When George Washington served as America’s first president, he belonged to no political party. Some historians try to claim that he was a member of the Federalist Party, but I’ve never found any real evidence of that in Washington’s writings.
In Washington’s Farewell Address delivered on September 19, 1796, he warned the nation of the problems with political parties, saying:
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This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”
Washington’s words sound like he was a witness to many modern day squabbles and partisanship between political parties. I can’t help but wonder what Washington would say if he saw this year’s mudslinging between the presidential candidates or the refusal of one political party in Congress to even consider any legislation proposed by the opposing party.
Washington was followed into office by John Adam who was a member of the Federalist Party. He was followed by Thomas Jefferson who was a member of the Democratic-Republican Party who controlled the presidency until Andrew Jackson was elected in 1828 as a member of the Democratic Party.
Like many members of today’s Democratic Party, Jackson was viewed as a tyrannical leader. In attempt to counter his demanding way of running the country, a number of politicians gathered in 1834 and formed the Whig Party.
In 1941, William Henry Harrison was sworn in as the first member of the Whig Party. Over the next decade, slavery became more of an issue and members of Whig Party proved to be too weak or unwilling to stand up for the abolitionist views of many northern states.
The death blow to the Whig Party came with the introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The act was designed to replace the Missouri Compromise and allow western territories wanting admittance to the Union to decide for themselves whether they wanted to be a free or slave state. Whig politicians were not able to stop the legislation and their party fractured.
A number of anti-slavery Whig members began meeting in February 1854 to discuss forming their own political party that stood firm against slavery.
On this day, March 20, 1854, key anti-slave members of the Whig Party met in Ripon, Wisconsin and made the decision to formally created the Republican Party as the party to oppose slavery. They chose the name ‘Republican’ referencing back to the Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson. They also chose the name because they wanted to commit to the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in which they believed slavery as a violation of those rights.
In 1856, John Fremont was the first Republican to run for the presidency. Although he won 11 of the 16 northern states, he carried none of the southern states, losing the election to his Democratic challenger James Buchanan.
As the 1860 presidential election drew near, the Republican Party had grown in the North. Many southern states declared that if a Republican won the election that they would secede from the Union.
However, there was a deep divide within the Democratic Party going into the 1860 Convention. Southern Democrats wanted a candidate that was staunchly against slavery. Northern Democrats weren’t as strong on the topic of slavery.
In the first Democratic Convention in Charleston, South Carolina, held April 23 to May 3, Stephen Douglas was the selection of the northern Democrats. After 54 ballot attempts, Douglas failed to achieve two-thirds of the delegate votes. Not seeing a solution, many of the southern delegates walked out of the convention.
June 18 to 23, the Democrats met for a second convention. This convention pretty much ended up much like the first one with no candidate receiving two-thirds of the delegate vote. Douglas still received a majority but not enough to be declared the official candidate. Eventually, the party officials declared that Douglas finally received two-thirds of the vote, making him their candidate to oppose the relative unknown candidate of the Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln.
The division within the Democratic Party carried over to the general election, allowing Lincoln and relatively new Republican Party to win the presidency. Once the election results were made known, some of the southern states carried through with their promise to secede, leading to the American Civil War.
It’s ironic today to hear so many Democrats describe their party as the party of the working class and blacks, when it was their party that fought long and hard to keep slavery. After the Civil War and the emancipation of the black slaves, it was the Democratic Party that continued to fight to deny equal rights to blacks. It’s was members of the Democratic Party that gave rise to racial hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. It was the Democratic Party that tried so hard to maintain racial segregation in schools, businesses, churches and government.
It was the Republican Party that fought hard to free black slaves and give them equal rights. It was the Republican Party who fought to end segregation, but many blacks have been brainwashed by liberal Democrats into believing the opposite is true. If only they understood which political party really had their welfare in mind, I’m sure we would have a much different America today with different leadership.
Sources for the above includes: Republican Party founded; George Washington Farewell Address; Political Parties; The Origins of the Republican Party; Grand New Party; Republican Party; 1860 Democratic Convention.