So far, I have tried to made a short historical review of the first years of the existence of the Republican party, identifying a few ideological main trends that defined the activity and the platform of the party. Namely, I have talked about the anti-slavery position (proved, among others, by the importance given to the Northern branches), somehow moderate in order to keep the votes of the nativist Americans, who used to sympathize with Know-Nothings factions but were rather liberal in terms of usage of slave work. The previous supporters of the Know-Nothings moved in a large amount towards the Republicans rather then to the Democrats, because the former managed to emphasize both sectionalism and nativism.
Generally, the political debate seemed to be focused rather on social problems than on major political controversies. Of course, any social issue is a bearer of potential political decision, and the threats the local population was facing had to be solved through political means. Therefore, the ideological component of a political organization had to cover all levels, maintaining in the same time a unitary approach, thing that was quite challenging in certain moments. The Republican party managed to combine the protection of the interests of locals faced with massive immigration waves with a liberal approach. All in all, in this political web of definitions and positions, the Republican party was trying to keep the core of moral protestant values; all the measures suggested and promoted, all the political ideals were built around the ideal of a moral republic - and this conceptual frame shaped the attitude towards slave owners, towards the working class problems and its protection, towards the economic development suggested path etc.
The Republicans also found a source of inspiration (as well as a certain number of votes) in the Whigs party, taking the liberal bourgeois principles from this party. Once the Whigs' organization disintegrated, the liberal voters switched to the Republicans, given the ideological similarities. Maintaining the support for nativism and an Anti-Catholic approach, borrowed from the Know-Nothings, the Republicans incorporated doctrinaire elements from the Whigs, mainly by shaping and keeping a liberal and abolitionist conceptual frame.
The connection between the Republicans and the Whigs can be seen also from the "average voter/supporter" portrait - and there are studies showing that evangelical denominations, such as Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Baptists were supporting the Whig and the republican parties, while anti-evangelical groups - Catholic Irish, Lutheran Germans and Methodists were oriented towards the Democrats. The Whig electorate from the first pool of voters went to the Republicans, once the Whigs disappeared, following the entrepreneurial and moral values promoted by the "Puritan" Republicans. Given the specificities of the times and the massive changes that the American society was going through, all the parties had to come up with personalized solutions to the inherent developmental problems. The process of industrialization and the general economic development of a society requires a set of solutions and decisions meant to facilitate the process. But let us not forget that it also causes social earthquakes and a redefinition of the social structure, felt at all levels of the society and generating issues that also require political solutions.
Actually, the Republican Party was rather perceived in the history of the nineteenth century as being the bearer of the modern ideology of freedom of people and labour and promoting values such as: equal opportunities for all, individual freedom, in terms of personal and economic choices and so on. The later evolution of the political life shows that, in the times of Reconstruction, for example, the ideology was undermined by both the labor radicals and the southern land owners, that the Republican party was unable to cope with the difficulties arisen:
So, in the end, Reconstruction came full circle. It began with the southerners trying to adjust to the northern system of free labor. It ended with the northerners having to accept the reality of conflict between capital and labor - a reality that southerners, white and black alike, had understood all along"
Before and after the Civil War, the Republicans embraced a protectionism policy as a national industrial policy, trying to somehow mediate between economic/industrial development, on one hand, and the general protection of the working class, on the other.
To conclude with, I have tried to identify in this paper the roots of the Republican doctrine. Nonetheless, it is sometimes a very thin line between a borrowed position and a genuine one and the grounds of decisions are not always the same - attracting voters must be balanced by following a certain moral line and specific values. Still, the heritage of the former Whig party (particularly the liberal wing) and of the Know Nothings can be identified in the ideological statements and in the principles embraced by the Republican party in the antebellum period.
1. Richard H. ABBOT - "The Republican Party and the South: 1855-1877," Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986
2. Eric FONER - "Politics and Ideology in the Age of Civil War," New York: Oxford University Press, 1980
3. William E. GIENAPP - "The Origins of the Republican Party: 1852-1856," New York: Oxford University Press, 1987
4. Melanie Susan GUSTAFSON - "Women and the Republican Party: 1854-1924," University of Illinois Press, 2001 (http://www.press.uillinois.edu/epub/books/gustafson/ch1.html)
5. James L. HOUSTON - "A Political Response to Industrialism: The Republican Embrace of the Protectionist Labor Doctrines," The Journal of American History, 70 (1), 1983, pp. 35-57
6. Richard B. LATNER, Peter LEVINE - "Perspectives on Antebellum Pietistic Politics," Reviews in American History, 4 (1), 1976, pp. 15-24
7. Bruce LEVINE - "Conservatism, Nativism, and Slavery: Thomas R. Whitney and the Origins of the Know-Nothing Party," The Journal of American History, 88 (2), 2001, pp. 455-489
7. Richard McCORMICK - "Political Parties in the United States: Reinterpreting their Natural History," The History Teacher, 19 (1), 1985, pp. 15-32
8. Major WILSON - "Republicanism and the Idea of Party in the Jacksonian Period," Journal of the Early Republic, 8 (4),…