Sunday, March 20, 2016


JFK+50:  Volume 6, No. 1894


Ripon, Wisconsin (JFK+50) One hundred and sixty-two years ago today, March 20, 1854, the Republican Party, later known as the Grand Old Party, or GOP, was founded here in Ripon.   The party's main issue was opposition to the spread of slavery in the western territories.

Today, most Americans are aware that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were the co-founders of the Democratic Party, originally called the Democratic-Republican Party, but does anyone know who founded the Republican Party?

According to Pennsylvania journalist and politician Alexander K. McClure, that man was Francis Preston Blair*, or at the very least was "more nearly the founder...than any other man."

Mr. Blair had been a Jacksonian Democrat who published a pro-Jackson newspaper, the forerunner of the Congressional Record, known as the Congressional Globe.  In 1848, Blair supported the Free Soil Party despite the fact that his own house servants were slaves.  

Apparently, like Thomas Jefferson, the fact that he thought slavery to be evil did not deter Francis Preston Blair from having slaves of his own.  It is true, however, that in 1862 he did offer freedom to those slaves although only one took him up on the offer.

In July 1854, Francis Preston Blair was chosen president of the Republican National Convention which was held in Pittsburgh. John C. Fremont, the party's first presidential nominee, won 11 of 16 Northern states but lost to Democrat James Buchanan.  In 1860, Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln of Illinois and the rest is history.

*Francis Preston Blair, Sr. (1791-1876) was born in Abington, VA.  His father became Attorney General of Kentucky.  FPB graduated from Transylvania University in 1811 & was admitted to the bar in 1817.

Blair became editor of the Congressional Globe & member of President Andrew Jackson's informal "kitchen" cabinet.  In 1836, he acquired the Blair House on Pennsylvania Ave across from the White House.

During Reconstruction, FPB sided with President Andrew Johnson & opposed the radicals of his party.  


"Racism and the founding of the GOP: Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War and the real history of the Republican Party," by Paul D. Escott, September 13, 2014,

Francis Preston Blair, Sr.
Brady-Handy Photographic Collection
Library of Congress Image

Birthplace of the Republican Party
Ripon, Wisconsin
Photo by User:Laharl (2004)