Have you ever wondered about the origins of the Republican Party? Well, I have. I am dismayed at some of the things the Republican Party is doing, and being affiliated with the Republican Party for my entire life as a registered voter, I decided to do a little research on what it was all originally about.
Step 1 of my research took me to how the party was formed and what the original Party Platform said. The Republican Party officially began in 1856. Prior to that, the grass roots meetings first began in Wisconsin and moved quickly to Michigan. Lincoln was elected as President of the United States on the Republican Party ticket just four years later. I find it amazing that a political party could grow that much in so short a time.
The official platform as set forth at the first Republican Party Convention–in Philadelphia–was primarily an anti-slavery document. The slogan that they advertised was “Free Labor, Free Land, Free Men,” free labor meaning no slave labor, free land meaning no slave plantations, and free men meaning, well, free men. (Wikipedia: Republican Party)
The opening paragraph of the official platform established the main ideals of the new party as being anti-slavery. The Republican Party declared that they were opposed to the Missouri Compromise, opposed to the present administration’s policies (Democratic President Franklin Pierce), opposed to the expansion of slavery, in favor of admitting Kansas to the Union as a free State, and in favor of restoring the Federal Government “to the principles of Washington and Jefferson.” (Republican Platform 1856)
There were a few things that surprised me. First was this: “it is both the right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism — Polygamy, and Slavery” (ibid). I’m guessing that their feelings toward polygamy were partially tied to their ideas about Mormons. (Just a guess.)
The next thing that surprised me was that the Republican Party was eager for federal funds to build a railroad clear out to the Pacific Ocean as well as funds to improve the canal and harbor systems throughout the States.
There were very few things in the platform that hinted at the small-government ideals for which the Republican Party is known (or supposedly was once known). I’m anxious to learn just when the Republican Party began espousing those beliefs. So to summarize the original platform:
#1. NO TO SLAVERY
#2. NO TO POLYGAMY
#3. YES TO FEDERAL FUNDS FOR THE RAILROAD
#4. YES TO FEDERAL FUNDS FOR BUILDING CANALS AND SUCH
I can only confidently say that I agree with them on #1.
The next step in my research is the platform of 1872. Maybe in there I’ll find something more substantial that makes me feel like I belong in the Republican Party.