Why ten years ago did the New Rochelle Republican Party support the creation of a minority district that resulted in the election of a Black Democratic Councilperson? Why has the New Rochelle Republican Party , even this year, proposed minority districts which had a higher percent and greater opportunity for black and Hispanic voters then the redistricting plan passed by the Democratically controlled (4-3) City Council in New Rochelle? Was the New Rochelle Republican City Committee “color blind” when they endorsed three minority candidates and, more significantly, chose Councilman Richard St. Paul as the first Black Candidate for Mayor? A glimpse back into history to the origins of the local and national Republican Party’s formation may shed light on these questions.
Several days ago I happened to read an article written by a local lawyer that appeared in in the GOP National Committee’s Lawyers Network titled “The 150th Anniversary of the First Elected GOP Congress – Lesson for the 2012 Elections” which describes the political roots of the Republican Party and how and when they first elected majorities in Congress. The author explains that it is now 150 years since the outbreak of the Civil War when South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union and the first Republican controlled Congress took office. The year before (1860), the first Republican Congress was elected,so 2011 also commemorates not only the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, but also the 150th Anniversary of the first elected Republican Congress taking office. The American voters clearly wanted change when they ousted the Democratic Majority in l860, and consequently legislation on social issues, such as slavery, marriage (bigamy), the economy and the civil war-which the Democratic opposed — were enacted.
The article strongly suggests the Republican Party was formed by a fusion of anti-slavery Whigs and Free Soil Democrats who had opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854). Further, the local author supports the view that the true forerunner of the GOP was the Liberty Party, a minor New York State party. This party began in 1840 as an abolitionist, pro-life and woman’s suffrage group in Cayuga County. The party also opposed alcohol, gambling, and prostitution and encouraged free trade. A good number of this group later merged with the Free Soil Party (and then into the modern Republican Party) where social issues and homestead “free soil” farmers were encouraged along with industrial development, railroads, and banking. In its first elections, the Republicans slogan was “Free Soil ,Free Labor, Free Men.” By 1858 the GOP had taken root in the North and was supported by several groups including the Free Soil party members, as well as the abolitionists. By 1856 the first Republican National Convention was held and John C. Fremont of California was chosen as the candidate to run against Democrat James Buchanan. The Republicans opposed the Missouri Compromise and the Dred Scott Decision. Consequently, by l858, the GOP succeeded in gaining control of the House of Representatives.
In the l860 elections the party’s platform included “protective tariff, free homesteads and a transcontinental railroad.” according to the author. These additional issues combined with Republican social and economic issues resulted in GOP control of the Presidency and Congress. Abraham Lincoln’s victory over Stephen Douglas preceded the secession of Southern States from the Union and the Civil War followed. This newly minted Republican Congress spent a lot of time on Civil War matters but did manage to pass legislation on social issues, especially anti-bigotry and anti-slavery laws. But everything has its price, to pay for the Civil War an income tax was passed.
Clearly, New Rochelle voters should not be surprised by the local GOP stand on redistricting and minority opportunity because those civil rights principles together with support for Black and minority communities have always been Republican ideals in New Rochelle, New York State, and the nation from the founding of the party.
From the Westchester Guardiam, October 13,2011