The Republican Party: Overall Issues, 1860-1868


The Republican party during the 1860\'s was known as the party more
concerned with "civil rights" and the common American. This came about through
a series of sweeping changes in the party that occurred during two major time
periods: the 1860-1864 and 1864-1868. The changes in the party reflected the
attitude in the North as opposed to the confederate, democratic South. The main
issue that divided the two was slavery and its implications for control of the
nation.
The best illustration of the party\'s anti-slavery sentiment (as
contrasted to abolitionism) in 1860, is the fact that although the party was
against slavery , it refused to attempt to stamp it out of the regions it was
already present. For example, in the Republican Party Platform for 1860, the
party states its abhorrence for slavery and declares that slavery should not be
instituted into new territories, but it never tries to outlaw it from Southern
states.
"That the normal conditions of all the territory of the United States is
that of freedom...and we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial
legislature or of any individuals, to give existence to Slavery in any Territory
of the United States."
In the first four years of the 1860\'s, the North and South waged war
over these issues, with the Republican North emerging victorious. The
Republicans took charge of the national political power. Although he worked
with an anti-slavery platform, President Lincoln attempted to make a generous
peace with the South, with hopes of expanding the power of the Republican party
with support from the South. Examples of this can be found in the fact that
Confederate officials were not barred from public office, compensation for lost
slaves was not ruled out and Lincoln hinted that he would be generous with
pardons to rebel leaders. With the Emancipation Proclamation, the Republicans
gained freedom for slaves, but not social or political equality.
During the years of 1864-1868, the Republican platform again changed
with the public opinion in the North to one of abolition. In the platform for
the National Union Convention, the party affirmed its support for an Amendment
to "terminate and forever prohibit the existence of slavery within the limits or
jurisdiction of the United States." The 13th Amendment confirmed the death of
slavery. However, the so-called "Black Codes" that Southern governments
implemented forced abolitionist Republicans in Congress to clash with President
Andrew Johnson over the passage of a new Freedmen\'s Bureau bill and a Civil
Rights Act. This clash signified a division between the old Republican values
of tolerance and the new platform of slave rights. This led to the passage of
the 14th amendment, which declared all slaves as citizens and defined their
voting privileges as equal to every other citizen. The radical republicans had
achieved their goal. With freedmen able to vote, the Republic party would be
able to carry more of the Southern states in elections and maintain control.
Near the end of the Reconstruction Era, the Republican party underwent
even more changes. With the slavery issue settled in their eyes, scandals in
the party, and the threat of violence from various hate groups keeping freedmen
from voting, its attentions began to turn elsewhere. The metamorphosis that the
party underwent through the 1860\'s was a direct result of the popular opinion in
the North at the time. As the detestment of slavery grew in the North, so did
the Republican legislation grow more severe against it, starting with the party
platforms and ending with the ratification of the 14th Amendment.

Category: History