History of the Republican Party from 1850-2000 essay

The Republican Party, also known as the GOP (for Grand Old Party), the younger and more conservative of the two major political parties in the United States. GOP appeared in the early 1850’s, raised by activists of anti-slavery movement with a core belief in the idea of the primacy of individuals, who claimed that government should grant western lands to settlers free of charge. The first unofficial meeting of the party took place in Ripon, Wisconsin, a small town northwest of Milwaukee.

The Republican Party formally organized itself by holding its first convention, adopting a platform and nominating a full slate of candidates for state offices on July 6th, 1854 in Jackson, Michigan. The name “Republican” was chosen as a synonym to equality and also reminded individuals of Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party. The Republicans has been a major political force in the United States since it first appeared on the presidential ballot in 1856, when John C. Fremont was nominated for President and ran with the slogan: “Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men, Fremont.

” The Republicans rapidly became the dominant political force in the North, even though they were considered a “third party” because the Democrats and Whigs represented the two-party system at the time. Fremont was the party’s first presidential candidate, but not the successful one, even though he managed to capture 33% of the vote. By 1860 the Republicans had also absorbed the support of the nativist Know-Nothing party, and their candidate, Abraham Lincoln, who was the first Republican candidate elected to the presidency.

During the Civil War, Lincoln decided to act independently, against the will of his cabinet, and signed the Emancipation Proclamation, that freed the slaves. The Republicans worked hard 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.

As the result of it the first woman elected to Congress was a Republican, Jeanette Ranking from Montana in 1917. Immediately after the Civil War, Republicans in Congress passed the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution and promoted a Radical Reconstruction policy regarding the southern states. World War I allowed the republicans to dominate during the 1920s, and return to the laissez-faire probusiness policies, and with time – to a policy of isolationism.

But the era of Republican political dominance came to an end, with the Great Depression, and the victory of Herbert Hoover in 1932. Still, Republicans managed to recover from all the further troubles, and in Congress, they formed alliances with conservative southern Democrats against fdr’s more radical proposals (particularly his 1937 Court-packing bill). This so-called conservative coalition generally controlled both houses of Congress until the early 1970s.

During the 40s, Republicans were controlled by the financial power of Wall Street, still, in 1946 they managed to regain control of Congress. But 2 years later, Harry S. Truman defeated Dewey, and the alignment of forces was changed again. Truman’s policy was apprehended as the domestic communism “subversion”, and such events as “the fall of China” and the outbreak of Korean War were attributed to Truman’s administration. The following events, that happened as rapidly, as the previous ones, included:

In 1952, Republicans again regained the White house with their leader, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, (reelected in 1956). Nixon lost the 1960 presidential election narrowly to Democrat John F. Kennedy, but in 1968 former vice president Nixon had to accommodate the New Right movement to win the party’s nomination. Then followed the Watergate scandal that reduced the progress Republicans had hoped to make in the 1970s with the Democrats torn apart by Vietnam, race, and various social issues.

Although the Republicans won their third consecutive presidential election victory in 1988 under Reagan’s vice president, George Bush, they had lost the Senate in the 1986 elections and had little prospect of taking control of the House, but, as always, their position was far from complete defeat. Presidents during most of the late nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century were Republicans. 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.

By 1992 the Republicans had been in the White House a total of eighty-four years. When the GOP unexpectedly took control of Congress in 1994 contributions from the finance, insurance, and real estate sector shifted strongly in their direction. Regardless of the electoral balance between the parties in the 1990s, the powerful constraints that exist to maintain the two-party system in the United States, such as ballot access and the plurality voting system, would likely ensure that the Republican party, formed in the heat of the slavery crisis of the 1850s, would remain a major political force into the twenty-first century.


1. George H. Mayer, The Republican Party, 1854-1964 (1964); The Reader’s Companion to American History, Houghton Mifflin. 2. Nicol C. Rae, The Decline and Fall of the Liberal Republicans: From 1952 to the Present (1989). The Reader’s Companion to American History, Houghton Mifflin. 3. Republican National Committee, The Republican Party – GOP History, http://www. gop. com 4. The Great American History Fact-Finder, Republican Party, Houghton Mifflin.