The Republican Party was born in 1854 by anti-slavery activists and individuals in Jackson, Michigan, who believed that government should grant western lands to settlers free of charge.
The new party put forward a vision of modernizing the United States: emphasizing free homesteads to farmers (“free soil”), banking, railroads, and industry.
They vigorously argued that free-market labor was superior to slavery and the very foundation of civic virtue and true republicanism. “Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men” was coined when John C. Fremont was nominated for President by the new Republican Party in 1856. (Read the Republican Platform of 1856 )
Even though Republicans were a ‘third party’ in a two party system of Democrats and Whigs, Fremont received 1/3 of the vote.
Four years later, Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican to win the White House in 1860.
The Civil War erupted a year later. During the war Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves. The Republicans of the day worked to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery, the Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments which guaranteed equal protection under the law and secured voting rights.
The Republican Party played a leading role in securing women the right to vote. In 1896, Republicans were the first party to favor women’s suffrage. When the 19th Amendment finally was added to the Constitution, 26 of 36 state legislatures that had voted to ratify it were under Republican control. The first woman elected to Congress was a Republican, Jeanette Rankin from Montana in 1917.
Today the Republican Party still stands for the individual to have a life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.