Was the Republican party's popularity before 1860 a produce of its conservatism rather than radicalism?

Bruce Vail

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The government propping something up with financial subsidies is a very different matter than what was happening with slavery. Either slavery was legal or illegal. The idea that it would go away if the federal government simply ceased to sanction it seems rather naive to me.

I think you are missing something here that is rather obvious now, but was unsaid by the Republicans of 1860. Prohibiting the expanion of slavery into the territories would be a death sentence for slavery.

As the territories becamse states over time, the slave states would be outvoted by the free states in the House and Senate, and the slave states would lose their veto power over who could win the White House. New markets for the sale of slaves would be cut off, and without the ability to expand the plantation economy would stagnate. Slaves would ultimately lose their economic value.

The death of slavery would be slow and painful, but it woud be certain.
 
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OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
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Feb 23, 2010
No, that's not right. The Radicals were a distinct subset of the Republican Party that gained a lot of influence during the war, but then gradually lost power in the post-war era. Their power probably peaked when they impeached Andrew Johnson in 1868, but receded after the failure to remove Johnson from the White House, and then the elevation of U.S. Grant to the leadership of the party.

Radical Republican leaders -- men like Charles Sumner, Benjamin Wade, and Oliver Morton -- wanted to end slavery and dethrone the Democratic Party at the head of federal government. They were very real and they were the worst nightmare of the southern fire-eaters,
Not really, the prewar Radicals were anti slavery and were present long before the formation of the Republican Party.,

As you correctly noted, to the extent they were in the Republican Party(many were not) they formed a small subset of the Party's membership and leadership across the country.

The radicals were a nightmare to the southern people, not the fire-eaters, because the fire-eaters were the radical subset of the Democratic Party and wanted nothing but secession as soon as possible. It was to their interest to paint the entire Republican Party as being radical.

Just as the Democratic Party as a whole was not fire-eaters, so the Republican Party was not Radical. However your description of the Republicans was more nearly accurate in the case of the fire=eaters and the Democratic Party. Namely that the difference between the two radical groups was that the Radicals of the North were a fringe element in both the Republican Party and the country, whereas the fire-eaters were strong in the Democratic Party's leadership in Congress and state
governments.

In actual fact, the Democratic Party was far more radicalized than the Republicans, especially in the partys leadership . The Northern Radicals were suspicious of Republicans as being soft on slavery, and in Congress were a constant thorn in Lincoln;s side, with their constant calls for a hard war and immediate emancipation.. The Radicals in Congress had their own agenda, and the South should be glad they never had any real authority or power to implement their agenda .in or out of the Republican Part Unlike the fire-eaters, who did.
 

uaskme

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Lincoln was a Free Soiler. Like most Free Soilers he believed the West should be free of Blacks, slave or free. He believed in the removal of Native Americans. He like the vast majority of Northerns wanted a White Society. So stopping the expansion of slavery was something all of the Republican factions could agree on. Keeping Blacks out of the West would limit them from competing with Free White Labor. Keeping the Planter Class out would keep them from accruing the best farm lands. Also the West would be used as a safety valve for White Easterners who could move west and limit Eastern overpopulated labor markets which would help to bolster Free White Labor wages.

Further evidence was the banning of Chinese in the 1880s. So Lincoln’s vision of a White West didn’t die with him.
 

BuckeyeWarrior

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Ohio
The republicans were, to me, the conservative party. They wanted to go back to the original intent of the founders and framers and put slavery on the course of extinction. Reading the writings of the founders and framers they all admitted that slavery was incompatible with the ideals this country was founded on. Many expressed a desire to see it abolished but could not find a way to do it.

The southern democrats had become a reactionary party. This started in the 1830s with John C. Calhoun and his ilk that propagated the positive good theory of slavery. They repudiated the founders and framers belief that slavery was wrong and evil and stated it was just and good. Even ordained and sanctioned by God. A prime example of this is Alexander Stephens cornerstone speech where he repudiates the Declaration of Independence.
 

leftyhunter

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los angeles ca
The Republican Party of the Civil War is surely remembered as radical due to its platform against the expansion of slavery and its later emancipation proclamation. However, the question was raised to me recently of whether their growing popularity stemmed rather from their conservatism. What do you think?
Please define the word conservatism and how it applies to Nineteenth Century politics?
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

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Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
The Republican Party of the Civil War is surely remembered as radical due to its platform against the expansion of slavery and its later emancipation proclamation. However, the question was raised to me recently of whether their growing popularity stemmed rather from their conservatism. What do you think?
Please define the word conservatism and how it applies to Nineteenth Century politics?
Leftyhunter
The pro-slavery stance was based on different fundamental principles inherited from previous generations.

Both sides also claimed the Bible justified their position.

Are we going to suggest both sides of the American Civil War were conservatives?



Slavery predated the Constitution and the country. Laws in support of slavery mostly just codified what had been a defacto reality for generations.

The government propping something up with financial subsidies is a very different matter than what was happening with slavery. Either slavery was legal or illegal. The idea that it would go away if the federal government simply ceased to sanction it seems rather naive to me.
Yes and no. Yes slavery was practiced by various Indian tribes well before the Europeans came to the US as well as the British and Spanish Colonial Empires that rulled over much of North America. On the other hand if slay can not expand it will eventually die which was why Southern slave owners lobbied President Buchanan to purchase Cuba from Spain and President Buchanan did offer a very lucrative sum to the King of Spain who sadly for Spain rejected the offer.
Southern slave owners also financed Fillabusters such has William Walker who temporarily siezed Nicaragua and Narcisco Lopez who failed to seize Cuba from Spain.
The Mexican American War was fought to expand slavery and slave owners in Missiouri supported the Border Ruffians who tried but failed to seize Kansas has a slave state. So while slavery is certainly counstitutonal until of course the XIII Amendment slavery would die if it can't expand or least slaves would loose quite a bit if value.
Leftyhunter
 

Joshism

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I think you are missing something here that is rather obvious now, but was unsaid by the Republicans of 1860. Prohibiting the expanion of slavery into the territories would be a death sentence for slavery.

Prohibiting slavery in the territories would be an active step by the federal government, which is contrary to the idea of getting the federal out of slavery.

The death of slavery would be slow and painful, but it woud be certain.

Potentially very slow.

The radicals were a nightmare to the southern people, not the fire-eaters, because the fire-eaters were the radical subset of the Democratic Party and wanted nothing but secession as soon as possible. It was to their interest to paint the entire Republican Party as being radical.

In that regard I think they were extremely successful. "Black Republicans" and the notion of Republicans as abolitionists was pervasive. Probably because then, as now, sensationalism sells.

I think it's also baked into basic conservatism. Every slope perceived as a slippery one. Every restriction is merely the first step toward tyranny, loss of freedom, loss of property, or whatever the fear of the day is.

As has been noted, with slavery that threat was real. The slope was long, but indeed slippery. Any restriction on slavery was a deliberate step towards its end, and the end of slavery was a step toward racial equality and the great (hypocritical) boogeyman of miscegenation.
 

Joshism

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Jupiter, FL
The republicans were, to me, the conservative party. They wanted to go back to the original intent of the founders and framers and put slavery on the course of extinction. Reading the writings of the founders and framers they all admitted that slavery was incompatible with the ideals this country was founded on.

"All men are created equal" is an inherently liberal idea.

The cornerstone of all conservatism is inequality. Usually the endorsement of inequality by race, nationality, religion, gender, and/or class. Even when it doesn't promote inequality it opposes the idea that the government should do anything to promote equality in society or decrease inequality. (I'm not talking modern politics. I mean in the 19th century and on back to the basic, timeless concepts of "conservative" and "liberal".)

The Founding Fathers were hypocritical about this notion, and not just with regard to slavery. The difference between Senate and House, the electoral college, the indirect election of Senators, the 3/5 compromise, and early restrictions on voting to white male property owners are all forms of inequality introduced from the beginning.
 

uaskme

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SE Tennessee
Lincoln and the vast majority of Republicans wanted Slavery contained in the South. Lincoln wanted Free born northern blacks voluntarily Deported. So most Northerners and all Westerners were fearful that Southern Emancipation would cause southern blacks to go north. This is the reason Abolitionists were tarred and feathered in the 30s and 40s. Why Abolitionist retreated from demanding Black Rights. North refused dilution and rejected Blacks because of their threat to Free White labor.

Lincoln supported and voted for IL Black Laws which restricted Black immigration. He though that Blacks should have basic Natural Rights. But only civil rights which a State would give them. He though the Black and White races should live separately. Though Blacks were an inferior race. And that their civil rights should be received somewhere else. He though the U S should be a White mans Country. That Native Americans, Blacks, Hispanics and others were barbaric races and reject White Race mixing with them.

Shame Northerners cling to their Myths. We should be able to get past this and discuss something else.
 

Rebforever

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
Please define the word conservatism and how it applies to Nineteenth Century politics?
Leftyhunter

Yes and no. Yes slavery was practiced by various Indian tribes well before the Europeans came to the US as well as the British and Spanish Colonial Empires that rulled over much of North America. On the other hand if slay can not expand it will eventually die which was why Southern slave owners lobbied President Buchanan to purchase Cuba from Spain and President Buchanan did offer a very lucrative sum to the King of Spain who sadly for Spain rejected the offer.
Southern slave owners also financed Fillabusters such has William Walker who temporarily siezed Nicaragua and Narcisco Lopez who failed to seize Cuba from Spain.
The Mexican American War was fought to expand slavery and slave owners in Missiouri supported the Border Ruffians who tried but failed to seize Kansas has a slave state. So while slavery is certainly counstitutonal until of course the XIII Amendment slavery would die if it can't expand or least slaves would loose quite a bit if value.
Leftyhunter
This is off topic post and should go to the slavery threads.
 

BuckeyeWarrior

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Location
Ohio
"All men are created equal" is an inherently liberal idea.

The cornerstone of all conservatism is inequality. Usually the endorsement of inequality by race, nationality, religion, gender, and/or class. Even when it doesn't promote inequality it opposes the idea that the government should do anything to promote equality in society or decrease inequality. (I'm not talking modern politics. I mean in the 19th century and on back to the basic, timeless concepts of "conservative" and "liberal".)

The Founding Fathers were hypocritical about this notion, and not just with regard to slavery. The difference between Senate and House, the electoral college, the indirect election of Senators, the 3/5 compromise, and early restrictions on voting to white male property owners are all forms of inequality introduced from the beginning.
I would strongly disagree that inequality is the cornerstone of conservatism. The definition of conservatism is-
commitment to traditional values and ideas with opposition to change or innovation. The idea of the founders and framers of the constitution was that slavery should, and would, end. This would be the traditional view. This traditional view was mostly abandoned by the 1850s thanks to the rise of the "positive good" theory of slavery. Therefore the Republicans were trying to return America to its traditional idea by putting slavery back onto the course of extinction.
 

Joshism

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Jupiter, FL
I would strongly disagree that inequality is the cornerstone of conservatism. The definition of conservatism is-
commitment to traditional values and ideas with opposition to change or innovation. The idea of the founders and framers of the constitution was that slavery should, and would, end. This would be the traditional view. This traditional view was mostly abandoned by the 1850s thanks to the rise of the "positive good" theory of slavery. Therefore the Republicans were trying to return America to its traditional idea by putting slavery back onto the course of extinction.

The Founders who believed slavery would and should end did hold a majority opinion, but not a large majority even in the 1780s. Otherwise there would be no 3/5 clause. Georgia and South Carolina were extremely hostile to Quaker petitions to abolish slavery in the very first Congress under the Constitution. The perceived need to balance free and slave states predates Calhoun's "slavery as a positive good" philosophy.

I don't think the idea of "starving" slavery to death by denying it new territory came about until after the Founding Fathers, but I'm not certain. I'm curious who originated the idea.

In any case, preserving slavery was the conservative view in the Founders era. Slavery had existed since 1619. Letting it continue was the status quo. Ending it was various degrees of liberal, give or take the method and speed. The hand-wringing of men like Jefferson on the subject of slavery is indicative reveals his weakness on the subject. He did little more than send thoughts and prayers that someone someday might do something about it.
 

OpnCoronet

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Joined
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No, that's not right. The Radicals were a distinct subset of the Republican Party that gained a lot of influence during the war, but then gradually lost power in the post-war era. Their power probably peaked when they impeached Andrew Johnson in 1868, but receded after the failure to remove Johnson from the White House, and then the elevation of U.S. Grant to the leadership of the party.

Radical Republican leaders -- men like Charles Sumner, Benjamin Wade, and Oliver Morton -- wanted to end slavery and dethrone the Democratic Party at the head of federal government. They were very real and they were the worst nightmare of the southern fire-eaters,
It is indeed true that the 'Radical' opposition to slavery covered a wide spectrum of political and social thought , independent of the Republican Party. But, in ref. to the OP, taking Immediate Abolitionism, the most extreme segment of the entire anti-slavery movement, which itself was a miniscule party of the U.S. Polity, was the result of a deliberate deliberate policy of misinformation carried out by an even more extreme political movement, bent upon immediate secession and that movement was much more numerous and more influential in the Democratic Party than the so-called Radicals in that of the Republicans, before and during the ACW, and continued in power in their party, than the Northern Radical's did in theirs.
 

OpnCoronet

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Feb 23, 2010
I think the Dissuniosts classify as reactionary, not radical.
I do not think so. Reactionaries look to the past, rather than the future. The Disunionists in this case were those who were looking to the past to justify their existence, while the so-called Radicals of the North were looking to a future without the mistakes of the past(slavery).
 

Joshism

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Location
Jupiter, FL
I think the Dissuniosts classify as reactionary, not radical.
I do not think so. Reactionaries look to the past, rather than the future. The Disunionists in this case were those who were looking to the past to justify their existence, while the so-called Radicals of the North were looking to a future without the mistakes of the past(slavery).

I think you either misread my post, or meant to quote someone else.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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Dec 1, 2018
The Panic of 1857 hit wheat and flour and the railroads that brought it to the East for export to Europe (the end of the Crimean War allowed Russia to resume trade with both the Catholic and Protestant countries who had agreed with France that it was a sacrilege for Russian Orthodox priests to be the official protectors of Christians in the Holy Land).
But, the cotton interests in the South had suffered no pain from the collapse of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company.

Whether conservative or not, the people who supported the Republicans cared a great deal about money because they had lost a great deal. That is why the Republican platforms - both for the 1858 and 1859 Congressional elections and the 1860 Presidential election - said very little about slavery and a great deal about what the Republicans would do for people's incomes. The Party won big in the House on those pocketbook issues; but they made no progress in the Senate. The Republicans picked up 5 seats; but, of the 20 seats on the ballot for that election, they only held 3 and the Democrats held 17. Even so, the Democrats were able to remain firmly in control. Lincoln's candidacy was founded on promises of peace over slavery and land grants, subsidies and other giveaways from the Federal Treasury.

What I always find remarkable is how the Republicans became a successful national party in 1858/9 by winning the House, even though they polled less than 3/8ths of the total ballot. They picked up 23 seats while the Democrats lost 49 even as the Democrat candidates outpolled Republicans in the total ballots cast by nearly half a million votes.
 

Bruce Vail

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Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Lincoln was a Free Soiler. Like most Free Soilers he believed the West should be free of Blacks, slave or free. He believed in the removal of Native Americans. He like the vast majority of Northerns wanted a White Society. So stopping the expansion of slavery was something all of the Republican factions could agree on. Keeping Blacks out of the West would limit them from competing with Free White Labor. Keeping the Planter Class out would keep them from accruing the best farm lands. Also the West would be used as a safety valve for White Easterners who could move west and limit Eastern overpopulated labor markets which would help to bolster Free White Labor wages.

Further evidence was the banning of Chinese in the 1880s. So Lincoln’s vision of a White West didn’t die with him.

I have a minor quibble with your post. Lincoln was not a Free Soiler, he was a Whig. The new Republican Party absorbed much of the idealogical and political framework of the Free Soilers, so there is a lot of overlap. But Lincoln was never a member of the Free Soil party and never ran for office on the Free Soil party ticket.
 

Old_Glory

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Location
NC
The Republican Party of the Civil War is surely remembered as radical due to its platform against the expansion of slavery and its later emancipation proclamation. However, the question was raised to me recently of whether their growing popularity stemmed rather from their conservatism. What do you think?

I would love to see someone present the Republicans of the 1850's as anything other than political radicals. That would be a tall task. They are the very definition of political radicals in America.

No party changed America more than they did and in such a short period of time. They had many goals that were extremely radical at the time and they took the powerful cotton industry, and the even more powerful Southern Democrat party in the South, head on. Some of them had terrible motivations and some of them had splendid motivations, but I think radical is a good description of all of them in the early years of the party. They were firebrands, change agents, and willing to risk everything to defeat their political enemies using a multitude of strategies. The party's birth was one of the great stories in American history and is my favorite part of studying the War.
 

OpnCoronet

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Feb 23, 2010
The sudden rise and rapid ascendency in American Politics, is more or less easily explained if one pays attention to the political and economic history of that time. As already noted on this thread the economic panic sharpened public fears for their well being. The the political storm over Kansas and the Dred Scott decision also sharpened fears that there was a conspiracy by the Southern planter elites to force slavery on every state in the Union, whether they wanted it or not and the Taney Court seemed to prove it.

Soon, at the Democratic Party Convention, in Charleston, S.C., the Democratic Party was deliberate split by southern fire-eaters(secessionists) over the single issue of how far the Democratic Party was willing to support the expansion of slavery.

Going to the polls Northerners had much to think about who would be running the country, most especially Democrats.
 
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