In browsing the internet, I have come across quite a number of web sites and blogs talking about acts of racism and oppression in our history. They generally make the case that party names switched during our history and that attempts to brand a party are fallacious because those names refer to different people than they do today.
“Preceding the Civil War, the Democrats were the right, and the Republicans the Left. And yet, it is exactly opposite today.”
“Am I surprised that you don’t know the party that supported slavery are now known as Republicans?”
“I’m not surprised that conservatives supported slavery and they oppose unions. Liberals opposed slavery and support unions. The equivalent conservatives of the civil war era are now Republicans.”
I believe a more chronological than euphemistic approach may be helpful here.
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States (1829–1837). He grew up in an area spanning North and South Carolina before taking up adult residence in Tennessee. In 1797, he was elected U.S. Senator as a “Democratic-Republican”.
The Tennessee legislature nominated Jackson for President. Jackson attracted Martin Van Buren, who, with help from his friends, revived the old Republican Party, and gave it a new name as the “Democratic Party”.
Jackson and his supporters held their first national convention as the “Republican Party” in 1832. But by the mid-1830s, they referred to themselves both as the “Democratic Party,” and as “Democratic Republicans”. The name “Democratic Party” has been official since 1844.
Much of the confusion about the “switch” between the Democratic and Republican parties stems from this. It is important to note that this occurred decades before the Civil War.
After Jackson’s first election he signed the “Indian Removal Act” into law in 1830. While frowned upon in the North, the Removal Act was popular in the South.
In the 1832 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Worcester v. Georgia), ruled that Georgia could not impose its laws upon Cherokee tribal lands. Jackson is often quoted (regarding the decision) as having said, “[Supreme Court Justice] John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!”
The first large-scale confinement of indigenous people into detention centers began in the summer of 1838, when Democratic President Martin Van Buren, who follow Jackson into office, and began enforcing Jackson’s “Indian Removal Act”, ordered the rounding up the Cherokee into prison camps.
Many died in these camps due to disease, which spread rapidly because of the close quarters and bad sanitary conditions. By 1837, 46,000 Native Americans from the southeastern states had been removed from their homelands in what became known as the Trail of Tears. About 2,500–6,000 more died along the way.
During his administration, Jackson made six Supreme Court appointments, including Roger Brooke Taney, who became the 5th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1836. With his court appointments, Jackson achieved a 5-4 Democratic majority in the Supreme Court. This had a profound effect on the issue of race in America. It was unlikely that anyone (other that Jackson) anticipated what was about to happen.
A Missouri slave named Dred Scott was taken by his master to the non-slave Wisconsin Territory before returning home. Dred Scott petitioned the courts claiming that having been taken out of a slave state into free land, he was now a free man, under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
Then Democratic President James Buchanan pressed the Court to issue as broad and sweeping a ruling as possible to settle the issue of slavery “speedily and finally.”
The majority opinion, which split across partly lines, ruled in “Dred Scott v. Sandford” (1857), that Dred Scott, as a slave, was not a citizen and therefore did not have standing to bring a law suit. Then, for the first time ever in the history of the court, the Democratic majority issued a judgement on a case it had never actually heard – writing that even if Dred Scott had standing, he would have lost the case because under the 5th Amendment, property could not be taken, and that no state could pass a law prohibiting the owner of property from transporting it across state lines.
Democrats praised the Dred Scott decision, but Republicans branded it a “willful perversion” of the Constitution. This meant, by inference, that any slave-holder could transport his “property” (slaves) to any state – even free states. By thus moving and settling into free states, slave owners could transform the entire county into slavery. This decision is widely-regarded as one of the most significant precursors to the Civil War.
In the 1840s and 50s, following the separation of the Democratic Party, a much weakened Republican Party fragmented into the Whigs, Know-Nothings (a semi-secret group that claimed to “know nothing” in answer to all questions), the Free Soilers, and many others. In the late 1850s, disagreements between Abolitionists caused the Whig and “Know-Nothing” parties to collapse, and new ones to arise (the Free Soil Party in 1848, the Republicans in 1854, the Constitutional Union in 1860).
The Republican Party was based on northern white Protestants, businessmen, professionals, factory workers, wealthier farmers, and poor blacks. It had little presence in the South, but in the North it enlisted most former Whigs, Know-Nothings and former Free Soil Democrats to form majorities in nearly every Northern state.
Northerners ranging from the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to the moderate Republican leader Lincoln emphasized Jefferson’s declaration that all men are created equal. Lincoln mentioned this proposition many times, including his 1863 Gettysburg Address. The Republican Party emerged to combat the threat of slavery’s extension to the territories, and to promote more vigorous modernization of the economy. With the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, it succeeded in winning the Civil War, and abolishing slavery.
As with all large groups of people, beliefs and attitudes covered a wide range. Leading up to the War, Republicans dominated in the northern states, but were largely unheard of in the south. Sentiments went from those who were only interested in preserving the union of states (United States) but were ambivalent about southern slavery to those who were virulently abolitionist. Democrats had a presence throughout the entire country. Northern democrats generally supported southern slavery, but opposed expansion into the western territories and north into free states. Southern democrats, whose lives and livelihoods depended on the slave economy, generally endorsed a wholesale expansion of slavery.
In 1860, the last remaining national political party, the Democratic Party, split along sectional lines. There was a North-South split in the Democratic Party due to the Southern demand for a slave code for the western territories which polarized the nation between North and South.
The Civil War served to firmly establish the two parties we now know as the modern-day Democrats and Republicans.
Following the Civil War, the Republican Congress drafted the Reconstruction Acts, which included give voting rights to all men – especially African-Americans. These Acts were vetoed by Democratic President Andrew Johnson, but the Republicans held a large enough majority in Congress to override his veto.
While there is far too much about the Civil War and the histories of the Democrats and Republicans to recount in a single post, let two historic facts speak for themselves:
- The Republican Party of Texas was founded by 20 whites and 120 blacks. The second State GOP Chairman, Norris Wright Cuney, an African-American led the Republican Party from 1883 to 1897, arguably the most important political position given to a black man of the South in the nineteenth century.
- The Constitution of the Ku Klux Klan (originally “Kuklos”), founded by Southern Democratic Confederates John B. Kennedy, John C. Lester, Frank O. McCord, Richard R. Reed, James R. Crowe (whom the Jim Crowe laws were later named after), and J. Calvin Jones, contained within its Preamble, the stated purpose to “…kill Republicans, both white and colored.”
The original Ku Klux Klan was destroyed in the early 1870s by Republican President Ulysses S. Grant’s vigorous enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act.
Democatic racism and oppression of minorities was not limited to African-Americans, nor did it end with the Civil War.
The Ku Klux Klan was refounded in 1915 during the administration of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson. The D. W. Griffith movie “The Birth of a Nation” glorified the original Klan and was used as a recruiting tool. The film was based on the book and play “The Clansman” and the book “The Leopard’s Spots”, both by Thomas Dixon, Jr. Dixon said his purpose was “to revolutionize northern sentiment by a presentation of history that would transform every man in my audience into a good Democrat!”
The Birth of a Nation included extensive quotations from Woodrow Wilson’s “History of the American People”. The film’s influence and popularity were enhanced by a widely reported endorsement by historian and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson who held a private screening at the White House for his friends.
Wilson expanded segregation in many federal agencies, including re-segregating the armed forces.
Many have forgotten that ethnic tensions extended beyond African-Americans.
During WW-I, Democratic President Woodrow Wilson issued two sets of regulations on April 6, 1917, and November 16, 1917, imposing restrictions on German-born male residents of the United States. The same regulations and registration requirements were imposed on females on April 18, 1918. 6,300 aliens were arrested, thousands were interrogated and investigated, and a total of 2,048 were incarcerated in designated camps. Any American citizen could be arrested for speaking german in public.
In 1941, Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt, under United States Executive Order 9066, ordered all Japanese and Americans of Japanese ancestry be removed from Western coastal regions to concentration camps. German and Italian citizens, permanent residents, and American citizens of those respective ancestries (and American citizen family members) were removed from their homes and relocated in internment camps.
When the Democrats were not in power, they turned their efforts toward thwarting attempts to bring fairness and equity in racial, ethnic, gender, and other areas.
Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed to Congress the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 and signed those acts into law. The 1957 Act for the first time established a permanent civil rights office inside the Justice Department. Both acts were weakened by concessions forced by Democratic Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson.
The Eugenics Movement was widely championed by Progressive Democrats throughout the late 19th and much of the 20th century. It inflicted massive human rights violations on millions of people. The “interventions” practiced by eugenicists involved the identification and classification of individuals and their families, including the poor, mentally ill, blind, deaf, promiscuous women, homosexuals and entire racial groups as “degenerate” or “unfit.” They advocated the segregation or institutionalization of these individuals and groups where they were forcefully sterilized or euthanized.
When Nazi administrators went on trial for war crimes in Nuremberg after World War II, they justified the mass sterilizations (over 450,000 people) by citing the United States as their inspiration. The Nazis stated that American eugenicists inspired and supported Hitler’s racial purification laws.
Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood of America, was a prominent progressive democrat and proponent of eugenics. The “Negro Project” conspiracy theory is an alleged eugenics program. The theory states that the project was originated by Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger and supposedly aims to reduce or eliminate the black population through use of abortion. While it has never been substantiated, we do know that in her autobiography, she wrote about her lectures to the Ku Klux Klan, and promoted her ideas through Europe prior to WW-II.
Her views of eugenics were quite timid compared to those of Fabian socialists such as authors George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells, who, like many progressives advocated extermination of the “unfit.”
The Eugenics Record Office (ERO) collected a mass of family pedigrees and concluded that those who were unfit came from economically and socially poor backgrounds.
During the 20th century, researchers interested in familial mental disorders conducted a number of studies to document the heritability of such illnesses as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Their findings were used by the eugenics movement as proof for its cause. State laws were written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to prohibit marriage and force sterilization of the mentally ill.
Some states sterilized “imbeciles” for much of the 20th century. A favorable report on the results of sterilization in California, the state with the most sterilizations by far, was published in a book by biologist Paul Popenoe and was widely cited by the Nazi government as evidence that wide-reaching sterilization programs were feasible and humane.
Fabian Socialism was founded the year of Marx’s death to promote his ideas through gradualism, and the Fabian Society sought to “honeycomb” society, as Fabian Margaret Cole put it, with disguised socialist measures. The Fabian coat of arms depicts a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Today the Socialist movement is deeply entwined with the Democratic Party – holding rallies, endorsing and sponsoring candidates, and mobilizing opposition to their agenda. We see, almost daily, democratic politicians identifying themselves as socialist or extolling the virtues of socialist beliefs and policies.
It is doubtful that most democrats, or even socialists know or endorse the very dark and cruel agendas of the Fabians and the Eugenicists. By positioning themselves throughout society, and adopting a mantle of “concern for the down-trodden” those within this movement have been able to conceal their intent. The have won the support of the intellectual elite by appealing to the “progressive” and “scientific” individual. They appeal to the working class by championing the “rights” of the little guy.
It is interesting to note that, based on US Census data, poverty, unemployment, and crime, especially violent crime are highest in areas controlled by democrats, and that education, job opportunities, and health care are lowest in those same cities and states. It is further telling that the longer a city, for example, has been under exclusive control of democrats, the worse the situation. If one were to disregard all rhetoric and promises, and look strictly at results, it would appear that the intent of democratic law makers is to keep the poor, disadvantaged, and minorities in their place, rather than raising them up.
While it would be nice to think that the views of progressives toward minorities, the mentally and physically handicapped, the poor, and the uneducated have changed since those days, we need only to read the works of President Obama’s Science Advisor John Holdren in his book “Ecoscience.” The topic is discussed extensively. On Page 786-7, for example, he writes “A program of sterilizing women after their second or third child, despite the relatively greater difficulty of the operation than vasectomy, might be easier to implement than trying to sterilize men.
“The development of a long-term sterilizing capsule that could be implanted under the skin and removed when pregnancy is desired opens additional possibilities for coercive fertility control. The capsule could be implanted at puberty and might be removable, with official permission, for a limited number of births.” The phrases “might be removable” and “with official permission” are quite chilling.
He also presented the possibility of putting a sterilant in the water supply of “certain populations.”
The history of the Democratic Party with the labor movement could fill volumes, I leave you with the beginnings of a topic for research:
On February 20, 1939, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), filled a workers rally at Madison Square Garden in a “Mass Demonstration of American Labor.” Those familiar with history will recognize that this group is known by another name – the National Socialist German Workers’ Party is the official name of the Nazi Party. We have already seen the democrats deep ties to the Democratic Socialist Party, also known as the Communists.
Both groups actively embraced many of the Democratic Progressive ideas including, as we saw earlier, eugenics. This disturbing beginning of the “Labor Movement” is rarely discussed today.
Every Communist Revolution started as s “Workers Uprising.” Every Communist Revolution has ended with hundreds of thousands, and in many cases millions of dead – mostly the very same workers. Sadly, those worker who survive find themselves with a dictator-for-life, and a ruling “revolutionary” council that dictates every aspect of their lives and livelihoods.
While it would be a tremendous injustice to paint all democrats as being party to these atrocities, we similarly cannot ignore the role of democrats – both prominent and obscure – who were either actively involved in them, or allowed them to happen without comment.
Nor are the Republicans fully without blame – they have their own skeletons throughout the history of this country. That being said, you do not see Republicans endorsing themselves as did Hillary Clinton – proudly stating that she is “…a Progressive, in the proud tradition of the Progressives of the early 20th century.”
Clearly this is not a final treatise on the subject. It is far too complex, and nuanced to be addressed with any accuracy in so short a paper. I do hope, though, that I have presented a sufficient collection of dates, individuals, events, and affiliations to provide a strong basis for all those interested to conduct their own research. Do not take this article as truth. Do not trust me, or anything I have written. Nor anyone else. Do your own research. Especially search out opinions contrary to your own.
Similarly, I look forward to any who can challenge either my facts or conclusions. But by all means, cite your sources, and explain the process by which you reach your beliefs.