Birthplace of the Republican Party – Jackson, MI
One of Jackson County Michigan’s claims to fame is that it is the birthplace of the Republican Party. (There is some dispute over this with Ripon, Wisconsin. Click here to learn more.) Another but lesser known claim to fame is its role in the Underground Railroad. The two are related, as I learned through my research for my current novel.
Under the Oaks – July 6, 1854
On July 6, 1854, in Jackson, Michigan, over a thousand met in protest over the Kansas-Nebraska Act of May 1854 which threatened to expand slavery. They met “Under the Oaks”–outside because the hall could not accommodate such a large crowd. During the convention a slate of candidates was selected for state offices and won during the 1854 elections.
A plague on a granite bolder at the site of the meeting reads: “Here Under the Oaks, July 6, 1854, was born the Republican Party, destined in the throes of civil strife to abolish slavery, vindicate democracy and perpetuate the union.”
Changes in the Republican Party
When I moved to Jackson County in 1988, I wasn’t impressed by the first claim to fame. I was a Democrat and not interested in the history of the Republican Party. However, this was not the Republican Party of today. It was the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, strongly anti-slavery, supportive of social justice and big government. The Democrats were dominant in the south, pro-slavery and against government interference in states. Over the years this changed. By the time of FDR and the new deal, the Democratic party was the party of big government and social programs. The Republican party opposed the New Deal and what they saw as the over-reach of federal government into people’s lives.
And so, the creation of the Republican party was strongly linked to the abolition of slavery and the brave men and women who risked their own freedom to transport runaway slaves to freedom. Truly a claim to fame and source of pride.
Importance of History
This is also a reminder of the importance of knowing your history. Just as people can change over the course of their lives, political parties can and do change. The Republican and Democratic Parties of today, are not the Republican and Democratic Parties of the 1860’s. And they will not be the same years from now.
This Democrat is proud to live in a town that claims its place in history as the birthplace of the Republican party.
I promised updates on my progress with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I’m at 12,000 words. Not impressive but at least its something. I’m neglecting my novel writing to write this post! Time to get back to work.