THE PARTY IN POWER

When the southern states left the Union in 1860-1861, they took the Democratic Party's majority in Congress with them. The Republicans immediately became the majority party in the Union when the new Congress assembled in March 1861. Lincoln, as war president, reached out to Democrats and Republicans alike to rally support for the Union cause, but the Republicans in Congress moved to enact the various parts of the 1860 Republican platform promises to provide more freedom for economic and social mobility to white Americans. As a means of winning the war and securing support for the Republican Party, the party in power passed homestead legislation to open the West to farmers; created land grant colleges to promote agricultural and mechanical arts; established the Department of Agriculture to foster scientific farming; approved the route and funding of the transcontinental railroad; pushed through tariff legislation to promote industry and protect the working man; reformed the currency and banking system to facilitate commerce; and imposed new taxes to finance the war.

Radical Republicans and black and white abolitionists wanted more. They pressed Lincoln to convert the war to save the Union into a war to end slavery and expand freedom. Military necessity soon forced the Union armies to employ slaves coming into their lines and Lincoln to accept blacks offering their services to the cause. By the summer of 1862 Lincoln believed that "the time came when slavery must die so that the Union might live." Emancipation cost Republicans at the polls. Democrats charged them with the double tyranny of promoting racial mixing and suppressing Democrats' civil liberties. But the bravery of black troops silenced many doubters about the wisdom of freeing the slaves-for a time.

Tariff Bill (Congressional Globe, June 20, 1862)

 

 

 

 

Department of Agriculture (Congressional Globe, April 17, 1862)

Pacific Railroad (Congressional Globe, May 6, 1862)

Homestead Bill (Congressional Globe, May 15, 1862)

Land for Agricultural Colleges (Congressional Globe, May 19, 1862)