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THE honor of being the birthplace of the Republican party is contested by several States. It now appears beyond doubt, however, that the earliest movement looking to the establishment of the party was a large gathering of anti-slavery advocates, drawn from the progressive wing of both the Whig and the Democratic parties of that day, "under the oaks" at Jackson, Michigan, in a picnic fashion, on the 6th of July, 1854. Kindred spirits in Wisconsin were the next to organize at a meeting held on the 13th day of the same month. At Geneva, Ill., Strong, Me., Worcester, Mass., Pittsburg, Pa., and elsewhere in the Northern States, enthusiastic meetings were held at various dates during the following two years; and, pursuant to a wide demand, a national convention was called to meet in Philadelphia on the 17th of June, 1856. William H. Seward and Salmon P. Chase having withdrawn their names, the leading candidates for the Presidential nomination were Judge John McLean of Pennsylvania and Gen. John C. Frémont, U. S. A. The latter was nominated on the first ballot by a vote of 358 to 199. William L. Dayton of New Jersey was chosen, also on the first ballot, to be the party's candidate for Vice-President. There were three tickets in the field that year, and the result of the popular vote was:
Buchanan & Breckinridge, Democratic.
The Republicans carried 11 States, with 114 Electoral votes, at this, the first election in which they took part as an independent organization.
The country was electrified at the showing of strength made in the face of such odds, and some of the best men in the Northern States, who had held aloof from the new party through misapprehension of its prospects, now came forward and enrolled themselves. It was evident that the anti-slavery agitation was at last upon a practical basis.
What the North viewed with surprise the South regarded with well-defined alarm. The Southern leaders grew bolder and bolder every day in their assertion of the constitutional rights of the States to regulate their domestic interests, including the slave question; and at length these assertions took the form of outright threats that, if the North gave the Abolition crusade its support, the slave States would secede from the Union and set up a Confederacy of their own, where their peculiar institution would be safe from molestation.
The campaign of 1860 was, therefore, fought almost wholly on that issue. Four Presidential tickets were in the field. Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois was the candidate of that part of the Democratic party which believed in sticking to the Union in any event, and in keeping the peace by compromises on both sides. John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, who had been identified with the Buchanan Administration as Vice-President, was nominated by the Elavery-at-all-hazards Democrats.
Another group of politicians in both the great sections of the country formed what they called a Constitutional Union party, and chose a Southern man, John Bell of Tennessee, for the first, and a Northern man, Edward Everett of Massachusetts, for the second place on their ticket. The Republicans, who had representatives from all of the free and from five of the slave States at their convention, took only three ballots. The leading candidates were William H. Seward of New York, already somewhat famous as a statesman, and a Western man-one Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, whose reputation had been largely gained in local contests with the Democratic favorite, Douglas.
Seward led on the first ballot, Lincoln on the second. Before the third had been finished it was evident that Lincoln was going to have the requisite number to nominate, and a stampede to his side began. The wild scenes which followed were described at length in the newspapers, and further increased the alarm at the South, causing the leaders there to take definite steps toward executing some of the threats they had made in case the enthusiasm of the new party in convention should prove an earnest of its work at the polls.
The announcement of Lincoln's election was the signal for the secession of South Carolina, the formation of the Southern Confederacy, and the retirement of a host of Southern men from Congress to follow the fortunes of their respective States. His first efforts, after his inauguration, were directed to the restoration of peace, which he still hoped might be possible. But the South was determined to go its way, and the new President had not been in office a month and a half before hostilities were actually begun by the siege of Fort Sumter. If the Southern leaders had deliberately set out to insure for Lincoln's administration the undivided support of the North, they could scarcely have chosen a safer course than this. Old Democrats flocked into what came to be known as the Administration party, which was really only the Republican party with its name sufficiently modified to save the self-respect of some of its former foes who were ready to lend their aid in prosecuting the war to a victorious end.
During the next three years, however, men's opinions had several opportunities for revisal, and not a few of the original Republicans who had tired of Lincoln's patient, forbearing policy were ready to join with the Democrats who had become doubtful of the success of the Union arms, to bring about a change of administration. The dissatisfied Republicans put up Frémont as a candidate to kill Lincoln off, and the Democrats nominated Gen. George B. McClellan on a platform declaring the war a failure.
The regular Republican convention met in June, 1864, when the national debt had swelled to nearly two billions of dollars, and gold sold at 252. The prospect was exceedingly dark; but the homely maxim of the President, Tain't safe to swap horses while crossing a stream," had evidently taken pretty firm hold of the minds of the delegates, and Lincoln was renominated. Hannibal Hamlin, who had been his Vice-President, was retired in favor of Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, on the theory that it would be wise to recognize the loyal element in the seceded States by honoring one of their representative men. Lincoln's ticket swept the North, Frémont having withdrawn some time before the election day, and the Democratic peace platform being unacceptable to the majority of the old Democrats themselves, when they came to think soberly of its significance.
The war ended the following spring, as if the South had realized that the reelection of Lincoln typified the resolve of the Northern patriots to stand by their cause to the last gasp, and to sink party differences till the great end of a restored Union had been accomplished. In the first blush of peace, Lincoln was assassinated by J. Wilkes Booth on Good Friday night, 1865, and Johnson succeeded to the Presidential chair.. Almost his earliest act as Pres
ident was to quarrel with the Republican majority in Congress over the policy to be pursued in bringing the seceders back to allegiance and citizenship. The controversy resulted in his trial on articles of impeachment, charging him with high crimes and misdemeanors, his accusers taking the ground that he had transcended his constitutional authority in many of his proceedings. He was acquitted, but it was so narrow an escape that his influence was gone forever, and at the end of his term there was no effort to renominate him.
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who had been chiefly instrumental in putting down the rebellion, received the unanimous vote of the Republican convention of 1868. His Democratic competitor was Horatio Seymour of New York. Grant had a comparatively easy victory. His administration for the first four years brought him into a serious conflict with Charles Sumner, Carl Schurz and other eminent men in his party, and Horace Greeley headed a revolt of the Liberal Republicans, who held a separate convention from the main party and nominated Greeley for President in 1872. He was endorsed by the Democrats, and became Grant's chief opponent. The hybrid ticket was popular, however, and Grant routed his foes after a sharp, but rather onesided campaign.
The eight years of Grant's service as President were notable for the completion of the Central and Union Pacific Railroads with government aid; the war upon Kukluxism in the South; a general amnesty law for the benefit of the men lately in rebellion; the adoption of the 15th amendment to the Constitution, conferring suffrage on the negro; the award of $15,500,000 to the United States by the Geneva Tribunal for damages inflicted by the privateer Alabama under English auspices; and the establishment of an Electoral Commission to try the disputed question whether Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio or Samuel J. Tilden of New York had been elected President of the United States to succeed Grant. The Commission decided in favor of Hayes, the Republican contestant, and he was inaugurated on the 5th of March, 1877.
One of the first incidents of the Hayes administration was the recall from Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida of the Federal troops kept there by Grant to suppress domestic disturbances. In this term also, the law requiring the purchase and coinage of $2,000,000 to $4,000,000 worth of silver bullion every month by the government, and the act providing for the payment of arrears of pensions to veterans of the civil war, were passed; and the resumption of specie payments, in accordance with the Sherman act of 1875, was successfully accomplished.
In 1880 the Republicans nominated James A. Garfield of Ohio for President, and he defeated Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, chiefly upon the issue of a high tersus a low tariff. A few months after his inauguration, he aroused the hostility of Roscoe Conkling and Thomas C. Platt, Senators from New York, over a question of executive patronage, and the Senators resigned. The bad blood excited by this controversy spread throughout the country, the majority of the party siding with the President; but Charles J. Guiteau, a disappointed office-seeker, avenged himself upon the President for fancied wrongs by shooting him. Garfield lingered from the 2d of July, when the assault was made, till the 19th of September, and then died, and Chester A. Arthur of New York, the Vice-President, succeeded him. The chief events of the Arthur administration were the enactment of the Morrill tariff law, the law to restrict Chinese immigration for ten years, and the law for the reform of the civil service. The public debt was largely increased also.
Arthur was a candidate for the Presidential nomination in 1884, but was beaten after a sharp struggle by James G. Blaine of Maine. At the polls Blaine was defeated by Grover Cleveland of New York, the Democratic candidate. Cleveland's pronounced views on the subject of tariff reduction gave the Republicans again, as in 1880, a popular issue; the banner of Protection to Home Industries was raised, and in the campaign of 1888, when Cleveland
ran for a second term, he was badly routed by the Republican standardbearer, Benjamin Harrison of Indiana.
Harrison's administration has been conspicuous for the passage of the McKinley tariff act, an act for the relief of the Supreme Court by constituting Circuit Courts of Appeal, an act requiring the purchase by the government of 4,500,000 ounces of silver bullion monthly and an act to pay subsidies to American vessels carrying the mails to parts of the world where our commerce is inactive; for the upbuilding of the American navy, and the establishment of relations of commercial reciprocity with several countries where our agricultural products ought to have a market.
These measures owed their success to the fact that, with the restoration of the Republicans to power in the executive branch of the government, a like change was wrought in the legislative branch. Thomas B. Reed of Maine was chosen Speaker of the new House, and soon aroused the animosity of the Democratic minority by suppressing their attempts to delay the work of the session by filibustering. The common practice in Congress had been to decide whether there was a quorum present at any given time by taking a vote on some pending bill or resolution by "yeas and nays," and then counting the responses to see whether the total would amount to a quorum under the constitutional rule. This often enabled a minority, by refusing to vote even when bodily present in the chamber, to prevent the appearance of a quorum on the official record of the vote, and thus deprive the chamber of its right to proceed with public business. Speaker Reed abandoned this precedent, directing the Clerk to count the members actually present, whether voting or not, and, if the number proved sufficient, proceeding with business in spite of all protests. The Republicans in the House approved his course, and adopted a permanent rule making this method of determining the presence of a quorum compulsory.
In the general elections of 1890 the Democrats swept the country, and the Fifty-second Congress assembled the next year with a clear majority of 136 in the House of Representatives, besides a group of members elected by the Farmers' Alliance, a political secret society holding a strong position in the agricultural communities of the South and West. Members of the Alliance generally acted with the Democrats. The Speakership went to Charles F. Crisp of Georgia; and the Republicans, by casting their complimentary vote for Ex-Speaker Reed, made him the leader of the opposition in the present Congress.
THE Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union is one of many unions of farmers which have come into being within the last twenty years. The National Grange of Patrons of Husbandry for a time made itself felt in politics. This now has twenty-six thousand subordinate granges in the States and Territories. The Farmers' Mutual Benefit Association claims half a million members. The society known as Patrons of Industry is strong in the Northwest. The National Colored Farmers' Alliance and Cooperative Union has its strength in the Southern States. The National Farmers' Alliance has branches in some fifteen States.
These organizations, existing as they do side by side, have many members in common. The Grange especially has become almost wholly a social and beneficiary organization and the majority of its members also belong to the Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union, which is the strongest, and, politically, the most powerful of the societies. How powerful it is may be imagined from the fact that it counts over a million and a half members.
In the year 1876 the farmers of Lampasas County, Texas, combined in an alliance against land and cattle thieves. The association gathered strength and found agitation for a “no fence" law and other issues which appealed to all the farmers of the State, strength which was shown in the rapid growth of the alliance. In 1886 the Farmers' State Alliance was formed. In its platform it shadowed forth the strong stand it was to take in politics by declaring that one of its objects was "education of the agricultural classes in the science of economical government in a strictly non-partisan spirit."
But other States had followed the lead of the Texas farmers. The Wheel had been organized in a schoolhouse in western Arkansas in 1882, and the farmers of Louisiana had united in the Farmers' Union. Delegates from the Texas Alliance and the Louisiana Union met in 1887 at Waco, Texas, and formed the National Farmers' Alliance and Coöperative Union of America. In the following year a convention was held at Meridian, Miss., of delegates from this and from the National Agricultural Wheel. The two bodies united under the name of the Farmers' and Laborers' Union of America. In December, 1889, the name was changed to the National Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union, and this name has not been changed. It was at this convention, held in St. Louis, that the first of those "demands" were formulated which have since then become such a feature of the organization.
The Farmers' Alliance has three departments of government, the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. The first is known as the Supreme Council of the order, and is supreme in authority. The second is composed of the duly elected officers, and the third consists of three judges whose duty it is to decide all grievances and appeals affecting the Council, and to try appeals from State bodies. The qualifications for membership are that the applicant shall be white and over sixteen years of age, shall be a believer in a Supreme Being, shall have resided in the State six months, and shall follow one of the following occupations: a farmer, a farm laborer, a mechanic, a country preacher, a country school-teacher, a country doctor or the editor of an agricultural newspaper. The right to change the color requirement is given to States or Territories, but none but whites can be elected as delegates to the Supreme Council as the National Convention is called.
The demands" as they are called, formulated by the Supreme Council, have been the subject of much comment. The meeting at Ocala, Florida, in