Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Republican Era 1860-1932

The Republican Era 1860-1932


The second Republican national convention in 1860 resulted in the presidential nomination of Abraham Lincoln. The Republican platform pledged not to extend slavery and called for enactment of free-homestead legislation, prompt establishment of a daily overland mail service, a transcontinental railroad, and support of the protective tariff. Lincoln was opposed by three major candidates-Stephen Douglas (Northern Democrat), John Cabell Breckinridge (Southern Democrat), and John Bell (Constitutional Union party). Lincoln received almost half a million votes more than Douglas, but won the election with only 39.8 percent of the popular vote.

The defeat of the South in the Civil War left the Democratic party-closely allied with the Confederacy-in shambles. The Republicans,on the other hand, were in the ascendancy. With the election of Ulysses S. Grant, the Republicans began a period of national dominance that lasted for more than 70 years, only occasionally breached by a Democratic victory.

The Republicans nominated Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio in 1876. The party was reunited as Hayes promised to remove the federal troops from the South and urged civil service reform. The Hayes administration was generally efficient. It ended Reconstruction, reformed the civil service, and espoused sound money policies. Hayes did not seek a second term. Instead, James A. Garfield was nominated as the Republican candidate in 1880. Chester A. Arthur of New York was nominated for vice-president. After a close win, Garfield was assassinated and Arthur became president of the United States. Arthur astonished many with his success in getting passed the Pendleton Act, creating a civil service based on the merit system. He was never able to gain control of his party, however, and was the only president denied renomination by his party's convention. James G. Blaine of Maine received the nomination instead and faced Democrat Grover Cleveland of New York in the 1884 election. In a campaign infamous as one of the dirtiest in history, Cleveland, aided by the mugwumps led by Carl Schurz, defeated Blaine by a narrow margin.

Much of Cleveland's presidency was dominated by debate over the protective tariff. In 1888, after Blaine declined to run, Republicans chose Benjamin Harrison as their nominee. Campaigning strongly in favor of the protective tariff, Harrison defeated Cleveland by an electoral vote of 233 to 168. The Republicans passed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, admitted several new states to the Union, and passed the highly protective McKinley Tariff Act.

President Harrison, was renominated in 1892 but lost the election to Grover Cleveland. A generally lackluster Cleveland administration-provided hope for the Republicans. In 1896, William McKinley of Ohio became the Republican candidate. McKinley beat William Jennings Bryan by a substantial margin. McKinley received support from the industrial Northeast and the business community. Bryan received his votes from agricultural areas, the South, the West, and from the laboring man.

McKinley's first term was dominated by the 10-week-long Spanish-American War (1898) and the subsequent acquisition of Guam, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and the annexation of Hawaii. These events increasingly thrust the United States into world politics. The only question regarding the Republican ticket in 1900 was who would replace Vice-President Garret Hobart who had died the previous year. Governor Theodore Roosevelt of New York was chosen. McKinley again defeated William Jennings Bryan but was assassinated in 1901. Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as president, inaugurating a remarkable era in American political history.

Under Theodore Roosevelt the country saw reforms in economic, political, and social life. Republicans took the lead in conservation efforts and, to the dismay of some old stalwarts, began implementing Roosevelt's trust-busting ideas. Roosevelt's overwhelming reelection in 1904 inaugurated a new era of regulatory legislation and conservation measures. As he had promised, he chose not to run in 1908 and urged the party to nominate William Howard Taft of Ohio.

Taft defeated Bryan, who was running for the third time. At the Chicago convention in 1912, Roosevelt challenged Taft for the nomination. Failing to win, Roosevelt bolted the party and ran as the Progressive party candidate. Thus split, the Republicans decisively lost the presidency to Woodrow Wilson.

In 1916 the Republicans nominated Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, but Wilson's domestic record, his personal popularity, and his pledge to keep the United States out of the war in Europe were obstacles too great for Hughes to overcome. Despite Wilson's promises, the United States was drawn into World War I, and party politics gave way to bipartisan prosecution of the war. Republicans won control of the House of Representatives and the Senate in the 1918 elections.

The Republican ticket of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge won the 1920 election by a landslide. Harding's administration was plagued by scandals which were inherited by Coolidge after Harding's death in 1923. In a politically astute move, Coolidge appointed two special prosecutors to deal with the scandals, one from each party. Nominated in his own right in 1924, Coolidge was reelected by a large margin. In 1928, Coolidge declined to run again, and the Republicans turned to Herbert Hoover of California. Hoover won by an unprecedented landslide against Alfred E. Smith. Republicans also won control of both houses of Congress. Hoover was renominated in 1932 in the depths of the Depression of the 1930s, but Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated him in one of the great landslide victories in U.S. history. The 70-year era of Republicanism was at an end. One of Roosevelt's major accomplishments was wooing the black vote away from the Republicans.

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