The Grand Old Party

The Republican Party was born in the early 1850s by anti-slavery activists and individuals who believed that government should grant western lands to settlers free of charge. The first informal meeting of the party took place in Ripon, Wisconsin, a small town northwest of Milwaukee. The first official Republican meeting took place on July 6th, 1854 in Jackson, Michigan. The name "Republican" was chosen because it alluded to equality and reminded individuals of Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party. At the Jackson convention, the new party adopted a platform and nominated candidates for office in Michigan. Many of its initial policies were inspired by the Whig Party, which by then was in decline. Many of the early members of the Republican Party came from the Whigs, the Free Soil Party, and American Party.

Only 2 years later in 1856, the Republicans became a national party when John C. Fremont was nominated for President under the slogan: "Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men, Fremont." Even though they were considered a "third party" because the Democrats and Whigs represented the two-party system at the time, Fremont received 33% of the vote. Although Fremont's bid was unsuccessful, the party grew especially rapidly in Midwestern states, where slavery had long been prohibited, and in the Northeast, culminating in a sweep of victories in the Northern states. Four years later, Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican to win the White House. A new era of Republican dominance based in the industrial north ensued. Our party is often referred to as the "party of Lincoln" in honor of the first Republican President.

The Civil War erupted in 1861 and lasted four grueling years. During the war, against the advice of his cabinet, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves. The Republicans of the day worked to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery, the Fourteenth, which guaranteed equal protection under the laws, and the Fifteenth, which helped secure voting rights for African-Americans.

The Republican Party also played a leading role in securing women the right to vote. In 1896, Republicans were the first major party to favor women's suffrage. When the 19th Amendment finally was added to the Constitution, 26 of 36 state legislatures that had voted to ratify it were under Republican control. The first woman elected to Congress was a Republican, Jeanette Rankin from Montana in 1917.

Presidents during most of the late nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century were Republicans. The White House was in Republican hands under Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush. Under the last two, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the United States became the world's only superpower, winning the Cold War from the old Soviet Union and releasing millions from Communist oppression. President Ronald Reagan's supeior leadership in global and domestic affairs has earned the late-president international renown even after his recent passing.

In Kane County, the Republican Party has domainated the local political scene for several decades, currently holding every county-wide office, and a majority of seats in both the IL House, Senate and County Board. President Bush easily won Kane County in both the 2000 and 2004 Presidential Elections, and Jim Ryan carried the county over Democrat Rod Blagojevich. Republican Oscar E. Nelson was elected State Treasurer in 1922 and served one term in office, becoming the only statewide elected official from Kane County. Republican Arnold P. Benson served as State Senate President, presiding over the 62nd and 63rd General Assemblies from 1941 to 1945.

Behind all the elected officials and the candidates of any political party are thousands of hard-working staff and volunteers who raise money, lick the envelopes, and make the phone calls that every winning campaign must have. The national structure of our party starts with the Republican National Committee. Each state has its own Republican State Committee with a Chairman and staff. The Republican structure goes right down to the neighborhoods, where a Republican precinct committeemen every Election Day organize Republican workers to get out the vote.

Republican voters and volunteers are the heart and soul of the party. Republicans have a long and rich history with basic principles: Individuals, not government, can make the best decisions; all people are entitled to equal rights; and decisions are best made close to home.

The symbol of the Republican Party is the elephant. During the mid term elections way back in 1874, Democrats tried to scare voters into thinking President Grant would seek to run for an unprecedented third term. Thomas Nast, a cartoonist for Harper's Weekly, depicted a Democratic jackass trying to scare a Republican elephant - and both symbols stuck. For a long time Republicans have been known as the "G.O.P." And party faithfuls thought it meant the "Grand Old Party." But apparently the original meaning (in 1875) was "gallant old party." And when automobiles were invented it also came to mean, "get out and push." That's still a pretty good slogan for Republicans who depend every campaign year on the hard work of hundreds of thousands of volunteers to get out and vote and push people to support the causes of the Republican Party.

photo of Lincoln and his son

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it."

– Abraham Lincoln

photo of two women suffragettes holding a Votes for Women sign photo of Ronald Reagan photo of an elephant