‘The Republican’s Party First Ever State Convention’

A few weeks ago I reported on the Texas GOP convention, so I thought it would be interesting to look back at the history of these conventions. On this day in 1854, the Republicans held it’s first state convention. How did this first GOP convention come about? A groundswell of reaction to the pro slavery Democrats.

In 1854, the Democrats in control of the 33rd Congress were moving toward passage of their Kansas-Nebraska Act, allowing slavery to expand into the western territories. Championing the bill was Stephen Douglas, the senator who would be the Democratic Party’s 1860 presidential nominee. The Democrat President at the time, Franklin Pierce, said he would sign the bill into law. The Democratic Party had chosen to promote slavery.

Amid the intense reaction, a grassroots movement similar to the Tea Parties sprang up to oppose the extension of slavery. At town meetings and demonstrations, anti-slavery activists voiced their opposition to the ‘Slave-ocrats’ and organized the Republican Party.

On July 6, 1854, the Republican Party held in Jackson, Michigan the GOP’s first state convention. So many people attended – over 10,000 – that the meeting was held outdoors, Under the Oaks.

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Just four months later, one of the founders of the Michigan Republican Party, anti-slavery activist Kinsley Bingham, was elected our nation’s first Republican governor. And, another of the original Michigan Republicans, Zachariah Chandler, became one of the first Republicans in the U.S. Senate. Senator Chandler, a former mayor of Detroit and leader of the Underground Railroad, went on to serve as Chairman of the Republican National Committee.

“If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”
Abraham Lincoln (R-IL), 1864

Celebrating our party’s heritage is not just for minority outreach. All Republicans should be proud of the fact that the GOP has been a great force for good ever since being founded in 1854 to oppose the Democrats’ pro-slavery, anti-freedom agenda.


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