History of the Party

From the beginning, the Republican Party has stood for freedom. We are a party that will never back down against Tyranny of any kind.

Grand New Party

It began in a little schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1854. A small group of dedicated abolitionists gathered to fight the expansion of slavery, and they gave birth to a Party dedicated to freedom and equal opportunity.

The name “Republican” was chosen, alluding to Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party and conveying a commitment to the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Party was formally organized in July 1854 by thousands of anti-slavery activists at a convention in Jackson, Michigan. And it was no accident that two years later, in 1856, the first Republican National Convention took place in Philadelphia, where the Constitution was written.

Party of Freedom

Though popularized in a Thomas Nast cartoon, the GOP’s elephant symbol originated during the 1860 campaign, as a symbol of Republican strength. Republicans envisioned “free soil, free speech, free labor.” Under the leadership of President Abraham Lincoln, the GOP became the Party of the Union as well.

President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but it was the entire Republican Party who freed the slaves. The 1864 Republican National Convention called for the abolition of slavery, and Congressional Republicans passed the 13th Amendment unanimously, with only a few Democrat votes.

The early women’s rights movement was solidly Republican, as it was a continuation of abolitionism. They were careful not to be overly partisan, but as did Susan B. Anthony, most suffragists favored the GOP. The 19th Amendment was written by a Republican senator and garnered greater support from Republicans than from Democrats.

Party of Prosperity

Low taxes, sound money, regulatory restraint: these were among the commonsense economic policies established by the GOP that brought about decades of prosperity after the Civil War. Republicans encouraged innovation and rule of law. Buttressed by Republican control in Congress, the McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and Taft administrations cleared away obstacles to economic growth.

President Dwight Eisenhower and congressional Republicans appreciated the fact that the private sector, not the government, is the engine of wealth creation. With his bold tax-cutting agenda, President Ronald Reagan revived the economy after years of Democrat malaise.

Party of Vision

Ronald Reagan explained the difference between Democrats and Republicans in a way that cannot be improved upon: “Two visions of the future, two fundamentally different ways of governing – their government of pessimism, fear, and limits, or ours of hope, confidence, and growth. Their government sees people only as members of groups. Ours serves all the people of America as individuals.”

Party of Washington

The early history of the Republican Party in Washington state saw electoral dominance by the Republican Party. In 1889, Republicans prevailed in the first election for governor and scored majorities in both chambers of the inaugural state legislature.

Officially established in 1890 the Washington State Republican Party was a party of firsts, successfully electing William Owen Bush to the Washington State Legislature – Washington State’s first African-American legislator. He is credited with introducing legislation that led to the establishment of Washington State University and was a tireless promoter of Washington agriculture.

Republican policies in the early period of statehood were advanced by the party-connected Seattle Post-Intelligencer and, later, by the Seattle Republican. Founded by ex-slave Horace Cayton, the Seattle Republican grew to become the second-largest newspaper in Seattle.

In 1922 Republican Reba Hurn of Spokane became the first woman elected to the Washington State Senate, serving from 1923 to 1930. Hurn advocated for conservative fiscal policies, yet espoused a generally liberal social agenda, helping to pass the state’s first child labor laws.

The service of Reba Hurn helped morph the state party into what it is today. A fiscally conservative party that believes in equality across gender, class, and race.

The Washington State Republican Party continues to promote these ideas across our great state.

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