War and Reconstruction: 1861 1876
Civil War: 1861 1865
Lincoln proved brilliantly successful in uniting the factions of his party to fight for the Union. However he usually fought the Radical Republicans who demanded harsher measures. Most Democrats at first were War Democrats, and supportive until the fall of 1862. When Lincoln added the abolition of slavery as a war goal, many war Democrats became “peace Democrats.” All the state Republican parties accepted the antislavery goal except Kentucky. In Congress, the party passed major legislation to promote rapid modernization, including a national banking system, high tariffs, an income tax, many excise taxes, paper money issued without backing (“greenbacks”), a huge national debt, homestead laws, and aid to education and agriculture. The Republicans denounced the peace oriented Democrats as Copperheads and won enough War Democrats to maintain their majority in 1862; in 1864, they formed a coalition with many War Democrats as the “National Union Party” which reelected Lincoln easily, then folded back into the Republican party. By 1864, Radical Republicans controlled Congress and demanded more aggressive action against slavery, and more vengeance toward the Confederates. Lincoln held them off, but just barely. Republicans at first welcomed President Andrew Johnson; the Radicals thought he was one of them and would take a hard line in punishing the South. Johnson however broke with them and formed a loose alliance with moderate Republicans and Democrats. The showdown came in the Congressional elections of 1866, in which the Radicals won a sweeping victory and took full control of Reconstruction, passing key laws over the veto. Johnson was impeached by the House, but acquitted by the Senate. With the election of Ulysses S. Army detachments. Republicans all across the South formed local clubs called Union Leagues that effectively mobilized the voters, discussed issues, and when necessary fought off Ku Klux Klan attacks. Thousands died on both sides.
Grant supported radical reconstruction programs in the South, the 14th Amendment, and equal civil and voting rights for the freedmen. Most of all he was the hero of the war veterans, who marched to his tune. The party had become so large that factionalism was inevitable; it was hastened by Grant’s tolerance of high levels of corruption typified by the Whiskey Ring. The “Liberal Republicans” split off in 1872 on the grounds that it was time to declare the war finished and bring the troops home. Many of the founders of the GOP joined the movement, as did many powerful newspaper editors. They nominated Horace Greeley, who gained unofficial Democratic support, but was defeated in a landslide. The depression of 1873 energized the Democrats. They won control of the House and formed “Redeemer” coalitions which recaptured control of each southern state, in some cases using threats and violence.
Reconstruction came to an end when the contested election of 1876 was awarded by a special electoral commission to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes who promised, through the unofficial Compromise of 1877, to withdraw federal troops from control of the last three southern states. The region then became the Solid South, giving overwhelming majorities of its electoral votes and Congressional seats to the Democrats until 1964.
In terms of racial issues, “White Republicans as well as Democrats solicited black votes but reluctantly rewarded blacks with nominations for office only when necessary, even then reserving the more choice positions for whites. The results were predictable: these half a loaf gestures satisfied neither black nor white Republicans. The fatal weakness of the Republican party in Alabama, as elsewhere in the South, was its inability to create a biracial political party. And while in power even briefly, they failed to protect their members from Democratic terror. Alabama Republicans were forever on the defensive, verbally and physically.” [Woolfolk p 134]
Social pressure eventually forced most Scalawags to join the conservative/Democratic Redeemer coalition. A minority persisted and formed the “tan” half of the “Black and Tan” Republican party, a minority in every southern state after 1877. (DeSantis 1998)
Gilded Age: 1877 1894
The “GOP” (as it was now nicknamed) split into factions in the late 1870s. The Stalwarts, followers of Senator Conkling, defended the spoils system. The Half Breeds, who followed Senator James G. Blaine of Maine, pushed for Civil service reform. Independents who opposed the spoils system altogether were called “Mugwumps”. In 1884 they rejected James G. Blaine as corrupt and helped elect Democrat Grover Cleveland; most returned to the party by 1888.
As the Northern post bellum economy boomed with heavy and light industry, railroads, mines, and fast growing cities, as well as prosperous agriculture, the Republicans took credit and promoted policies to keep the fast growth going. the gold standard), high tariffs, and high pensions for Union veterans. By 1890, however, the Republicans had agreed to the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Interstate Commerce Commission in response to complaints from owners of small businesses and farmers. The high McKinley Tariff of 1890 hurt the party and the Democrats swept to a landslide in the off year elections, even defeating McKinley himself.