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History of the Republican Party


The Republican Party was born in the early 1850's by anti-slavery activists and individuals who believed that government should grant western lands to settlers free of charge. In 1860, the Republicans successfully elected their nominee to the Presidency - Abraham Lincoln.

During his Presidency, the United States was wracked by Civil War. During that war, and against the advice of his cabinet, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves. The Republicans of their day worked to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery, the Fourteenth, which guaranteed equal protection under the laws, and the Fifteenth, which helped secure voting rights for African-Americans. That historic relationship is why the first African-American Congressmen were Republicans.

In 1896, Republicans were the first major party to argue for securing women the right to vote. When the 19th Amendment was finally added to the Constitution, 26 of 36 state legislatures that had voted to ratify it were under Republican control. The first woman elected to Congress was a Republican, Jeanette Rankin from Montana, in 1917.

Presidents during most of the late nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century were Republicans. While the Democrats and Franklin Roosevelt tended to dominate American politics in the 1930's and 40's, for twenty-eight of the forty-four years from 1952 through 2004, the White House has been in Republican hands - under Presidents like Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush. Under Reagan and Bush Sr., the United States became the world's only superpower, winning the Cold War from the old Soviet Union and releasing millions from Communist oppression.

The G.O.P.

The term "Grand Old Party" is a traditional nickname for the Republican Party, and the acronym G.O.P. is a commonly used designation. According to the Oxford English Dictionary the first known reference to the Republican Party as the "grand old party" came in 1876. The first use of the abbreviation G.O.P. is dated 1884.

The mascot symbol, historically, is the elephant. A political cartoon by Thomas Nast, published in Harper's Weekly on November 7, 1874, is considered the first important use of the symbol. In the early 20th century, the usual symbol of the Republican Party in Midwestern states such as Indiana and Ohio was the eagle, as opposed to the Democratic donkey. This symbol still appears on Indiana ballots.



"The Third-Term Panic", by Thomas Nast, originally published in Harper's Magazine November 1874.






Lincoln Day is the primary annual fundraising celebration held by many state and county organizations of the Republican Party. It is named after President Abraham Lincoln.

After the 2000 election, the color red became associated with the GOP although it has not been officially adopted by the party. On election night 2000, for the first time ever, all major broadcast networks utilized the same color scheme for the electoral map: red for Republicans and blue for Democrats. Although the color red is unofficial and informal, it is widely recognized by the media and the public to represent the GOP. Partisan supporters now often use the color red for promotional materials and campaign merchandise.

Republican Women

Once again the Republican Party was the vanguard in relation to women. In 1917, Jeannette Rankin, a Montana Republican, became the first woman to serve in the House. Committed to her pacifist beliefs, she was the only member of Congress to vote against entry into both World War I and World War II.

Shortly after Ms. Rankin's election to Congress, the 19th Amendment was passed in 1919. The amendment's journey to ratification had been a long and difficult one. Starting in 1896, the Republican Party became the first major party to officially favor women's suffrage. That year, Republican Sen. A. A. Sargent of California introduced a proposal in the Senate to give women the right to vote. The proposal was defeated four times in the Democratic-controlled Senate. When the Republican Party regained control of Congress, the Equal Suffrage Amendment finally passed (304-88). Only 16 Republicans opposed the amendment.

When the amendment was submitted to the states, 26 of the 36 states that ratified it had Republican-controlled legislatures. Of the nine states that voted against ratification, eight were controlled by Democrats. Twelve states, all Republican, had given women full suffrage before the federal amendment was finally ratified.


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