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Founded in northern states in 1854 by anti-slavery activists, modernizers, ex-Whigs and ex-Free Soilers, the Republican Party quickly became the principal opposition to the dominant Democratic Party. It first came to power in 1860 with the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency and Republicans in control of Congress and the northern states. It oversaw the saving of the union, the destruction of slavery, and the provision of equal rights to all men in the American Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877.[1] Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President (1861–1865).The first official party convention was held on July 6, 1854 in Jackson, Michigan. The Republicans' initial base was in the Northeast and the upper Midwest. With the realignment of parties and voters in the Third Party System, the strong run of John C. Fremont in the 1856 Presidential election demonstrated it dominated most northern states. Early Republican ideology was reflected in the 1856 slogan "free labor, free land, free men."[2] "Free labor" referred to the Republican opposition to slave labor and belief in independent artisans and businessmen. "Free land" referred to Republican opposition to plantation system whereby the rich could buy up all the good farm land and work it with slaves, leaving the yeoman independent farmers the leftovers. The Party had the goal of containing the expansion of slavery, which would cause the collapse of the Slave Power and the expansion of freedom.[3] Lincoln, representing the fast-growing western states, won the Republican nomination in 1860 and subsequently won the presidency. The party took on the mission of saving the Union and destroying slavery during the American Civil War and over Reconstruction. In the election of 1864, it united with pro-war Democrats to nominate Lincoln on the National Union Party ticket.


United States

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The party's success created factionalism within the party in the 1870s. Those who felt that Reconstruction had been accomplished and was continued mostly to promote the large-scale corruption tolerated by President Ulysses S. Grant ran Horace Greeley for the presidency. The Stalwarts defended Grant and the spoils system; the Half-Breeds pushed for reform of the civil service. The GOP supported business generally, hard money (i.e., the gold standard), high tariffs to promote economic growth, high wages and high profits, generous pensions for Union veterans, and (after 1893) the annexation of Hawaii. The Republicans supported the pietistic Protestants who demanded Prohibition. As the Northern post-bellum economy boomed with heavy and light industry, railroads, mines, fast-growing cities and prosperous agriculture, the Republicans took credit and promoted policies to sustain the fast growth. Nevertheless, by 1890 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. Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901–1909).After the two terms of Democrat Grover Cleveland, the election of William McKinley in 1896 is widely seen as a resurgence of Republican dominance and is sometimes cited as a realigning election. McKinley promised that high tariffs would end the severe hardship caused by the Panic of 1893, and that the GOP would guarantee a sort of pluralism in which all groups would benefit. The Republicans were cemented as the party of business, though mitigated by the succession of Theodore Roosevelt who embraced trust busting. He later ran on a third party ticket of the Progressive Party and challenged his previous successor William Howard Taft. The party controlled the presidency throughout the 1920s, running on a platform of opposition to the League of Nations, high tariffs, and promotion of business interests. Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were resoundingly elected in 1920, 1924, and 1928 respectively. The Teapot Dome scandal threatened to hurt the party but Harding died and Coolidge blamed everything on him, as the opposition splintered in 1924. The pro-business policies of the decade seemed to produce an unprecedented prosperity until the Wall Street Crash of 1929 heralded the Great Depression.

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