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Founding Address of National Republican Party to Combat the “Aggressions and Usurpations of the Slave Power…. Declaration of the Principles and Purposes”
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The Republican Party’s historic Convention Address, preparatory to its first nominating convention in June, argued that “the Government of the United States is not administered in accordance with the Constitution, or for the preservation and prosperity of the American Union; but that its powers are systematically wielded for the promotion and extension of the Interest of Slavery.” Despite the “sentiment of the Founding Fathers,” who sought to contain slavery, the country’s history demonstrates “the progress of slavery towards ascendancy in the federal government.” The Convention urges adherents to send delegates to Philadelphia in June, “to nominate candidates for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency of the United States.”

[REPUBLICAN PARTY. ELECTION OF 1856]. Address of the Republican Convention at Pittsburgh [Pennsylvania], February 22, 1856. The Aggressions and Usurpations of the Slave Power. Declaration of the Principles and Purposes of the Republican Party. Pamphlet. [np: 1856]. 15 pp. Caption title, as issued.

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We declare in the first place, our fixed and unalterable devotion to the Constitution of the United States,—and to the ends for which it was established, and to the means which it provided for their attainment.” (p1)

In the next place, we declare our ardent and unshaken attachment to this Union of American States, which the Constitution created and has thus far preserved. We revere it as the purchase of the blood of our national forefathers, as the condition of our national renown, and as the guardian and guarantee of that Liberty which the Constitution was designed to secure.” (p1)

Holding these opinions, and animated by these sentiments, we declare our conviction that the Government of the United States is not administered in accordance with the Constitution, or for the preservation and prosperity of the American Union;—but that its powers are systematically wielded for the promotion and extension of the Interest of Slavery, in direct hostility to the letter and spirit of the Constitution, in flagrant disregard of other great interests of the country, and in open contempt of the public sentiment of the American people and of the Christian world.” (p2)

The framers of the Constitution, although the historical record of their opinions proves that they were earnest and undivided in their dislike of Slavery, and in their conviction that it was hostile in its nature and its influences to Republican freedom, after taking these steps to prevent its increase, did not interfere with it further in the States where it then existed.” (p3)

Thus, without a single petition for action from any quarter of the Union, but against the earnest remonstrances of thousands of our citizens,—against the settled and profound convictions of the great body of the people in every portion of the country, and in wanton disregard of the obligations of justice and of good faith, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was repealed, and the seal which had guaranteed Freedom to that vast Territory, which the United States had purchased from France, was snatched form the bond.” (p7)

In all these successive acts, in the admission of Missouri and of Arkansas, in the annexation of Texas and the provision for admitting four new States from her Territory, in the war with Mexico and the conquest of her provinces, in the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and in the cruel war now waged against the people of Kanzas for the extension of Slavery into that Territory, we trace the footsteps of a powerful interest, aiming at absolution political power and striding onward to a complete ascendancy over the General Government.” (p13)

The time draws nigh, fellow countrymen, when you will be called on to decide upon the policy and the principles of the General Government. Your votes at the approaching Presidential election will determine whether Slavery shall continue to be the paramount and controlling influence in the Federal Administration, or whether other rights and other interests shall resume the degree of consideration to which they are entitled.” (p15)


Historical Background
On January 17, 1856, chairmen of Republican Party organizations in Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin issued a call for an informal convention at LaFayette Hall, in Pittsburgh, on February 22, 1856. The February gathering included representatives from twenty-two states and elected a National Executive Committee and passed resolutions calling for the repeal of laws enabling slaveholding in free territories and for the overthrow of the administration of Franklin Pierce, “as it is identified with the progress of the Slave power to national supremacy.” Although a local newspaper identified Abraham Lincoln as one of the delegates from Illinois, he was instead at a meeting of newspaper editors in Decatur, Illinois, marking the beginning of the organization of the Republican Party in that state.[1]

The Republican National Committee next met on March 27, 1865, at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., and called for a formal nominating convention. The first Republican National Convention met at Musical Fund Hall in Philadelphia from June 17 to 19, 1856. The convention approved an anti-slavery platform that supported Congressional control over the territories, an end to polygamy in Mormon settlements, and federal support for a transcontinental railroad. The convention considered John C. Fremont, John McLean, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Charles Sumner, though Seward, Chase, and Sumner asked that their names be withdrawn. John C. Fremont was nominated for president, and William L. Dayton of New Jersey for as vice-president over Abraham Lincoln of Illinois.

Democrats passed over incumbent President Franklin Pierce and nominated James Buchanan, Minister to Great Britain, as their candidate. The American Party, or Know Nothings, nominated former President Millard Fillmore as their candidate. In the general election in November, Buchanan received just over 45 percent of the vote, to Fremont’s 33 percent and Fillmore’s 21.5 percent.  In the Electoral College, Buchanan won 174 votes from 19 states to win over Fremont’s 114 votes from 11 states, and Fillmore’s 8 votes from Maryland.

Condition: Disbound, scattered foxing, good+.

Reference: See LCP 8796 and Sabin 59842. Rare variant (not in OCLC, Dumond, Blockson, Eberstadt) of address published on many presses at the time.

[1]The Daily Pittsburgh Gazette, February 22, 1856, 2:1; Daily Illinois State Journal, February 25, 1856, 2:2; Decatur State Chronicle, February 28, 1856.

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