In was in the 1800s that the modern-day Republican Party’s roots were set. In analyzing the movement’s history, a fact that is sometimes overlooked is that anti-slavery sentiment and the overarching battle to extinguish the institution were at the center of the so-called Grand Old Party’s (GOP) platform.
In fact, it was this epic battle — one that threatened to split the United States of America into two parts — that very literally led to the political party’s formation.
Over the weekend, CNN’s Tom Foreman delved into the GOP’s unique history, providing a brief recap of how it all took form:
In the tumultuous mid-1800s, right before the Civil War, some political activists were concerned about keeping slavery from spreading into new western territories, and they saw no way to stop it through existing political powers: the Democrats and the Whigs (the pro-Congress party of the mid 1800s that largely destroyed itself in the 1852 elections in a battle over slavery).
So they formed a new party, taking the name “Republicans” in a salute to earlier American politicians.
By 1861, they had their first president: Abraham Lincoln. Soon after, slavery fell. The Whig party disappeared. And the Republicans began a long steady rise in power.
“The modern Republican Party absolutely owes its origin to the fight over slavery,” Foreman proclaims in a “CNN Explains” video piece. The correspondent also goes on to discuss the issues addressed by the GOP of the 1800s and the Republican Party of today.
Many of the stances that are embraced by contemporary party-affiliated politicians mirror the positions that were taken during the party’s period of inception. Foreman notes that immigration, religion, fiscal restraint and the need for an environment that is business-friendly were all embraced by the GOP in the mid-to-late 1800s.
When it comes to regional voting patterns, Foreman claims there may also be some similarities. “Their voting base was largely in rural areas and the west,” he explains, going on to say that this phenomenon is still somewhat true of today’s electorate.
Watch Foreman describe these elements, with a focus upon how an “anti-slavery crusade” helped to form the party, below: