A group of citizens are unhappy about congressional legislation so they appoint a committee to form a new political party. The ideas of the new party do not have general, but rather sectional, appeal. Many of the members of the party seem radical. The year the party is formed is 1854. The nickname given to them in the 1880's is "Grand Old Party."
The legislation these new G. O. P. members opposed was the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854 which permitted slavery in these two new territories. The Radical Republicans made the abolition of slavery their main goal. When they lost the election of 1856 they knew they needed to change their goals, so they endorsed a transcontinental rail system and federal aid for harbors and rivers. They promised settlement of the west, a raise in U. S. tariff rates and to permit slavery where it already had permission to exist. The latter was a major compromise of their original goals.
Abraham Lincoln won their first election for them and the Civil War began almost at once. He worked desparately to hold the Union together. In fact, during his presidency, the Republicans preferred to be called the Union Party or National Union Party.
After the Civil War ended and Lincoln was assassinated, Radical Republicans took over the Congress. They, in favor of punishing the south, took away votes of Confederate soldiers and gave the vote to former slaves. Southerners rejected Republican leadership and the south became Democratic. The arguing amongst the ranks eventually ended.
Then came industrialization, which neither party could handle. A few wealthy business leaders got control (and still cling to it today) causing regular wage earners and farmers to experience hard times.
The party split apart when William Howard Taft was President. They reunited after they lost the election in 1912.
The focus of the 1920's was business and industry, and Republicans kept their taxes low and tariffs high. After a long period of Republican presidents, the country experienced the depression and then Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, took the helm. This led to a Republican Party population of business leaders, farmers and conservative workers. For twenty years they remained the minority party. The New Deal reigned and the Republicans attacked it year after year. Welfare programs expanded. Democrats led the country until the Republicans nominated a WW II hero, Dwight D. Eisenhower, a moderate. After another round of Democrats, they nominated Barry Goldwater, an extreme conservative. He was defeated by Lyndon B. Johnson who promoted Civil Rights and laws to help the disadvantaged. Apparently he sought to make sense of the martyrdom of President John F. Kennedy by pushing through the latter's agenda.
Over the years since then, Republicans have become, more and more, conservatives who support the wealthy and Democrats have become identified as liberals bent on providing welfare and support for the other 99% of the population. To quote an old cigarette ad -- the one Mitt Romney recently quoted -- "You've come a long way, baby." To be a Republican today is to be a far cry from the roots of the original Party.
Lou Hough, B. S. in Journalism, SIU, Carbondale, IL; M. A. Educational Research and Psychology, UMKC, K.C. MO; All But Dissertation, School Psychology, University of Kansas, Lawrence.
Publications include: Changes, a novel, and Food for the Soul: A Book of Devotional Essays, both published by Jamie Carr Publishing, 2004. firstname.lastname@example.org