LIBERAL REPUBLICAN PARTY
LIBERAL REPUBLICAN PARTY (IN U. S. HISTORY), an abortive offshoot from the regular republican party in 1870-72.
—Attention is called elsewhere to the destructive influences of the rise of the republican party in 1855-6 upon the democratic party of the time. (See REPUBLICAN PARTY, I.) In every state the element represented by such men as William Cullen Bryant, S. P. Chase, Lyman Trumbull, and Montgomery Blair, democrats by choice, were forced into the new party by the progressively proslavery attitude of their natural party. (See DEMOCRATIC PARTY, V.) A re-enforcement of much the same nature was added to the republican party, after 1861, under the name of "war democrats." A peace democrat in 1864 asserted that a war democrat and a republican were only "two links of the same sausage, made out of the same dog"; there was, however, an essential difference, which became gradually more strongly apparent after the end of the rebellion. The coercive measures, which seemed to the dominant party absolutely necessary to the maintenance of the natural rights of southern negroes, (see RECONSTRUCTION, KU-KLUX KLAN), were such as were likely to wean the originally democratic element from the republican party; and from 1867 until 1871 there was an increasing exodus of this nature, but not sufficient in numbers to influence seriously the enormous popular vote. The passage of the "ku-klux act" of April 20, 1871, and its enforcement, increased this movement so much that it seemed to need only organization and boundaries to become a perceptible current.
—The opportunity was afforded by the success in Missouri of a union of "liberal republicans" and democrats in 1870-71. (See MISSOURI.) Its leading features were universal suffrage and universal amnesty, a reform of the tariff and the civil service, and the cessation of "unconstitutional laws to cure ku-klux disorders, irreligion or intemperance." The leaders of the Missouri fusion, after gaining complete control of their own state, issued a call, Jan. 24, 1872, for a national convention at Cincinnati, May 1 following. In the nature of things the proposed gathering could not be at all representative, for the new party had no organization and no units for representation. The delegates were therefore, in the main, practically self-appointed; and thus there came into the convention another element, thoroughly honest and patriotic in purpose, but entirely foreign to the natural course of the movement. There was no hope of an independent existence for the new party; it could hardly hope to convert the party which it had left by defeating it: its only logical plan was to organize such a course of transit to the democratic party as should put new blood into that party, restore it to its ancient principles, and raise it out of the slough into which it had fallen. But there was also dissatisfaction among republicans pure and simple: in the growth of that party new men had gained control of it, new methods had been introduced, and the resulting "personal government" of the party had created considerable discontent. This feeling—the desire to reform, not to defeat, the republican party—was strongly represented at Cincinnati, and its influence brought the party to an ignominious failure. Its determination not to abandon the protective system, caused the introduction of the ridiculously ambiguous tariff utterance; and its determination to follow republicans only, brought about the fatal nomination of Greeley. If the convention had been homogeneous, the tariff utterance would have been clear and consistent, some original republican of democratic tendencies would have been nominated for president and some acceptable democrat for vice-president, and the ensuing presidential election would at least have been doubtful.
—The convention met according to appointment, and selected Carl Schurz, of Missouri, as chairman. A platform in twelve paragraphs was adopted: 1, recognizing the equality of all men before the law; 2, opposing any reopening of the questions settled by the last three amendments; 3, demanding universal amnesty; 4, local self-government, impartial suffrage, and the maintenance of the writ of habeas corpus, and 5, civil service reform; 6, "recognizing that there are in our midst honest but irreconcilable differences of opinion with regard to the respective systems of protection and free trade, we remit the discussion of the subject to the people in their congressional districts, and to the decision of congress thereon, wholly free of executive interference or dictation"; 7-12, calling for the maintenance of public credit, a return to specie payments, and a cessation of land grants to corporations. On the first ballot for candidate for president, Charles Francis Adams had 203 votes; Horace Greeley, 147; Lyman Trumbull, of Illinois, 100; B. Gratz Brown, of Missouri, 95; David Davis, of Illinois, 92½; A. G. Curtin, of Pennsylvania, 62; S. P. Chase 2½, and Charles Sumner 1. Curtin and Sumner were withdrawn at once; Brown's vote fell to 2 on the following ballots; Davis' vote fell gradually to 6 on the sixth ballot; and Trumbull's rose to 156 on the third ballot, and then fell to 19 at the end. Adams' vote rose on all six ballots, as follows: 203, 233, 264, 279, 309, 324; and Greeley's as follows; 147, 239, 258, 251, 258, 332. Before the sixth ballot was declared, changes made Greeley's vote 482, and Adams' 187. The former was thus nominated. On the second ballot for a candidate for vice-president, B. Gratz Brown was selected by a vote of 495 to 261 for all others, and the convention adjourned. July 9, the democratic national convention adopted the platform and candidates prepared for it at Cincinnatti. (See DEMOCRATIC PARTY, VI.)
—The whole movement had really failed, so evidently that in June the leaders of it endeavored to obtain another convention from which the absolute republican element should be excluded. June 20, a meeting was held in New York city, on the call of Carl Schurz, Jacob D. Cox, William Cullen Bryant, Oswald Ottendorfer, David A. Wells, and Jacob Brinkerhoff, and nominated as presidential candidates William S. Groesbeck, of Ohio, and Frederick L. Olmstead, of New York. But it was too late; the new ticket was not heard of after the day of its announcement, and the Greeley campaign went on to its final overwhelming defeat. (See ELECTORAL VOTES, UNITED STATES.) The result was entirely due to the refusal of democrats to vote for a candidate who was their lifelong and natural opponent, and whom their leaders had evidently only taken as a stalking horse; the only matter for wonder is that the democratic proportion of the total vote fell off but 3½ per cent. under the circumstances (1868, 47.3 per cent., 1872, 43.8 per cent.).
—Many of those who had originated the movement returned, before or after the election, to the republican party; others remained in the opposition. The name of the party survived until 1876, owing to the presence of a few senators and representatives in congress who still held to it; but its substance departed with Greeley's defeat, if it had really survived his nomination. The only practical result was the "new departure" of the democratic party for the future; but it can hardly be supposed that this missionary work was the primary object of the Cincinnati convention.
—Authorities must be sought in the current newspapers.