Images of Republican Meddlers
The Republican party needed less than 6 years of existence to cause the departure of nearly half the States in the Union and the ultimate destruction of the Founders’ Constitution. A party of radical origins, the Republicans were said to have grown from the “odds and ends of factions and isms,” in 1855, to “a combination of deceased Whigism, Maine
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Images of Republican Meddlers:
“The Democrats originated as, and remained largely, the party of ethno-religious outsiders and others….fearful of the power of the federal government to shape and regulate behavior and institutions. Democratic rhetoric was filled, from the 1830s onward, with their memories of the abusive power of the government as wielded by their political opponents against particular immigrant social and religious groups, their values, habits and lifestyles.
Images of Puritan interventionism against their religious opponents filled Democratic pamphlets and editorials. At heart, they argued, Republicans, as the Whigs before them, were centralizing, overbearing Federalist Tories, intent on destroying the liberties of the American people through the extensive intrusion of government power into the personal lives, conduct, and beliefs of individuals and groups within the Union.
The essential “principle of Republicanism,” as seen through the Democratic filter, was “to meddle with everything…to force their harsh and uncongenial puritanical creed down the throats of other men and compel them to digest it under pains and penalties.” Behind laws regulating or prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages, vigorously debated throughout the fifties, or other legislation governing the language of school instruction, which textbooks to use, who could teach, or the sources of financial support for schools, Democrats saw a Republican determination to foist on all Americans a particular code of behavior and belief.
This cultural interventionism posed grave threats, in the Democrats view, to individual freedom in America. Party spokesmen, therefore, railed against “the evils of political meddling with morals, religion and the rights of distinct communities.” They demanded that the government not be allowed to “invade the territory of the Church” on behalf of only one particular point of view within a highly pluralist nation.”
(The Partisan Imperative, The Dynamics of American Politics Before the Civil War, Joel H. Silbey, Oxford University Press, 1985, page 114)