Founded in the early 1850s by anti-slavery activists and others concerned with freedom, the Republican Party’s first meeting was held on July 6th, 1854 in Jackson, Michigan. The name ‘Republican’ was chosen because it alluded to equality and referenced Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party. At the Jackson convention, the new party adopted a platform and nominated candidates for offices in Michigan.
In 1856, the Republicans became a national party when John C. Fremont was nominated for President under the slogan: “Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men, Fremont.” Even though they were considered a “third party” because the Democrats and Whigs represented the two-party system at the time, Fremont received 33% of the vote. Four years later, Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican to win the White House.