OTD in History… August 8, 1968, Republican Party nominates Richard Nixon for President

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OTD in History… August 8, 1968, Republican Party nominates Richard Nixon for President

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history August 8, 1968, The Republican Party nominates Richard M. Nixon for President at their convention in Miami Beach, Florida, and Nixon delivers his acceptance speech.This was the second time the Republican Party chose Nixon as their nominee, the first was in 1960, where then-Vice President Nixon went up against then-Senator John F. Kennedy and lost by a slim margin. In 1968, Nixon rehabilitated his image into a new Nixon devising a Southern strategy to win over the Southern states who were disenchanted with the Democratic Party and President Lyndon Johnson over his racial policies. Nixon’s campaign focused on the escalating Vietnam War and law and order issues.

Nixon chose as his running mate Maryland Governor Spiro T. Agnew. They would go on to beat narrowly Democratic nominee and Vice President Hubert Humphrey largely because of opposition to the growing Vietnam War. Although they would be reelected in 1972, neither Nixon nor Agnew would complete their terms. Agnew resigned after being charged with tax evasion and political corruption in 1973. While six years to the day after his nomination Nixon would become the first president to resign from office over his impending impeachment over the Watergate scandal.

In the primaries, Michigan Governor George Romney was the early front-runner. He faced opposition over being a Mormon and his support for the Vietnam War. Romney claimed, he “originally supported Johnson’s Vietnam policy because he had been “brainwashed” by government briefing officers.” Romney withdrew in February 1968 because of public ridicule over his Vietnam flap, and the public’s fear of his religion.

Since his 1962 defeat for the California governorship, Richard Nixon gained support and friendships with Republican Party leaders. In the 1966-midterm elections, Nixon campaigned successfully for Republican candidates. In 1968, Nixon became the front-runner winning all the early primaries. Nelson Rockefeller announced in a March 1968 press conference he would not run for the nomination. After Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, Rockefeller changed his mind announced his candidacy. California Governor Ronald Reagan was the conservative candidate, until April 1968, he did not commit to running beyond a favorite son campaign. Rockefeller and Reagan entered the race too late, and could not compete with Nixon, who accumulated enough delegate support to clinch the nomination on the first ballot.

At the Republican National Convention held August 5–8, 1968, Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts became the first African-American Senator elected as convention temporary chairman. Nixon won the nomination on the first ballot against Nelson Rockefeller and Ronald Reagan. Nixon amassed 692 votes, to Rockefeller’s 277 and 182 votes for Reagan. Nixon chose Governor Spiro T. Agnew of Maryland, an unknown eliciting the response of “Spiro Who?” as his running mate, Nixon chose him to appeal to the Border States and Deep South. Reverend Ralph D. Abernathy’s (president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference) the Poor People’s Campaign demonstrated outside the convention hall.

In his acceptance speech, Nixon emphasized the bad state the country was in under the Democrats. Nixon expressed, “When the strongest nation in the world can be tied down for four years in Vietnam with no end in sight, when the richest nation in the world can’t manage its own economy, when the nation with the greatest tradition of the rule of law is plagued by unprecedented racial violence, when the President of the United States cannot travel abroad or to any major city at home, then it’s time for new leadership for the United States of America”.

Nixon also mentioned the silent majority voting bloc he was appealing to in his campaign. Nixon stated, “It is another voice, it is a quiet voice in the tumult of the shouting. It is the voice of the great majority of Americans, the forgotten Americans, the non-shouters, the non-demonstrators…. They’re good people. They’re decent people; they work and they save and they pay their taxes and they care…. And this I say, this I say to you tonight, is the real voice of America. In this year 1968, this is the message it will broadcast to America and to the world.”

Nixon faced competition in the general election from Alabama Governor George Wallace, his greatest competition for Southern votes; Wallace was also running on integration and law and order issues. Until September 25, Nixon led and Humphrey trailed in the polls. Then Humphrey broke with Johnson on Vietnam and announced he support of Vietnam bombing halt. Humphrey became the peace candidate, which increased anti-war Democrat and liberal support for Humphrey after the announcement, allowing Humphrey to close in on Nixon at the polls.

In October, President Johnson was attempting to reach an agreement with the North Vietnamese in the Paris peace talks. This would allow him to halt the bombing, which would salvage Humphrey’s campaign. Nixon realized that Johnson was attempting to use the power of the presidency to help Humphrey, and accused him of doing so on October 25. Johnson denounced such claims as “ugly and unfair.” Five days before the election on October 31, however, President Johnson announced a halt in the bombing of North Vietnam. The bombing halt allowed many people to conclude that the end of the war might be approaching, putting Humphrey in a favorable position. Humphrey went up in the polls, however, when the South Vietnamese government indicated it would not negotiate, Humphrey’s numbers slid again.

Nixon would go on to win a narrow victory over Humphrey with the popular vote, 31,783,783 and 43.42 percent of the vote to Humphrey’s 31,271,839 and 42.72 percent of the vote. The Electoral College votes would be more decisive 301 for Nixon and 191 for Humphrey. The Democrats, however, retained control of both houses in Congress. Despite the split results and the lack of resolution for many of the central campaign issues, historian Lewis Gould in his book 1968: The Election That Changed America, argues “In fact, the 1968 election proved to be a watershed event in American politics.”

Gould explains the reason, claiming, “Republicans used the skills they brought to Nixon’s campaign to create an ascendancy in presidential politics. Democrats, divided and torn after 1968, emerged as only crippled challengers for the White House in the 1970s and 1980s. Bitterness over racial issues and discord on the Vietnam War continued to shape national affairs. The events of 1968 changed the way Americans felt about politics and their leaders. An erosion of confidence in American institutions began that has not yet reached a conclusion.” (Gould, 8)

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Boller, Paul F. Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Gould, Lewis L. 1968: The Election That Changed America. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2010.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida

August 8, 1968

Mr. Chairman, delegates to this convention, my fellow Americans.

Sixteen years ago I stood before this Convention to accept your nomination as the running mate of one of the greatest Americans of our time—or of any time—Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Eight years ago, I had the highest honor of accepting your nomination for President of the United States.

Tonight, I again proudly accept that nomination for President of the United States.

But I have news for you. This time there is a difference.

This time we are going to win.

We’re going to win for a number of reasons: first a personal one. General Eisenhower, as you know, lies critically ill in the Walter Reed Hospital tonight. I have talked, however, with Mrs. Eisenhower on the telephone. She tells me that his heart is with us. And she says that there is nothing that he lives more for and there is nothing that would lift him more than for us to win in November and I say let’s win this one for Ike!

We are going to win because this great Convention has demonstrated to the nation that the Republican Party has the leadership, the platform and the purpose that America needs.

We are going to win because you have nominated as my running mate a statesman of the first rank who will be a great campaigner and one who is fully qualified to undertake the new responsibilities that I shall give to the next Vice President of the United States.

And he is a man who fully shares my conviction and yours, that after a period of forty years when power has gone from the cities and the states to the government in Washington, D.C., it’s time to have power go back from Washington to the states and to the cities of this country all over America.

We are going to win because at a time that America cries out for the unity that this Administration has destroyed, the Republican Party—after a spirited contest for its nomination for President and for Vice President— stands united before the nation tonight.

I congratulate Governor Reagan. I congratulate Governor Rockefeller. I congratulate Governor Romney. I congratulate all those who have made the hard fight that they have for this nomination. And I know that you will all fight even harder for the great victory our party is going to win in November because we’re going to be together in that election campaign.

And a party that can unite itself will unite America.

My fellow Americans, most important—we are going to win because our cause is right.

We make history tonight—not for ourselves but for the ages.

The choice we make in 1968 will determine not only the future of America but the future of peace and freedom in the world for the last third of the Twentieth Century.

And the question that we answer tonight: can America meet this great challenge?

For a few moments, let us look at America, let us listen to America to find the answer to that question.

As we look at America, we see cities enveloped in smoke and flame.

We hear sirens in the night.

We see Americans dying on distant battlefields abroad.

We see Americans hating each other; fighting each other; killing each other at home.

And as we see and hear these things, millions of Americans cry out in anguish.

Did we come all this way for this?

Did American boys die in Normandy, and Korea, and in Valley Forge for this?

Listen to the answer to those questions.

It is another voice. It is the quiet voice in the tumult and the shouting.

It is the voice of the great majority of Americans, the forgotten Americans—the non-shouters; the non-demonstrators.

They are not racists or sick; they are not guilty of the crime that plagues the land.

They are black and they are white—they’re native born and foreign born —they’re young and they’re old.

They work in America’s factories.

They run America’s businesses.

They serve in government.

They provide most of the soldiers who died to keep us free.

They give drive to the spirit of America.

They give lift to the American Dream.

They give steel to the backbone of America.

They are good people, they are decent people; they work, and they save, and they pay their taxes, and they care.

Like Theodore Roosevelt, they know that this country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless it is a good place for all of us to live in.

This I say to you tonight is the real voice of America. In this year 1968, this is the message it will broadcast to America and to the world.

Let’s never forget that despite her faults, America is a great nation.

And America is great because her people are great.

With Winston Churchill, we say: “We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies because we are made of sugar candy.”

America is in trouble today not because her people have failed but because her leaders have failed.

And what America needs are leaders to match the greatness of her people.

And this great group of Americans, the forgotten Americans, and others know that the great; question Americans must answer by their votes in November is this: Whether we shall continue for four more years the policies of the last five years.

And this is their answer and this is my answer to that question.

When the strongest nation in the world can be tied down for four years in a war in Vietnam with no end in sight;

When the richest nation in the world can’t manage its own economy;

When the nation with the greatest tradition of the rule of law is plagued by unprecedented lawlessness;

When a nation that has been known for a century for equality of opportunity is tom by unprecedented racial violence;

And when the President of the United States cannot travel abroad or to any major city at home without fear of a hostile demonstration—then it’s time for new leadership for the United States of America.

My fellow Americans, tonight I accept the challenge and the commitment to provide that new leadership for America.

And I ask you to accept it with me.

And let us accept this challenge not as a grim duty but as an exciting adventure in which we are privileged to help a great nation realize its destiny.

And let us begin by committing ourselves to the truth—to see it like it is, and tell it like it is—to find the truth, to speak the truth, and to live the truth —that’s what we will do.

We’ve had enough of big promises and little action.

The time has come for honest government in the United States of America.

And so tonight I do not promise the millennium in the morning.

I don’t promise that we can eradicate poverty, and end discrimination, eliminate all danger of war in the space of four, or even eight years. But, I do promise action—a new policy for peace abroad; a new policy for peace and progress and justice at home.

Look at our problems abroad. Do you realize that we face the stark truth that we are worse off in every area of the world tonight than we were when President Eisenhower left office eight years ago. That’s the record. And there is only one answer to such a record of failure and that is a complete housecleaning of those responsible for the failures of that record. The answer is a complete re-appraisal of America’s policies in every section of the world.

We shall begin with Vietnam.

We all hope in this room that there is a chance that current negotiations may bring an honorable end to that war. And we will say nothing during this campaign that might destroy that chance.

But if the war is not ended when the people choose in November, the choice will be clear. Here it is.

For four years this Administration has had at its disposal the greatest military and economic advantage that one nation has ever had over another in any war in history.

For four years, America’s fighting men have set a record for courage and sacrifice unsurpassed in our history.

For four years, this Administration has had the support of the Loyal Opposition for the objective of seeking an honorable end to the struggle.

Never has so much military and economic and diplomatic power been used so ineffectively.

And if after all of this time and all of this sacrifice and all of this support there is still no end in sight, then I say the time has come for the American people to turn to new leadership—not tied to the mistakes and the policies of the past. That is what we offer to America.

And I pledge to you tonight that the first priority foreign policy objective of our next Administration will be to bring an honorable end to the war in Vietnam. We shall not stop there—we need a policy to prevent more Vietnams.

All of America’s peace-keeping institutions and all of America’s foreign commitments must be re-appraised. Over the past twenty-five years, America has provided more than one hundred and fifty billion dollars in foreign aid to nations abroad.

In Korea and now again in Vietnam, the United States furnished most of the money, most of the arms; most of the men to help the people of those countries defend themselves against aggression.

Now we are a rich country. We are a strong nation. We are a populous nation. But there are two hundred million Americans and there are two billion people that live in the Free World.

And I say the time has come for other nations in the Free World to bear their fair share of the burden of defending peace and freedom around this world.

What I call for is not a new isolationism. It is a new internationalism in which America enlists its allies and its friends around the world in those struggles in which their interest is as great as ours.

And now to the leaders of the Communist world, we say: After an era of confrontation, the time has come for an era of negotiation.

Where the world’s super powers are concerned, there is no acceptable alternative to peaceful negotiation.

Because this will be a period of negotiation, we shall restore the strength of America so that we shall always negotiate from strength and never from weakness.

And as we seek peace through negotiation, let our goals be made clear:

We do not seek domination over any other country.

We believe deeply in our ideas, but we believe they should travel on their own power and not on the power of our arms.

We shall never be belligerent but we shall be as firm in defending our system as they are in expanding theirs.

We believe this should be an era of peaceful competition, not only in the productivity of our factories but in the quality of our ideas.

We extend the hand of friendship to all people, to the Russian people, to the Chinese people, to all people in the world.

And we shall work toward the goal of an open world—open skies, open cities, open hearts, open minds.

The next eight years, my friends, this period in which we are entering, I think we will have the greatest opportunity for world peace but also face the greatest danger of world war of any time in our history.

I believe we must have peace. I believe that we can have peace, but I do not underestimate the difficulty of this task. Because you see the art of preserving peace is greater than that of waging war and much more demanding. But I am proud to have served in an Administration which ended one war and kept the nation out of other wars for eight years. And it is that kind of experience and it is that kind of leadership that America needs today, and that we will give to America with your help.

And as we commit to new policies for America tonight, let us make one further pledge:

For five years hardly a day has gone by when we haven’t read or heard a report of the American flag being spit on; an embassy being stoned; a library being burned; or an ambassador being insulted some place in the world. And each incident reduced respect for the United States until the ultimate insult inevitably occurred.

And I say to you tonight that when respect for the United States of America falls so low that a fourth-rate military power, like North Korea, will seize an American naval vessel on the high seas, it is time for new leadership to restore respect for the United States of America.

My friends, America is a great nation.

And it is time we started to act like a great nation around the world. It is ironic to note when we were a small nation—weak militarily and poor economically—America was respected. And the reason was that America stood for something more powerful than military strength or economic wealth.

The American Revolution was a shining example of freedom in action which caught the imagination of the world.

Today, too often, America is an example to be avoided and not followed.

A nation that can’t keep the peace at home won’t be trusted to keep the peace abroad.

A President who isn’t treated with respect at home will not be treated with respect abroad.

A nation which can’t manage its own economy can’t tell others how to manage theirs.

If we are to restore prestige and respect for America abroad, the place to begin is at home in the United States of America.

My friends, we live in an age of revolution in America and in die world. And to find the answers to our problems, let us turn to a revolution, a revolution that will never grow old. The world’s greatest continuing revolution, the American Revolution.

The American Revolution was and is dedicated to progress, but our founders recognized that the first requisite of progress is order.

Now, there is no quarrel between progress and order—because neither can exist without the other.

So let us have order in America—not the order that suppresses dissent and discourages change but the order which guarantees the right to dissent and provides the basis for peaceful change.

And tonight, it is time for some honest talk about the problem of order in the United States.

Let us always respect, as I do, our courts and those who serve on them. But let us also recognize that some of our courts in their decisions have gone too far in weakening the peace forces as against the criminal forces in this country and we must act to restore that balance.

Let those who have the responsibility to enforce our laws and our judges who have the responsibility to interpret them be dedicated to the great principles of civil rights.

But let them also recognize that the first civil right of every American is to be free from domestic violence, and that right must be guaranteed in this country.

And if we are to restore order and respect for law in this country there is one place we are going to begin. We are going to have a new Attorney General of the United States of America.

I pledge to you that our new Attorney General will be directed by the President of the United States to launch a war against organized crime in this country.

I pledge to you that the new Attorney General of the United States will be an active belligerent against the loan sharks and the numbers racketeers that rob the urban poor in our cities.

I pledge to you that the new Attorney General will open a new front against the filth peddlers and the narcotics peddlers who are corrupting the lives of the children of this country.

Because, my friends, let this message come through clear from what I say tonight. Time is running out for the merchants of crime and corruption in American society.

The wave of crime is not going to be the wave of the future in the United States of America.

We shall re-establish freedom from fear in America so that America can take the lead in re-establishing freedom from fear in the world.

And to those who say that law and order is the code word for racism, there and here is a reply:

Our goal is justice for every American.

If we are to have respect for law in America, we must have laws that deserve respect.

Just as we cannot have progress without order, we cannot have order without progress, and so, as we commit to order tonight, let us commit to progress.

And this brings me to the clearest choice among the great issues of this campaign.

For the past five years we have been deluged by government programs for the unemployed; programs for the cities; programs for the poor. And we have reaped from these programs an ugly harvest of frustration, violence and failure across the land.

And now our opponents will be offering more of the same—more billions for government jobs, government housing, government welfare.

I say it is time to quit pouring billions of dollars into programs that have failed in the United States of America.

To put it bluntly, we are on the wrong road—and it’s time to take a new road, to progress.

Again, we turn to the American Revolution for our answer.

The war on poverty didn’t begin five years ago in this country. It began when this country began. It’s been the most successful war on poverty in the history of nations. There is more wealth in America today, more broadly shared, than in any nation in the world.

We are a great nation. And we must never forget how we became great.

America is a great nation today not because of what government did for people—but because of what people did for themselves over a hundred- ninety years in this country.

So it is time to apply the lessons of the American Revolution to our present problem.

Let us increase the wealth of America so that we can provide more generously for the aged; and for the needy; and for all those who cannot help themselves.

But for those who are able to help themselves—what we need are not more millions on welfare rolls—but more millions on payrolls in the United States of America.

Instead of government jobs, and government housing, and government welfare, let government use its tax and credit policies to enlist in this battle the greatest engine of progress ever developed in the history of man—American private enterprise.

Let us enlist in this great cause the millions of Americans in volunteer organizations who will bring a dedication to this task that no amount of money could ever buy.

And let us build bridges, my friends, build bridges to human dignity across that gulf that separates black America from white America.

Black Americans, no more than white Americans, they do not want more government programs which perpetuate dependency.

They don’t want to be a colony in a nation.

They want the pride, and the self-respect, and the dignity that can only come if they have an equal chance to own their own homes, to own their own businesses, to be managers and executives as well as workers, to have a piece of the action in the exciting ventures of private enterprise.

I pledge to you tonight that we shall have new programs which will provide that equal chance.

We make great history tonight.

We do not fire a shot heard ’round the world but we shall light the lamp of hope in millions of homes across this land in which there is no hope today.

And that great light shining out from America will again become a beacon of hope for all those in the world who seek freedom and opportunity.

My fellow Americans, I believe that historians will recall that 1968 marked the beginning of the American generation in world history.

Just to be alive in America, just to be alive at this time is an experience unparalleled in history. Here is where the action is. Think.

Thirty-two years from now most Americans living today will celebrate a new year that comes once in a thousand years.

Eight years from now, in the second term of the next President, we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the American Revolution.

And by our decision in this election, we, all of us here, all of you listening on television and radio, we will determine what kind of nation America will be on its 200th birthday; we will determine what kind of a world America will live in in the year 2000.

This is the kind of a day I see for America on that glorious Fourth— eight years from now.

I see a day when Americans are once again proud of their flag. When once again at home and abroad, it is honored as the world’s greatest symbol of liberty and justice.

I see a day when the President of the United States is respected and his office is honored because it is worthy of respect and worthy of honor.

I see a day when every child in this land, regardless of his background, has a chance for the best education our wisdom and schools can provide, and an equal chance to go just as high as his talents will take him.

I see a day when life in rural America attracts people to the country, rather than driving them away.

I see a day when we can look back on massive breakthroughs in solving the problems of slums and pollution and traffic which are choking our cities to death.

I see a day when our senior citizens and millions of others can plan for the future with the assurance that their government is not going to rob them of their savings by destroying the value of their dollars.

I see a day when we will again have freedom from fear in America and freedom from fear in the world.

I see a day when our nation is at peace and the world is at peace and everyone on earth—those who hope, those who aspire, those who crave liberty—will look to America as the shining example of hopes realized and dreams achieved.

My fellow Americans, this is the cause I ask you to vote for. This is the cause I ask you to work for. This is the cause I ask you to commit to—not just for victory in November but beyond that to a new Administration.

Because the time when one man or a few leaders could save America is gone. We need tonight nothing less than the total commitment and the total mobilization of the American people if we are to succeed.

Government can pass laws. But respect for law can come only from people who take the law into their hearts and their minds—and not into their hands.

Government can provide opportunity. But opportunity means nothing unless people are prepared to seize it.

A President can ask for reconciliation in the racial conflict that divides Americans. But reconciliation comes only from the hearts of people.

And tonight, therefore, as we make this commitment, let us look into our hearts and let us look down into the faces of our children.

Is there anything in the world that should stand in their way?

None of the old hatreds mean anything when we look down into the faces of our children.

In their faces is our hope, our love, and our courage.

Tonight, I see the face of a child.

He lives in a great city. He is black. Or he is white. He is Mexican, Italian, Polish. None of that matters. What matters, he’s an American child.

That child in that great city is more important than any politician’s promise. He is America. He is a poet. He is a scientist, he is a great teacher, he is a proud craftsman. He is everything we ever hoped to be and everything we dare to dream to be.

He sleeps the sleep of childhood and he dreams the dreams of a child.

And yet when he awakens, he awakens to a living nightmare of poverty, neglect and despair.

He fails in school.

He ends up on welfare.

For him the American system is one that feeds his stomach and starves his soul. It breaks his heart. And in the end it may take his life on some distant battlefield.

To millions of children in this rich land, this is their prospect of the future.

But this is only part of what I see in America.

I see another child tonight.

He hears the train go by at night and he dreams of faraway places where he’d like to go.

It seems like an impossible dream.

But he is helped on his journey through life.

A father who had to go to work before he finished the sixth grade, sacrificed everything he had so that his sons could go to college.

A gentle, Quaker mother, with a passionate concern for peace, quietly wept when he went to war but she understood why he had to go.

A great teacher, a remarkable football coach, an inspirational minister encouraged him on his way.

A courageous wife and loyal children stood by him in victory and also defeat.

And in his chosen profession of politics, first there were scores, then hundreds, then thousands, and finally millions worked for his success.

And tonight he stands before you—nominated for President of the United States of America.

You can see why I believe so deeply in the American Dream.

For most of us the American Revolution has been won; the American Dream has come true.

And what I ask you to do tonight is to help me make that dream come true for millions to whom it’s an impossible dream today.

One hundred and eight years ago, the newly elected President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, left Springfield, Illinois, never to return again. He spoke to his friends gathered at the railroad station. Listen to his words:

“Today I leave you. I go to assume a greater task than devolved on General Washington. The great God which helped him must help me. Without that great assistance, I will surely fail. With it, I cannot fail.”

Abraham Lincoln lost his life but he did not fail.

The next President of the United States will face challenges which in some ways will be greater than those of Washington or Lincoln. Because for the first time in our nation’s history, an American President will face not only the problem of restoring peace abroad but of restoring peace at home.

Without God’s help and your help, we will surely fail; but with God’s help and your help, we shall surely succeed.

My fellow Americans, the long dark night for America is about to end.

The time has come for us to leave the valley of despair and climb the mountain so that we may see the glory of the dawn—a new day for America, and a new dawn for peace and freedom in the world.

 

Richard Nixon: “Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida,” August 8, 1968. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25968.

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OTD in History… August 7, 1912, Teddy Roosevelt nominated for a third term as president by the Bull Moose Party

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… August 7, 1912, Teddy Roosevelt nominated for a third term as president by the Bull Moose Party

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history August 7, 1912, the Progressive Party nominates former President Theodore Roosevelt for president, the party of disgruntled Republicans known as the Bull Moose Party nominated the former 26th president of the United States, (1901 to 1909) in objection to the nomination of President William Howard Taft for a second term. Taft had been Roosevelt’s hand picked successor but he was not living up to progressive standards and Roosevelt’s legacy. Roosevelt left office in 1909, popular and refusing to run for a third term. After returning from a trip to Africa in 1910, Roosevelt broke with Taft. In 1912, he actively sought the Republican nomination, from then as historian Paul F. Boller indicates, “T.R. dominated the 1912 contest.” Never has a loser in a presidential election upstage the winner as Roosevelt did with his third-party run. Roosevelt was the only third-party nominee to show better than a major party nominee coming in second, with the Republicans and Taft in third.

The 1912 presidential campaign was the first time the primary system of contest were used to choose delegates for the conventions. The Republicans chose 362 delegates from 14 states, however, the primary votes were not honored for the presidential nomination process. For the Republicans Robert M. La Follette, Sr was the first who challenged William Howard Taft for the Republican nomination. La Follette maintained some momentum and early wins in North Dakota and his home state Wisconsin.

In February 1912, Roosevelt decided to run for the nomination, announcing, “My hat is in the ring! The fight is on and I am stripped to the buff!” When Roosevelt entered, the race progressives abandoned La Follette to support Roosevelt. Roosevelt was still popular and his New Nationalism platform promised “social welfare, direct democracy, and federal regulation of business.” (Boller, 192) Roosevelt won the most delegates and elections in the new Presidential preference primaries. In response to changing his mind about a third term, Roosevelt responded, “My position on the third term is perfectly simple. I said I would not accept a nomination for a third term under any circumstances, meaning, of course, a third consecutive term. . . .”

The competition, especially from Roosevelt, forced Taft to stump, campaign for the Republican nomination, the first time in history a sitting president would have to resort to campaigning. Taft explained at the time, “Whether I win or lose is not the important thing. I am in this fight to perform a great public duty the duty of keeping Theodore Roosevelt out of the White House.”

Roosevelt was the big winner of the new primary system, winning nine Republican Presidential primaries with 278 delegates, in comparison, La Follette won 36 and Taft won 48, however, the pledges were not binding at the convention. At first, the Republicans thought both Taft and Roosevelt should drop out in favor of a compromise candidate, Roosevelt responded, “I’ll name the compromise candidate. He’ll be me. I’ll name the compromise platform. It will be our platform.”

At the Republican National Convention in June, in Chicago, Illinois, with “Old Guard” support Taft gathered enough delegates to secure the nomination and shut out Roosevelt on the first ballot. At the convention, Roosevelt challenged the delegates’ credentials and tried to woo Southern black delegates to vote for him. Southern delegates supported Taft by a margin of 5–1. Taft also secured the Alabama, Arizona, and California delegates even though Roosevelt won the states by close margins. Convention chairman Elihu Root, Roosevelt’s former ally, proposed the convention re-nominate President Taft and Vice President James S. Sherman

On June 22, 1912, Roosevelt asked his supporters to abstain from voting and leave the convention, with Taft’s nomination certain, they did, and with Roosevelt’s agreement, they formed a new third party, the Progressive Party. Supporters included “social workers, reformers, intellectuals, feminists, Republican insurgents, disgruntled politicians, and businessmen.” (Boller, 192)

At the new party’s convention in August in Chicago, they nominated Theodore Roosevelt and Senator Hiram Johnson of California for Vice President. They adopted a radical progressive platform, which they called instead, a “Covenant with the People,” the Square Deal, which consisted of the “direct election of U.S. senators, woman suffrage, reduction of the tariff, and many social reforms.”

Roosevelt gave a speech declaring, “I hope we shall win. . . . But win, or lose, we shall not falter. . . . Our cause is based on the eternal principle of righteousness; and even though we who now lead may for the time fail, in the end, the cause itself shall triumph. . . . We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.” The party became popularly known as the “Bull Moose Party” after Roosevelt told reporters, “I’m feeling like a Bull Moose!”

On October 14, 1912, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Roosevelt shot by a mad saloonkeeper and anarchist, John F. Schrank, who supposedly opposed Roosevelt running for a third term. The bullet went through Roosevelt’s 50-page copy of his speech in his jacket and his steel eyeglass case before it lodged in his chest. Roosevelt nevertheless delivered his speech, expressing, “I am going to ask you to be very quiet and I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet there is where the bullet went through — and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so, that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.” Roosevelt went on to speak for 84 minutes.

On Election Day November 5, Roosevelt lost to liberal and Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson, who had been the President of Princeton University. Wilson won in a landslide, with 435 Electoral College votes, winning 40 states; Roosevelt won 88 and 6 six states, while Taft won just two states with 8 Electoral college votes. Roosevelt did far better when it came to the popular vote, Wilson won 41.9 percent (6,283,019); Roosevelt, 27.4 percent (4,119,507) and

Taft 23.2 percent (3,484,956). (Boller, 196) Roosevelt, could have won had the Republican Party not fractured but because it did, Roosevelt became a powerful third-party candidate who affected the outcome of the election, leaving Taft in third place, after becoming the first incumbent to campaign then mostly giving up in the general election. Wilson won because he was more to the left that Roosevelt, taking his progressivism a step further each time.

Historian James Chance in his book, 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft, and Debs The Election that Changed the Country, declared, “The year 1912 constitutes a defining moment in American history” and “the 1912 presidential campaign tackled the central question of America’s exceptional destiny.” (19) Chance also notes, “Had the charismatic Roosevelt received the Republican nomination, he almost surely would have won. He, far more than Taft, was in tune with the progressive spirit of the time. The Republican Party, in his hands, would likely have become a party of domestic reform and internationalist realism in foreign affairs. With his heroic virtues and condemnation of materialism, Roosevelt represents the road not taken by American conservatism.” (Chance, 16–17)

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Boller, Paul F. Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Chace, James. 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs the Election That Changed the Country. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Cowan, Geoffrey. Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in history… July 16, 1964, Conservative Barry Goldwater accepts Republican presidential nomination

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in history… July 16, 1964, Conservative Barry Goldwater accepts Republican presidential nomination

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Getty Images

On this day in history July 16, 1964, the Republican Party nominates Conservative Barry Goldwater, a Senator from Arizona for president; Goldwater ushered in the Republican Party’s longtime association with conservatism. The primaries pit Goldwater against moderate Nelson Rockefeller of New York, with Goldwater emerging with enough support for the nomination, however, throughout the campaign the two factions of the party remained fractured. In his acceptance speech, Goldwater claimed, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” The Democrats led by incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson portrayed Goldwater as an extremist, notably depicting that to the public with their Daisy commercial, claiming Goldwater would start a nuclear war.

Johnson would go on to win the election with a landslide and the largest share of the popular vote in modern American history. Despite his loss, Goldwater’s nomination realigned the Republican Party geographically, with the Sunbelt and the South turning Republican red after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The real star of the Republican presidential campaign in 1964 was former actor Ronald Reagan, who delivered his televised Time for Choosing speech in October, launching his political career. Goldwater’s nomination started the Republican Party’s alignment with the modern conservative movement, leading to Reagan’s election in 1980 and has remained a driving force in Republican politics.

READ MORE

Perlstein, Rick. Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. New York: Nation Books, 2009.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Goldwater’s 1964 Acceptance Speech

 

Source: WaPo

Provided by the Arizona Historical Foundation

To my good friend and great Republican, Dick Nixon, and your charming wife, Pat; my running mate and that wonderful Republican who has served us well for so long, Bill Miller and his wife, Stephanie; to Thurston Morton who has done such a commendable job in chairmaning this Convention; to Mr. Herbert Hoover, who I hope is watching; and to that great American and his wife, General and Mrs. Eisenhower; to my own wife, my family, and to all of my fellow Republicans here assembled, and Americans across this great Nation.

From this moment, united and determined, we will go forward together, dedicated to the ultimate and undeniable greatness of the whole man. Together we will win.

I accept your nomination with a deep sense of humility. I accept, too, the responsibility that goes with it, and I seek your continued help and your continued guidance. My fellow Republicans, our cause is too great for any man to feel worthy of it. Our task would be too great for any man, did he not have with him the heart and the hands of this great Republican Party, and I promise you tonight that every fiber of my being is consecrated to our cause; that nothing shall be lacking from the struggle that can be brought to it by enthusiasm, by devotion, and plain hard work. In this world no person, no party can guarantee anything, but what we can do and what we shall do is to deserve victory, and victory will be ours.

The good Lord raised this mighty Republic to be a home for the brave and to flourish as the land of the free-not to stagnate in the swampland of collectivism, not to cringe before the bully of communism.

Now, my fellow Americans, the tide has been running against freedom. Our people have followed false prophets. We must, and we shall, return to proven ways– not because they are old, but because they are true. We must, and we shall, set the tide running again in the cause of freedom. And this party, with its every action, every word, every breath, and every heartbeat, has but a single resolve, and that is freedom – freedom made orderly for this nation by our constitutional government; freedom under a government limited by laws of nature and of nature’s God; freedom – balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the slavery of the prison cell; balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the license of the mob and of the jungle.

Now, we Americans understand freedom. We have earned it, we have lived for it, and we have died for it. This Nation and its people are freedom’s model in a searching world. We can be freedom’s missionaries in a doubting world. But, ladies and gentlemen, first we must renew freedom’s mission in our own hearts and in our own homes.

During four futile years, the administration which we shall replace has distorted and lost that faith. It has talked and talked and talked and talked the words of freedom. Now, failures cement the wall of shame in Berlin. Failures blot the sands of shame at the Bay of Pigs. Failures mark the slow death of freedom in Laos. Failures infest the jungles of Vietnam. And failures haunt the houses of our once great alliances and undermine the greatest bulwark ever erected by free nations – the NATO community. Failures proclaim lost leadership, obscure purpose, weakening wills, and the risk of inciting our sworn enemies to new aggressions and to new excesses. Because of this administration we are tonight a world divided – we are a Nation becalmed. We have lost the brisk pace of diversity and the genius of individual creativity. We are plodding at a pace set by centralized planning, red tape, rules without responsibility, and regimentation without recourse.

Rather than useful jobs in our country, people have been offered bureaucratic “make work,” rather than moral leadership, they have been given bread and circuses, spectacles, and, yes, they have even been given scandals. Tonight there is violence in our streets, corruption in our highest offices, aimlessness among our youth, anxiety among our elders and there is a virtual despair among the many who look beyond material success for the inner meaning of their lives. Where examples of morality should be set, the opposite is seen. Small men, seeking great wealth or power, have too often and too long turned even the highest levels of public service into mere personal opportunity.

Now, certainly, simple honesty is not too much to demand of men in government. We find it in most. Republicans demand it from everyone. They demand it from everyone no matter how exalted or protected his position might be. The growing menace in our country tonight, to personal safety, to life, to limb and property, in homes, in churches, on the playgrounds, and places of business, particularly in our great cities, is the mounting concern, or should be, of every thoughtful citizen in the United States.

Security from domestic violence, no less than from foreign aggression, is the most elementary and fundamental purpose of any government, and a government that cannot fulfill that purpose is one that cannot long command the loyalty of its citizens. History shows us – demonstrates that nothing – nothing prepares the way for tyranny more than the failure of public officials to keep the streets from bullies and marauders.

Now, we Republicans see all this as more, much more, than the rest: of mere political differences or mere political mistakes. We see this as the result of a fundamentally and absolutely wrong view of man, his nature and his destiny. Those who seek to live your lives for you, to take your liberties in return for relieving you of yours, those who elevate the state and downgrade the citizen must see ultimately a world in which earthly power can be substituted for divine will, and this Nation was founded upon the rejection of that notion and upon the acceptance of God as the author of freedom.

Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed. Their mistaken course stems from false notions of equality, ladies and gentlemen. Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.

Fellow Republicans, it is the cause of Republicanism to resist concentrations of power, private or public, which enforce such conformity and inflict such despotism. It is the cause of Republicanism to ensure that power remains in the hands of the people. And, so help us God, that is exactly what a Republican president will do with the help of a Republican Congress.

It is further the cause of Republicanism to restore a clear understanding of the tyranny of man over man in the world at large. It is our cause to dispel the foggy thinking which avoids hard decisions in the illusion that a world of conflict will somehow mysteriously resolve itself into a world of harmony, if we just don’t rock the boat or irritate the forces of aggression – and this is hogwash.

It is further the cause of Republicanism to remind ourselves, and the world, that only the strong can remain free, that only the strong can keep the peace.

Now, I needn’t remind you, or my fellow Americans regardless of party, that Republicans have shouldered this hard responsibility and marched in this cause before. It was Republican leadership under Dwight Eisenhower that kept the peace, and passed along to this administration the mightiest arsenal for defense the world has ever known. And I needn’t remind you that it was the strength and the unbelievable will of the Eisenhower years that kept the peace by using our strength, by using it in the Formosa Straits and in Lebanon and by showing it courageously at all times.

It was during those Republican years that the thrust of Communist imperialism was blunted. It was during those years of Republican leadership that this world moved closer, not to war, but closer to peace, than at any other time in the three decades just passed.

And I needn’t remind you – but I will – that it’s been during Democratic years that our strength to deter war has stood still, and even gone into a planned decline. It has been during Democratic years that we have weakly stumbled into conflict, timidly refusing to draw our own lines against aggression, deceitfully refusing to tell even our people of our full participation, and tragically, letting our finest men die on battlefields (unmarked by purpose, unmarked by pride or the prospect of victory).

Yesterday it was Korea. Tonight it is Vietnam. Make no bones of this. Don’t try to sweep this under the rug. We are at war in Vietnam. And yet the President, who is Commander-in-Chief of our forces, refuses to say – refuses to say, mind you, whether or not the objective over there is victory. And his Secretary of Defense continues to mislead and misinform the American people, and enough of it has gone by.

And I needn’t remind you, but I will; it has been during Democratic years that a billion persons were cast into Communist captivity and their fate cynically sealed.

Today in our beloved country we have an administration which seems eager to deal with communism in every coin known – from gold to wheat, from consulates to confidence, and even human freedom itself.

The Republican cause demands that we brand communism as a principal disturber of peace in the world today. Indeed, we should brand it as the only significant disturber of the peace, and we must make clear that until its goals of conquest are absolutely renounced and its rejections with all nations tempered, communism and the governments it now controls are enemies of every man on earth who is or wants to be free.

We here in America can keep the peace only if we remain vigilant and only if we remain strong. Only if we keep our eyes open and keep our guard up can we prevent war. And I want to make this abundantly clear – I don’t intend to let peace or freedom be torn from our grasp because of lack of strength or lack of will – and that I promise you Americans.

I believe that we must look beyond the defense of freedom today to its extension tomorrow. I believe that the communism which boasts it will bury us will, instead, give way to the forces of freedom. And I can see in the distant and yet recognizable future the outlines of a world worthy our dedication, our every risk, our every effort, our every sacrifice along the way. Yes, a world that will redeem the suffering of those who will be liberated from tyranny. I can see and I suggest that all thoughtful men must contemplate the flowering of an Atlantic civilization, the whole world of Europe unified and free, trading openly across its borders, communicating openly across the world. This is a goal far, far more meaningful than a moon shot.

It’s a truly inspiring goal for all free men to set for themselves during the latter half of the twentieth century. I can also see – and all free men must thrill to – the events of this Atlantic civilization joined by its great ocean highway to the United States. What a destiny, what a destiny can be ours to stand as a great central pillar linking Europe, the Americans and the venerable and vital peoples and cultures of the Pacific. I can see a day when all the Americas, North and South, will be linked in a mighty system, a system in which the errors and misunderstandings of the past will be submerged one by one in a rising tide of prosperity and interdependence. We know that the misunderstandings of centuries are not to be wiped away in a day or wiped away in an hour. But we pledge – we pledge that human sympathy – what our neighbors to the South call that attitude of “simpatico” – no less than enlightened self’-interest will be our guide.

I can see this Atlantic civilization galvanizing and guiding emergent nations everywhere.

I know this freedom is not the fruit of every soil. I know that our own freedom was achieved through centuries, by unremitting efforts by brave and wise men. I know that the road to freedom is a long and a challenging road. I know also that some men may walk away from it, that some men resist challenge, accepting the false security of governmental paternalism.

And I pledge that the America I envision in the years ahead will extend its hand in health, in teaching and in cultivation, so that all new nations will be at least encouraged to go our way, so that they will not wander down the dark alleys of tyranny or to the dead-end streets of collectivism. My fellow Republicans, we do no man a service by hiding freedom’s light under a bushel of mistaken humility.

I seek an American proud of its past, proud of its ways, proud of its dreams, and determined actively to proclaim them. But our example to the world must, like charity, begin at home.

In our vision of a good and decent future, free and peaceful, there must be room for deliberation of the energy and talent of the individual – otherwise our vision is blind at the outset.

We must assure a society here which, while never abandoning the needy or forsaking the helpless, nurtures incentives and opportunity for the creative and the productive. We must know the whole good is the product of many single contributions.

I cherish a day when our children once again will restore as heroes the sort of men and women who – unafraid and undaunted – pursue the truth, strive to cure disease, subdue and make fruitful our natural environment and produce the inventive engines of production, science, and technology.

This Nation, whose creative people have enhanced this entire span of history, should again thrive upon the greatness of all those things which we, as individual citizens, can and should do. During Republican years, this again will be a nation of men and women, of families proud of their role, jealous of their responsibilities, unlimited in their aspirations – a Nation where all who can will be self-reliant.

We Republicans see in our constitutional form of government the great framework which assures the orderly but dynamic fulfillment of the whole man, and we see the whole man as the great reason for instituting orderly government in the first place.

We see, in private property and in economy based upon and fostering private property, the one way to make government a durable ally of the whole man, rather than his determined enemy. We see in the sanctity of private property the only durable foundation for constitutional government in a free society. And beyond that, we see, in cherished diversity of ways, diversity of thoughts, of motives and accomplishments. We do not seek to lead anyone’s life for him – we seek only to secure his rights and to guarantee him opportunity to strive, with government performing only those needed and constitutionally sanctioned tasks which cannot otherwise be performed.

We Republicans seek a government that attends to its inherent responsibilities of maintaining a stable monetary and fiscal climate, encouraging a free and a competitive economy and enforcing law and order. Thus do we seek inventiveness, diversity, and creativity within a stable order, for we Republicans define government’s role where needed at many, many levels, preferably through the one closest to the people involved.

Our towns and our cities, then our counties, then our states, then our regional contacts – and only then, the national government. That, let me remind you, is the ladder of liberty, built by decentralized power. On it also we must have balance between the branches of government at every level.

Balance, diversity, creativity – these are the elements of Republican equation. Republicans agree, Republicans agree heartily to disagree on many, many of their applications, but we have never disagreed on the basic fundamental issues of why you and I are Republicans.

This is a party, this Republican Party, a Party for free men, not for blind followers, and not for conformists.

Back in 1858 Abraham Lincoln said this of the Republican party – and I quote him, because he probably could have said it during the last week or so: “It was composed of strained, discordant, and even hostile elements” in 1858. Yet all of these elements agreed on one paramount objective: To arrest the progress of slavery, and place it in the course of ultimate extinction.

Today, as then, but more urgently and more broadly than then, the task of preserving and enlarging freedom at home and safeguarding it from the forces of tyranny abroad is great enough to challenge all our resources and to require all our strength. Anyone who joins us in all sincerity, we welcome. Those who do not care for our cause, we don’t expect to enter our ranks in any case. And let our Republicanism, so focused and so dedicated, not be made fuzzy and futile by unthinking and stupid labels.

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

The beauty of the very system we Republicans are pledged to restore and revitalize, the beauty of this Federal system of ours is in its reconciliation of diversity with unity. We must not see malice in honest differences of opinion, and no matter how great, so long as they are not inconsistent with the pledges we have given to each other in and through our Constitution. Our Republican cause is not to level out the world or make its people conform in computer regimented sameness. Our Republican cause is to free our people and light the way for liberty throughout the world.

Ours is a very human cause for very humane goals.

This Party, its good people, and its unquestionable devotion to freedom, will not fulfill the purposes of this campaign which we launch here now until our cause has won the day, inspired the world, and shown the way to a tomorrow worthy of all our yesteryears.

I repeat, I accept your nomination with humbleness, with pride, and you and I are going to fight for the goodness of our land. Thank you.

OTD in History June 17–19, 1856, the first Republican Convention nominates John C Frémont for president

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History June 17–19, 1856, the first Republican Convention nominates John C Frémont for president

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 17–19, 1856, the first Republican Party convention convenes at the Musical Fund Hall, Philadelphia nominating John C. Frémont (California) for president and William L. Dayton (New Jersey) for vice-president on the second ballot. The Republican Party emerged after the Whig Party crumbled over the issue of expanding slavery in the new territories in 1854 creating an anti-slavery platform. At the 1856 convention, Abraham Lincoln unsuccessfully sought the vice-presidential nomination only to lose the ballot.

The 1856 campaign had a backdrop of the violence not seen in a peacetime, with Bleeding Kansas and Bleeding Sumner, the canning of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner after his “harlot slavery” speech by Congressman Preston S. Brooks on the Senate floor. Frémont would go to battle in the election against Democrats and eventual victors James Buchanan and John Breckenridge, and former President Millard Fillmore with Andrew Donelson on the Whig- American Party tickets. Four years, later Lincoln would be the Republican Party’s nominee for presidency succeeding to take them to the White House, however, keeping their promise the Southern states seceded from the Union, leading to the Civil War.

In 1854, Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and President Franklin Pierce devised the Kansas-Nebraska Act to open up the territories for settlement. The act, however, repealed the Missouri compromise of 1820, which created boundaries for the entry of slave and free states from the Louisiana Purchase Territory along the Mason Dixon line, keeping a balance of one slave and one free entering the union at a time. The Compromise of 1850 moved closer opening New Mexico and Utah territories to slavery.

With the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the territories would decide if they want to enter the union as free or slave states advocating the right of popular sovereignty. The act said, “When admitted as a state or states, the said territory, or any portion of the same, shall be received into the Union, with or without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe at the time of their admission.” The Whig Party could not coalesce on the issue, with the Southern Whigs supporting the act and the Northern Whigs opposing the act.

In response, anti-slavery Whigs had a number of meetings in the mid-western states to protest the Kansas-Nebraska Act. On February 28, 1854, they decided to organize a new political party, which would unite in opposing the expansion of slavery. On March 20, 1854, the alliance of Conscience Whigs, Free-Soilers, and Anti-Slavery Democrats met in Ripon, Wisconsin, met and formed the Republican Party. On July 6, at a meeting Jackson, Michigan, the Republican Party formally launched. In February 1855, the Baltimore Republicans met resolving, “There should be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except for the punishment of crime, in any of the Territories of the United States.”

The chairmen opened the first Republican nominating convention telling the delegates, “You are here today to give a direction to a movement which is to decide whether the people of the United States are to be hereafter and forever chained to the present national policy of the extension of slavery.” The first Republican convention featured 600 delegates primarily representing the Northern and Border States (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and District of Columbia). The convention treated the Kansas territory as a full state with full voting privileges.

When Salmon P. Chase of Ohio and William H. Seward of New York withdrew their names prior to the vote, explorer and former California Senator John C. Frémont became the front-runner for the presidential nomination, securing it on the second ballot. Lincoln tried for the Vice Presidential candidacy against William L. Dayton, a former senator from New Jersey, who opposed the Compromise of 1850, who ended up capturing the nomination; Lincoln was second place in the voting.

Bleeding Kansas, the violence between free soil and slave supporting settlers in Kansas was a major campaign issue. The Republican’s first party platform advocated “Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism — Polygamy and Slavery.” They wanted to repeal of Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Fugitive Slave Act, and abolish slavery in the District of Columbia

The party demanded the immediate admission of Kansas into the Union as a free state, opposed the extension of slavery into the territories. The Republicans used the campaign slogans, “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Men, and Frémont,” and “Fremont and Freedom, Principles NOT Party.”

Republicans faced a disadvantage with donations and only appearing on the ballot of four border-states and not at all in the deep Southern slave states. Democrats charged them as “Black Republicans,” and threatened to secede from the Union if they are elected. Robert Toombs expressed, “The election of Fremont would be the end of the Union, and ought to be.” Governor Henry Wise of Virginia declared privately, “If Frémont is elected there will be a revolution,” and publicly prepared the militia. (McPherson, 159)

Historian James M. McPherson in his epic on the Civil War “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era” wrote, “The campaign generated a fervor unprecedented in American politics…. The turnout of eligible voters in the North was an extraordinary 83 percent… While this passion mobilized a large Republican vote, it deepened the foreboding that drove many ex-Whigs to vote for Buchanan or Fillmore.” (McPherson, 159–161) Fremont would win 11 out of the 16 Northern states in the November election.

Fremont’s trailblazing campaign in the middle of an increasingly divided nation would set the stage for Lincoln’s successful Republican run in 1860. As John Bicknell in his book “Lincoln’s Pathfinder: John C. Frémont and the Violent Election of 1856” argues, “But in 1856, the Pathfinder who had made his fame following in the footsteps of others would, after all, blaze a trail. His campaign unique in the annals of politics to that time showed the way to victory for another candidate, a man less reticent personally and more prepared temperamentally for the rigorous challenge of a national crisis. Where John C. Frémont led, Abraham Lincoln would follow.” In 1860, however, all the Democrats threats about secession with a Republican president would come to fruition. In no time, Southern state by state seceded, forming the Confederate States of America and launching the country to a Civil War that for once and for all solved the slavery question.

SOURCES & READ MORE

Bicknell, John. Lincoln’s Pathfinder: John C. Fremont and the Violent Election of 1856. Chicago Review Press, Incorporated, 2017.

Boller, Paul F. Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004.

Gienapp, William E. The Origins of the Republican Party, 1852–1856. New York [etc.: Oxford University Press, 1987.

McPherson, James M, and David M. Kennedy. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003.

Schlesinger, Arthur M., Fred L. Israel, and Gil Troy. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008, 3-Volume Set. New York: Infobase Pub, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

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