Tuesday, July 4, 2017

#RPT150: On it's 150th Birthday, Origins of the Republican Party of Texas....

"Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done."
Psalm 78:3-4

Today is the 150th Anniversary of the Republican Party of Texas; the Party historian details those origins:
Throughout early 1867 the Union Loyal League, comprised mainly of newly enfranchised blacks and a small number of white Unionists, held mass meetings across the state. Many of these individuals joined with Texans who had opposed secession (“scalawags”) and recent immigrants from the Union states (“carpetbaggers”) in the effort to establish a state unit of the Republican Party.  The first of these meetings was held in Austin on April 27, 1867 and called for a convention in Houston.  According to historian Carl H. Moneyhon, they “supported the National Republican Union party, approved the acts of Congress, and acquiesced in military rule. They encouraged the men who would meet at Houston to adopt a party platform that would eliminate all restrictions on the rights of freed slaves; safeguard, increase, and fairly distribute the state’s school fund; establish a free public school system; support railroad construction; hasten immigration to the frontier by backing a homestead law; and encourage a return to the rule of law in Texas.” [8]
On July 4, 1867 these activists met in Houston for the first Republican state convention.[9] Presiding at the meeting was Elisha M. Pease, the radical Unionist candidate who had lost to James Throckmorton in the governor’s contest one year earlier. Most of the convention’s leadership were either native-born or had immigrated to the state prior to the Civil War.
Closely associated with the Union and the abolition of slavery, the party’s initial membership was predominantly African-American but with a mainly white leadership consisting of a large proportion of German-Americans and those who had been opposed to secession and Texas’ membership in the Confederacy. The new party had to maintain a balancing act of appealing to the newly freed former slaves while still attracting the support of white Unionists. The convention adopted a platform promising support for free schools for all children, regardless of race or color, extending state aid to railroads, and a homestead law offering public land, without regard to race or color, to encourage migration and allow more citizens to acquire land.[10]
Later that same month, General Sheridan removed Throckmorton, viewing him as an impediment to the efforts at reconstruction, and replaced him as provisional governor with Pease.  As a leader of the newly-formed Republican Party, Pease would serve in this capacity until the state adopted a new constitution and elected new officials under the terms of that document.
By January 1868, Texas had an electorate of approximately 60,000 whites and nearly 50,000 blacks.  On February 10th, these voters were asked to decide whether to hold another constitutional convention and to elect delegates to such a conclave.  This election “solidified the union between blacks and the Republican party, an alliance that continued through the rest of the century.”[11]   When the votes were counted, those eligible to vote supported holding the convention and elected 90 individuals as delegates, 78 of whom associated with the newly-formed Republican Party.
The Republican delegation to the constitutional convention of 1868 comprised 57 native Southern-born whites, 12 immigrants from the North, and 9 blacks.[12]  While claiming affiliation with the newly formed Republican Party, these delegates split into four camps as the constitutional convention undertook its deliberations.  One group of moderates comprised supporters of Governor Pease and former Governor A. J. Hamilton.  A second faction, mainly East Texans, was led by James Flanagan of Rusk County.  The third group consisted of prewar Unionists from western counties led by E. J. Davis, Edward Degener, and Morgan Hamilton (a brother of A. J. Hamilton).  The fourth faction included the black delegates led by George T. Ruby of Galveston, a leader of the Union League.  Each in their own way, all of these factional leaders would play roles in the Texas Republican Party over the remainder of the 19th century.
By the time of its second state convention in the summer of 1868, the newly formed Republican Party had split between what were viewed as more conservative Republicans led by Governor Pease in control of the party machinery and a rump group of radical Republicans led by E. J. Davis and George T. Ruby.  Among those who bolted were Edward Degener, Morgan C. Hamilton, and George W. Whitmore, each of whom would eventually serve in Congress as Republicans. This resulted in the existence of two Republican parties, each with their own executive committee and state organization.[13] 
Read the whole thing here.

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