When Abraham Lincoln helped create the Republican Party on the eve of the Civil War, his goal was to promote economic opportunity for all Americans, not just the slaveholding Southern planters who steered national politics. Yet, despite the egalitarian dream at the heart of its founding, the Republican Party quickly became mired in a fundamental identity crisis. Would it be the party of democratic ideals? Or would it be the party of moneyed interests? In the century and a half since, Republicans have vacillated between these two poles, with dire economic, political, and moral repercussions for the entire nation.
In To Make Men Free, celebrated historian Heather Cox Richardson traces the shifting ideology of the Grand Old Party from the antebellum era to the Great Recession, revealing the insidious cycle of boom and bust that has characterized the Party since its inception. While in office, progressive Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower revived Lincoln's vision of economic freedom and expanded the government, attacking the concentration of wealth and nurturing upward mobility. But they and others like them have been continually thwarted by powerful business interests in the Party. Their opponents appealed to Americans' latent racism and xenophobia to regain political power, linking taxation and regulation to redistribution and socialism. The results of the Party's wholesale embrace of big business are all too familiar: financial collapses like the Panic of 1893, the Great Depression in 1929, and the Great Recession in 2008. With each passing decade, with each missed opportunity and political misstep, the schism within the Republican Party has grown wider, pulling the GOP ever further from its founding principles.
Expansive and authoritative, To Make Men Free is a sweeping history of the Party that was once America's greatest political hopeand, time and time again, has proved its greatest disappointment.
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About the Author
Heather Cox Richardson is professor of history at Boston College. She is the author of four books, including Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre and West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War. Richardson lives in Winchester, MA.
Table of Contents
1. The Founding: The West as a Land of Promise
3. Republicans and the Slave Power
4. A Republican World View
5. Government of the People
6. Government for the People
7. The Party of Loyalty
8. Government by the People
9. Creating a Free Labor Nation
10. Lincoln’s Vision Destroyed
11. Shall Not Perish from the Earth
12. Republicans or Radicals?
13. Corruption and Cowboys: The Republican Party Splits
15. Republicans and Big Business
16. Equality or Empire?
17. Keeping the Country Republican
18. Making the Depression Work
19. The March of the Flag
20. Republicans Become “Liberals”
21. Roosevelt Stands with Lincoln
22. The Red Scare and Calvin Coolidge
23. The Business of America is Business, 1921-1928
24. The End of an Era
25. Republicans and the New Deal
26. A New Republican Vision
27. The Birth of Movement Conservatism
28. The Second Reconstruction
29. Movement Conservatives Capture the GOP
31. The Ending: The West as an Idea
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a surprisingly easy read--I often find history books somewhat dry and pedantic! Richardson builds a strong, solid case for the cycles of changes that have been so dominant in the Republican Party since Lincoln. There are several sections that made the light bulb come on brightly, like when you under stand the connection between John Birch, George Will, and the efforts to change the reality of the times. I highly recommend this history book, especially if you want to understand what has happened to the original Republican party.