What happened to Abraham Lincoln’s party?
What happened to the Republican party Abraham Lincoln helped shape in the years prior to the election of 1860? Would the President who knew all too well what happened when this country was torn apart recognize his party today? Would he understand why they seem so determined to divide this country now? Would he stand and applaud their efforts? Or would he be stunned and wonder why they had not learned from the past? Would he wonder whether his death and the deaths of all who died during those four years were in vain if once again a political party, this time his party, seeks to tear apart the country?
From his First Inaugural Address:
The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to “preserve, protect, and defend it.”
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
From his Annual Message to Congress December 1, 1862:
Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility… We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.
From his Second Inaugural Address:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all… let us bind up the nation’s wounds.”
The current political climate, with right-wing Republicans and Tea Party members using rhetoric that sounds very much like a call for a possible revolt against the government, and the current disparity between those who “have” and those who “have not” and the Conservative elements of the Republican party’s refusal to support any type of assistance to the working class, are far from the ideals set forth in the first Republican Party platform.
That the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Federal Constitution, “That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” is essential to the preservation of our…institutions; and that the Federal Constitution, the Rights of the States, and the Union of the States, must and shall be preserved….
…we hold in abhorrence all schemes for Disunion, come from whatever source they may…and we denounce those threats of Disunion, in case of a popular overthrow of their ascendency, as denying the vital principles of a free government, and as an avowal of contemplated treason, which it is the imperative duty of an indignant People sternly to rebuke and forever silence.
…we commend that policy of national exchanges which secures to the working men liberal wages, to agriculture renumerative prices, to mechanics and manufactures an adequate reward for their skill, labor, and enterprise, and to the nation commercial prosperity and independence.
…The party is opposed to any change in our Naturalization Laws or any State legislation by which the rights of citizenship hitherto accorded to immigrants from foreign lands shall be abridged or impaired; and in favor of giving a full and efficient protection to the rights of all classes of citizens, whether native or naturalized, both at home and abroad.
… Finally, having thus set forth our distinctive principles and views, we invite the coöperation of all citizens, however differing on other questions, who substantially agree with us in their affirmance and support.
Then the Republican party was pro-equality, pro-labor and pro-immigrant. They were also the party that passed the 14th Amendment which expanded, not limited, voting rights. So what happened? Ironically, Civil rights happened. White Southern Democrats who still retained the same racist views as their ancestors the plantation owners and other whites who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War refused to accept the push for racial equality and/or obey the laws being enforced to try to ensure that equality.
They refused to give up on the legacy of white superiority and laws that sought to keep segregation and severely limit voting rights based solely on race. They stopped referring to themselves as Democrats and were known for awhile as Dixiecrats before finally moving into and taking over the Republican Party. Their influence has grown tremendously over the years and their voices have drowned out the voices of Northern Republicans who believed in and held on to the ideals of the party of Lincoln.