Contrast that sordid history with...
Honoring 150 Years of Republican Civil Rights Achievements
This year marks an important anniversary -- and it’s a big one. Our party is a century and a half old this year. That is a big, big event: after all -- a 150th anniversary doesn’t come along but once … every 150 years.
It was 150 years ago this year that our party was founded in a small midwest town. Take a moment to think what was going on 150 years ago: John Phillip Sousa was born. Sacramento became the capital of our state. The San Francisco Gas Company illuminated its first gaslights. That’s the world in which a few people in a schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin came together to map strategy and to form the Republican Party.
The history of our party is as remarkable as it is untold, and it is under-appreciated for that reason. Just in the area of civil rights, there is no way in these brief comments that I can do anything like a comprehensive presentation. But I can tell you that for the last two years, the Republican Policy Committee in the United States Congress has been working to chronicle the Republican civil rights history, gathering thousands of facts, dates, and events. And today we are proudly issuing the 2005 Republican Freedom Calendar.
Unfortunately, the Republican Freedom Calendar has only 365 days. And so we have had to pick 365 out of hundreds and hundreds of additional civil rights accomplishments. It is truly impressive to go through this. I have learned an extraordinary amount about our party as a result of this project.
The Republican Party, I am absolutely confident in saying, is the most effective political organization in the history of the world in advancing the cause of freedom. Frankly, we haven’t had any competition.
The mission of our party was clearly stated by Abraham Lincoln: “to lift the artificial weights from all shoulders, and clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all.” His use of the word “pursuit” recalls Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence. Just as America’s founding document declared our right to pursue happiness, the Republican philosophy has always been focused on opportunity -- not equality of outcome, but equality of opportunity. The “artificial weight” that Lincoln is talking about is, of course, the weight of the state. In the
most egregious form of statism, the government imposed slavery on millions of Americans.
Today, the animating spirit of the Republican Party is exactly the same as it was at its founding: free minds, free markets, free expression, and unlimited opportunity. Leading the organized opposition to these ideas 150 years ago, just as today, was the Democratic Party -- in the form, then as now, of politically correct speech; a preference for government control over individual decision making (and of course slavery was the most extreme form of government control); government control of enterprise; and an insistence on seeing people as members of groups, rather than as individuals. It was that refusal to see the unique value of every individual that
was at the heart of the Democrats’ support of slavery.
So on this 150th anniversary, it is useful to look back. This morning, I will speak briefly on four of the significant accomplishments of the Republican Party in the area of individual rights and freedoms:
First, the role of our party in bringing an end to slavery in the United States.
Second, the role of our party in extending the right to vote to men and women of all backgrounds, of all races, and of all creeds.
Third, the leadership role of our party in ushering in the modern civil rights era.
And fourth, the leading role of our party in establishing an American policy of peace through strength that has freed hundreds of millions of people around the world from slavery and brought freedom, democracy, women’s rights, and minority rights to the former Soviet Empire and across central and eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
From President Lincoln’s victory in the Civil War, to President Reagan’s victory in the Cold War, to President Bush’s liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the policies of the Republican Party have brought freedom to a major portion of the planet’s population that previously lived in slavery.
These astounding achievements are the result of our party’s establishment with a fundamentally different vision than the Democrats whom we formed to oppose 150 years ago.
We started our party with the express intent to protect the American people from the Democrats’ pro-slavery policies that made people inferior to the state. The Democrats didn’t just oppose Republicans, or merely tolerate racial discrimination; they were aggressively pro-slavery -- so much so that they were alternately referred
to as the “Slaveocrats.”
So on March 20, 1854, our founders decided to take them on. They drafted plans and platforms, and in the space of a few months, put together Republican Party organizations across the Northern and Western portions of the United States.
The first Republican state convention was held in Jackson, Michigan just a few months later in July. The first meeting of the Republican National Committee was two years later. Three months after that, the first Republican National Convention was held in Philadelphia.
That first Republican National Convention nominated our first presidential candidate, who -- as everyone here knows -- was a former U.S. Senator from California, John C. Fremont. He didn’t win, but just four years later, a former member of the House did win, carrying the Republican standard. And not only did Lincoln win the presidency, but his coattails were so long and so broad that Republicans won majorities -- big majorities -- in both the House and in the Senate.
In fact, after the election of 1860, every single governor in every northern state in the United States was a Republican. This was phenomenal progress in the space of just a few years. It was possible because our party was based on such a powerful idea. We know now that we don’t win elections unless we have ideas behind us. The history of the Republican Party is an amazing example of how much can be accomplished if your ideas are big enough.
These Republican majorities, and the strength of our ideas, enabled us to fight and win the Civil War. This same Republican commitment to individual freedom led our nation through Reconstruction, and guided our policies to the end of the 19th century and throughout the 20th century, to make the United States of America what it is today: a beacon of hope and freedom for the entire world.
Military histories of the Civil War are commonplace. There is an enormous industry dedicated to producing DVDs, videos, movies, and books about the military aspects of the Civil War. But all too little attention is paid to the political aspects of the Civil War. For many years after the Civil War, the history books accurately described the Republican Party’s leading role in preserving the Union and ending slavery. But as history faded, and college professors became more partisan and politically tendentious, the facts were lost. “History” changed. The facts didn’t change, but our history books did.
Today, students are taught that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was an eccentric individual act, and that Lincoln rose above politics in issuing it. In fact, the opposite was true. This was a profoundly political act, which had been expressly authorized by the U.S. Congress in a hotly debated law. Both the House and the Senate had solidly Republican majorities, which -- over strong Democratic opposition – had passed the Confiscation Act.
That law stated very clearly that slaves belonging to rebels were free. By signing the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln was implementing that statute. Freeing the slaves was thus a political question that every Republican in Congress voted for, and every Democrat voted against.
At the end of the war, despite their strong majorities, Republicans in Congress knew they wouldn’t have a majority forever. Anticipating that the Democrats might someday come back into power, Republicans unanimously voted for what became the 13th Amendment to the Constitution -- thereby putting an end to slavery.
The Republicans in Congress went on to pass the nation’s first ever Civil Rights Act, extending citizenship and equal rights to people of all races, all colors, and all creeds. Notice that Republicans didn’t take the political approach that they might have, limiting themselves to saying that former slaves would now be treated equally, or only blacks or African-Americans would gain their civil rights. We said all people, all colors, all creeds -- because that’s the way Republicans think. The founders of the Republican Party were simply putting in force the stated ideals of the Founding Fathers, so that our government would finally recognize that all people are created equal, and that all should enjoy the right to pursue happiness.
Republicans have always believed that every man and woman is created equal. This is not a choice that can be made for us by others. It isn’t up to our government. So we required our government to fulfill that promise.
The same year as the first Civil Rights Act, Republicans in Congress wrote another constitutional amendment to extend even further the scope of our civil rights legislation. We extended the concepts of due process of law, and equal protection of the laws, to every state. Now, every state -- even those where Democrats held sway -- would have to implement these principles. No longer just at the federal level, but at the state level as well, the civil rights of every American individual would be protected.
This major civil rights advance -- what we now know as the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution -- is a purely Republican achievement, because every single Democrat in Congress voted against the 14th Amendment. That is another fact deftly omitted from American history textbooks these days: we owe our Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws and due process to Republicans, and this bedrock of American civil rights was unanimously opposed by the Democrats.
Three years later, in 1869, the Republicans proposed yet another constitutional amendment, this one specifically guaranteeing blacks the right to vote. The same partisanship was in evidence: 98% of Republicans voted for it; 97% of the Democrats voted against it.
Seven years later, Republicans in Congress authored what was then, and what remains today, the most sweeping Civil Rights legislation ever enacted. The 1875 Civil Rights Act guaranteed the right of equal access to all citizens in all public accommodations -- whether or not owned or controlled by the government. Now that phrase, “public accommodations,” is very familiar to us today, because it was at the heart of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which became the focal point of the 1960s civil rights movement. The reason that this question was before the Congress again in the 1960s is that the 1875 Civil Rights Act only lasted for eight years before the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. What finally became law in 1964, therefore, was the original Republican legislation of 90 years earlier. Not surprisingly, in 1964 a significantly higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The Democrats’ opposition to Republican efforts to protect the civil rights of African-Americans lasted not just through the Reconstruction era, but well into the 20th Century. In the South, the terrorist wing of the Democratic Party, the Ku Klux Klan, virtually destroyed the Republican Party -- which did not recover enough to become a force in the region until President Reagan’s message of freedom and equality for all prevailed in the 1980s.
Every single African-American in Congress, House and Senate, until 1935 was a Republican.
In 1872, the first black governor took office in Louisiana. I love his name: Pinckney Pinchback, a great Republican. Our own state of California was the first to have a Hispanic governor. Can you guess his political party? Republican Romualdo Pacheco became governor in 1875, long before anybody had ever heard of Cruz Bustamante.
The first Hispanic U.S. Senator was elected from New Mexico in 1928. You guessed it -- he was a Republican, Octaviano Larrazolo.
Republicans led the fight for women’s voting rights -- and the Democrats, as a party, opposed civil rights for women. All of the leading suffragists -- including Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton -- were Republicans. In fact, Susan B. Anthony bragged, after leaving the voting booth, that she had voted for “the Republican ticket -- straight.”
The suffragists included two African-American Republican women who were also co-founders of the NAACP: Ida Wells and Mary Terrell, great leaders of our party, both of them.
The first women delegates to a national party convention did not go to the Democratic National Convention, they went to the Republican Convention. In fact, for years Democrats kept women out, while Republicans were letting women in. The goal of the Republican suffragists, including their male Republican elected official friends, was to add an amendment to the Constitution that would give women the right to vote. Sadly, there is not a single California schoolbook in use today that tells students it was a Republican U.S. Senator from California, Aaron Sargent, who authored the women’s suffrage amendment -- or that he named it in honor of another great Republican, Susan B. Anthony.
Senator Sargent introduced the Susan B. Anthony Amendment in 1878, but it didn’t become the law of the land until 1920. Why? Because Republicans did not have majorities in both the House and the Senate at the same time, and the Democrats kept voting against it. But, in the meanwhile, in 1916, Montana -- which had by state law given women the right to vote -- elected Jeannette Rankin to be the first woman to serve in the United States Congress. She, of course, was a Republican.