Republican Party: Ideological Roots

The Republican Party arose out of three traditions.

The first was the reform tradition that followed the Second Great Awakening; this was a religious movement that engulfed the early American republic in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Second Great Awakening leaders favored a more optimistic view that the world could be made a better place by individuals seeking their own salvation.  The idea of connecting the individual to social progress influenced a number of important reforms, many of them supported by the Whigs and others supported by third-party movements. In temperance reform, public education, women's rights and antislavery efforts among others, this religious reform impulse was very important. Although most Republicans did not endorse equal rights for women, or immediate abolition of slavery, they were more likely to see themselves as "their brother's keepers." This reform tradition helped inspire many of those who opposed slavery's extension into the territories.


The second important influence on Republicans was the economic policies sponsored by Henry Clay and his allies in the Whig party. Clay believed the government should act to develop the economy via protective tariffs on new industries. The tariffs would then pay for internal improvements to transportations infrastructure—roads, rivers, harbors and most importantly railroads.

The third influence on the Republican Party was nativism. Since the 1790s the United States had gone through periods in which some Americans sought to define national identity individually rather than based on ideas or institutions. Some founders thought only Protestants would make good Americans. With the influx of Irish and Germans in the mid-1800s, some Protestants feared that American institutions would be destroyed.

Source: Republican Party: Ideological Roots
© 2016 Encyclopedia.com | All rights reserved.

Back to top