The Republican party during the 1860’s was known as the party moreconcerned with “civil rights” and the common American. This came about througha series of sweeping changes in the party that occurred during two major timeperiods: the 1860-1864 and 1864-1868. The changes in the party reflected theattitude in the North as opposed to the confederate, democratic South.
The mainissue that divided the two was slavery and its implications for control of thenation. The best illustration of the party’s anti-slavery sentiment (ascontrasted to abolitionism) in 1860, is the fact that although the party wasagainst slavery , it refused to attempt to stamp it out of the regions it wasalready present. For example, in the Republican Party Platform for 1860, theparty states its abhorrence for slavery and declares that slavery should not beinstituted into new territories, but it never tries to outlaw it from Southernstates. “That the normal conditions of all the territory of the United States isthat of freedom. . .Order now
and we deny the authority of Congress, of a territoriallegislature or of any individuals, to give existence to Slavery in any Territoryof the United States. “In the first four years of the 1860’s, the North and South waged warover these issues, with the Republican North emerging victorious. TheRepublicans took charge of the national political power. Although he workedwith an anti-slavery platform, President Lincoln attempted to make a generouspeace with the South, with hopes of expanding the power of the Republican partywith support from the South. Examples of this can be found in the fact thatConfederate officials were not barred from public office, compensation for lostslaves was not ruled out and Lincoln hinted that he would be generous withpardons to rebel leaders.
With the Emancipation Proclamation, the Republicansgained freedom for slaves, but not social or political equality. During the years of 1864-1868, the Republican platform again changedwith the public opinion in the North to one of abolition. In the platform forthe National Union Convention, the party affirmed its support for an Amendmentto “terminate and forever prohibit the existence of slavery within the limits orjurisdiction of the United States. ” The 13th Amendment confirmed the death ofslavery. However, the so-called “Black Codes” that Southern governmentsimplemented forced abolitionist Republicans in Congress to clash with PresidentAndrew Johnson over the passage of a new Freedmen’s Bureau bill and a CivilRights Act. This clash signified a division between the old Republican valuesof tolerance and the new platform of slave rights.
This led to the passage ofthe 14th amendment, which declared all slaves as citizens and defined theirvoting privileges as equal to every other citizen. The radical republicans hadachieved their goal. With freedmen able to vote, the Republic party would beable to carry more of the Southern states in elections and maintain control. Near the end of the Reconstruction Era, the Republican party underwenteven more changes.
With the slavery issue settled in their eyes, scandals inthe party, and the threat of violence from various hate groups keeping freedmenfrom voting, its attentions began to turn elsewhere. The metamorphosis that theparty underwent through the 1860’s was a direct result of the popular opinion inthe North at the time. As the detestment of slavery grew in the North, so didthe Republican legislation grow more severe against it, starting with the partyplatforms and ending with the ratification of the 14th Amendment. Category: History