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

Bruce Vail

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
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.

And what were, exactly, the Party's goals that can plausibly described as "extremely radical"?

As discussed earlier in this thread, the "no expansion of slavery" plank was a moderate alternative to immediate abolition. Much of remainder of the platform was a modest reformulation of old-fashioned Whiggery. What was so radical?
 

Old_Glory

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Sep 26, 2010
Location
NC
And what were, exactly, the Party's goals that can plausibly described as "extremely radical"?

As discussed earlier in this thread, the "no expansion of slavery" plank was a moderate alternative to immediate abolition. Much of remainder of the platform was a modest reformulation of old-fashioned Whiggery. What was so radical?

Abolition of slavery outright was an extremely radical position for that time, yet most who held those feelings were Republicans. I guess it depends on how you view "no expansion of slavery" as a political view in the 1850s.

Why do you feel that "no expansion of slavery" was a moderate position at that time? There is little compromise in that stance. The Northern Republicans would gain all the political power from that position, the Democrats would lose power, and the Southern Democrats would have no access to the new territories. That is not a typical characteristic of a moderate position.
 

Bruce Vail

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Abolition of slavery outright was an extremely radical position for that time, yet most who held those feelings were Republicans. I guess it depends on how you view "no expansion of slavery" as a political view in the 1850s.

Why do you feel that "no expansion of slavery" was a moderate position at that time? There is little compromise in that stance. The Northern Republicans would gain all the political power from that position, the Democrats would lose power, and the Southern Democrats would have no access to the new territories. That is not a typical characteristic of a moderate position.

Well, 'no expansion' seems a moderate position to me because it allows all slaveowners to continue to own/operate their human property indefinitely into the future even if it did withdraw the federal government from any role in expanding or promoting chattel slavery. It certainly is 'moderate' compared to alternatives such as outright abolition, or continued promotion of slavery by the federal government.

It is true that Republicans would gain political power under the 'no-expansion' rubric, but let's not forget the Republican's were able to win the White House in 1860 even under the old system. And Democrats would have access to the new territories on an equal voting basis as Republicans, but they would be merely denied the power to have unfair voting status in the Congress and Electoral College because of the three-fifths clause.

At the end of the day, Southern political leaders correctly viewed the Republican Party as an existential threat to slavery. The Republican Party's attempt to appeal to moderate Northrn voters did not fool them for a second.
 
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LetUsHavePeace

Volunteer
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
What happened to the other 26 seats? Constitutional Unionists?
People whom scholars now label as members of "The Opposition Party" won 19 seats - all of them "new"; but I think your label - Constitutional Unionists is a much better fit.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opposition_Party_(Southern_U.S.)

Members who declined to accept any party labels won 15 - 14 of them being"new".
The Know Nothings lost 9 of their 14 seats.
4 new members identified themselves as Whigs even though there had been no Whig party candidates on the ballots.
2 new members identified themselves as Lecompton Democrats.

19+14-9+4-2=26
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
If you want to know how conservative the Republican Party was Google August Willich and what his relationship to Karl Marx was like.

It should come as no surprise someone opposed wage slavery was also opposed to wageless slavery. Marx himself followed the American Civil War with interest.

We should keep in mind what while Willich and some of the other 48ers were committed Marxists they were probably even rarer than Abolitionists.
 

tony_gunter

Corporal
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
Mississippi
It should come as no surprise someone opposed wage slavery was also opposed to wageless slavery. Marx himself followed the American Civil War with interest.

We should keep in mind what while Willich and some of the other 48ers were committed Marxists they were probably even rarer than Abolitionists.
Yep. But the idea that they would join a Conservative party is a bit ludicrous since Willich once attempted to kill Marx for being too conservative.
 
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