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Republican Party Civil War

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Republican Party Civil War

Upon the disintegration of the Whig Party in 1854, a new party began to take root in the north of the United States. The Republican Party, also known as the “Grand Old Party“ or “GOP”, was made up of factory workers, farmers, and businessmen alike that were united in their opposition to slavery’s spread into new Western territory. Many members of the Republican Party had previously been affiliated with the Whig Party until the proposal of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which split the party in two.

The Republican Party had its first candidate elected into the United States presidency in 1860; Abraham Lincoln, who would lead the country through the Civil War from 1861 to 1865. The Republican Party would continue to hold the presidency until the election of a Democrat president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1933.

In 1866, the Republican Party began to extend membership to any former black slaves from the South.

Formation & Beliefs of the Republican Party

The Republican Party was officially created by previous members of the Whig Party at a meeting in Ripton, Wisconsin on the 20th of March, 1854. Their name, “Republican”, was originally taken in 1792 by those who were in support of President Thomas Jefferson. They favored the idea of a decentralized government with limited power and putting a stop to the Westward expansion of slavery. For the Republican Party, the only acceptable settlers in the West would be those that were free. The party was also in favor of railways that would run across the continent, helping to enable the settling of free Americans in the West while also promoting easier access to trade.

The Southern Democrats did not approve of the Republican Party's politics; upon the Republicans selecting their first candidate for the presidential running in 1856, Southern states threatened to secede from the Union if that candidate won. Though John C. Fremont won 11 out of 16 states in the North, he did not perform well in the South and lost to Democratic candidate James Buchanan on the 4th of November.

Over the next four years, the Republican Party’s reputation was on the rise due to Abraham Lincoln’s debate performance against Stephen A. Douglas in the state of Illinois. Not only did people agree with Lincoln’s politics but they also noticed how he presented himself as an extremely well-spoken and prepared leader. Although Lincoln lost the senatorial seat to Douglas, his increased support propelled him into the presidency in 1860.

The Election of 1860

As the South had previously threatened if John C. Fremont became the U.S. president, the Southern States began to secede upon the successful election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 as president of the United States. The nomination of candidates was so intense that it caused the Democratic Party to split into three separate groups and nominate three separate candidates (pictured below). Despite losing the popular vote, Lincoln still pulled through against all opponents with 180 electoral votes.

The secession began with the state of South Carolina, and over the next six weeks, five other states would also remove themselves from the Union. The Civil War would soon begin on the 12th of April, 1861, in South Carolina’s “Charleston Harbor” at Fort Sumter.

The election of 1860 is viewed by many historians as one of the most “critical” elections in U.S. history due to its sharp and sudden impact on party loyalties across the country.

Rise of the Republican Part |  Portrait of Southern Democratic candidate John C Breckinridge | StudySmarter | US Library of CongressJohn C. Breckinridge. Source: US Library of Congress (CC0).Rise of the Republican Part |  Sitting portrait of Constitutional Union Party candidate John Bell | StudySmarter | US Library of CongressJohn Bell. Source: Library of Congress (CC0). Rise of the Republican Part | Standing portrait of Democratic candidate Stephen A Douglas | StudySmarterStephen A. Douglas. Source: US Library of Congress (CC0).

The Republican Party During the Civil War

President Abraham Lincoln did not only become opposed to slavery throughout the war, but he also saw it as his duty to keep the Union intact; states removing themselves and having the Union break apart was not an option. When he first addressed the seceding states just before the beginning of the war, he issued his warning:

Shall it be peace or the sword?” –Abraham Lincoln

black and white portrait photo of Abraham Lincoln

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Source: U.S. Library of Congress (public domain).

Over the next few years, the Union of the North would fight the Confederacy of the South to keep the country preserved. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln would pass the “Emancipation Proclamation“, which would set thousands of slaves from the South free of their masters. Lincoln knew that as the president he had the right to seize land from those who were seceding, so he strategically chose to implement the proclamation in the Southern States which the Union no longer had control of.

In 1864, Lincoln ran again for president, though he worried that the war had taken a toll on his reputation. In a turn of events, however, General Ulysses S. Grant started winning more and more battles for the Union, bringing Lincoln’s credibility back up and he was elected for his second term in 1865.

Upon his second inauguration speech on March 4th of 1865, Lincoln made the statement: “lasting peace among ourselves... malice towards none... charity for all.” The Civil War ended only a few months later.

Significance of the Republican Party During the War

Not only did the Republican Party do everything in its power to stop the Union from falling apart during the war, but it also made many other notable changes in the country:

  1. The Revenue Act of 1862 implemented the United States' first income tax to help fund the Civil War.
  2. The Morrill Act of 1862 created new colleges in Western territories.
  3. The Homestead Act of 1862 provided current and incoming citizens up to 160 acres of land in exchange for a small fee and a promise to live on the land and improve it.

The Republican Party after the Civil War

After the end of the war, there were still many Confederate sympathizers who pinned their anger on Abraham Lincoln. Secessionists and South sympathizers, such as John Wilkes Booth, would gather together to create a plan to overthrow the Union in order to reverse the outcome of the Civil War. On April 14th, 1865, Lincoln would be shot in the head at Ford’s Theater in Washington DC, passing away the next day. The Secretary of State, William Seward would also be a victim of a sympathizer’s violence but survived his injuries. This violence against Republican representatives showed the United States that some people would not accept the outcome of the war peacefully.

Rise of the Republican Party | Restored painting of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theater | StudySmarter

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln at
Ford's Theater. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Reconstruction Era

During this time, the Radical Republicans were upset with how free black people were being treated in formerly Confederate states. To combat this, Radical Republicans responded by passing legislation that more closely protected the civil rights of black men and women, while also giving voting rights to black men. These moves would deepen white Southerners' loyalty to the Democratic Party for generations after.

The Republican Party also became rapidly associated with big business and financial interests, deep in contrast to the agricultural South. The Federal Government had been able to expand during the Civil War via the implementation of the first income tax, and Northern businesses profited heavily from the expansion.

Radical Republicans:

The Radical Republicans was a chapter from the Republican Party that endorsed an extreme, "radical," and an active approach to the values it predicated: the uncompromised and immediate eradication of slavery. This group was founded in 1854 and was led by Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner.

Progressive Era

While having such an interest in businesses, the Republican Party in the early 20th century became more associated with upper-class citizens. During the Progressive Era, Republicans set in place progressive social, economic, and labor reforms to improve the quality of life for working-class Americans, though they began to neglect the protection of African American people more and more. When the stock market crashed in 1929, causing the Great Depression, the Party was blamed for failing to help the country's people causing them to lose even more support.

The Republican Party would keep its hold of the presidency until the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. The party remains today as one of the two major political parties in the United States.

Rise of the Republican Party - Key takeaways

    • The Republican Party, also known as the Grand Old Party, was founded in Ripton, Wisconsin on the 20th of March, 1854.

    • The Republican Party’s first candidate to be elected US president was Abraham Lincoln in 1860, he would also be the President who guided the country through its Civil War (1861-1865).

    • The Republican Party was not originally completely anti-slavery, they only wanted to keep it from moving West. When they realized that Abolition could be used to their advantage during the war, their minds began to change.

    • Upon losing the Civil War in 1865, Confederate sympathizers wanted to overthrow the Northern government; this ended with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the attempted murder of the Secretary of State, William Seward.

    • The Republican Party kept hold of the U.S. Presidency until the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.

Frequently Asked Questions about Republican Party Civil War

The Democrats controlled the government for many years, but a sharp change in beliefs (such as abolitionism) gave rise to the new  Republican Party and threatened the way of life and economy of the South. Upon Republican President Abraham Lincoln's election, Southern states attempted to secede in order to protect their own ideals. This splitting led to the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. 

Originally, the party was formed in opposition to slavery's expansion into new Western territory. During the war, they began to also abolish slavery in the South. After the war, the party became much more focussed around business and finances rather then racial inequality and slavery, making them a party of the socially elite. 

Originally, the Republican Party only wanted to keep slavery out of the West. When the abolitionist program extended to Southern territory, the Republican Party became intertwined with the anti-slavery movement and an antagonist to the slave states of the South. 

In order to avoid war, Abraham Lincoln attempted to appeal one last time to the South by offering an added Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; this Amendment would allow Southerners to keep slavery in all of the territories it was already legal but not in the Western states. 

African Americans were in support of the Republican Party after the Civil War due to the "emancipation proclamation" of 1865, however, just around ten years later, the Republican Party began to neglect its protection of black Americans and focus more on business, causing many to shift loyalty to the Democratic Party. 

Final Republican Party Civil War Quiz

Question

What year was the Republican Party founded?

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Answer

1854

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Question

The Republican Party was also known as _____. (Hint: “GOP”)

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Answer

Grand Old Party

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Question

When was the Republican Party’s candidate first elected as president? 

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Answer

1860

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Question

What was the name of the first Republican president? 

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Answer

Abraham Lincoln

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Question

What years did the Civil War take place?

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Answer

1861-1865

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Question

The Republican Party was created by former members of the _____.

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Answer

Whig Party

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Question

Why did Southern states threaten to secede? 

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Answer

They were against a Republican president.

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Question

Who did Lincoln debate for Senate seat of Illinois?

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Answer

Stephen A. Douglas 

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Question

Which state was the first to secede? 

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Answer

South Carolina 

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Question

What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?

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Answer

All of the above.

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Question

Was Abraham Lincoln elected for a second term in 1864?

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Answer

Yes

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Question

What Civil War General helped Lincoln‘s re-election?

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Answer

Ulysses S. Grant 

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Question

What else did the Republican Party do during this time period? (1862)

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Answer

All of the above.

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Question

The Republican Party would hold the presidency until the year ____.

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Answer

1933

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Question

What happened to Lincoln just after the Civil War?

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Answer

He was assassinated by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. 

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