The name was first used by Thomas Jefferson's party, later called the Democratic Republican party or, simply, the Democratic party. The name reappeared in the 1850s, when the present-day Republican party was founded. At that time the crucial issue of the extension of slavery into the territories split the Democratic party and the Whig party, and opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 organized the new Republican party. Jackson, Mich., is called the birthplace of the party (July 6, 1854) and Joseph Medill is credited with having suggested its name, but these distinctions are also claimed for other places and other men.
By 1855 the new party was well launched in the North. Anti-slavery Whigs such as William Seward and Thurlow Weed were dominant in the new grouping, but elements of the Know-Nothing movement, together with the Free-Soil party, abolitionists, and anti-Nebraska Democrats also supplied strength. The party's national organization was perfected at Pittsburgh in Feb., 1856, and its first presidential candidate, John C. Frémont, made a creditable showing against victorious James Buchanan. The party opposed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the extension of slavery, denounced the Supreme Court's decision in the Dred Scott Case, and favored the admission of Kansas as a free state.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.