Today, Republicans celebrate -- or should celebrate -- the 154th anniversary of our Grand Old Party.
At the time, the Democrats in control of Congress were moving toward passage of their Kansas- Nebraska Act, allowing slavery to expand into the western territories. The Democrat President said he would sign the bill into law.
Amid the intense reaction, a grassroots movement arose to oppose the pro-slavery policies of the Democratic Party. In just a few months, these town meetings and demonstrations coalesced into the Republican Party.
Several sites share the credit as its birthplace, but the GOP was named in Ripon, Wisconsin. At a March 20, 1854, meeting convened by anti-slavery activist Alvan Bovay, fifty-five men and three women called for all opponents of slavery to unite in a new organization, to be called "the Republican Party." This name had a past as well as a future. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and many other Founding Fathers had called themselves "Republicans."
The Ripon meeting was widely reported in the newspapers. Just two months later, Members of Congress who opposed slavery declared themselves to be Republicans. In July, the Republican Party held its first state convention, in Jackson, Michigan.
Within two years, the GOP became a major national party, controlling the U.S. House of Representatives, and in 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected the first Republican President of the United States.
Republicans today would benefit tremendously from appreciating the heritage of our Grand Old Party.
Michael Zak adapted this article from Back to Basics for the Republican Party, his acclaimed history of the GOP cited by Clarence Thomas in a Supreme Court decision. Hundreds more articles are available on the Grand Old Partisan blog, each day celebrating 154 years of Republican heroes and heroics.
Michael Zak is a popular speaker to Republican organizations around the country. See Republican Basics website for more information.