This book began as a dissertation proposal to examine the ideology of the Republican party during the Civil War: what its leaders believed and how those beliefs manifested themselves in word and deed. Several years, many computer disks, and a couple of file cabinets later, I have found a great deal of agreement between the diverse members of this organization. I also found much disagreement, but less over the ends to be pursued than over the means of pursuing them. No one who has studied the politics of the Civil War era would be likely to deny that Republicans sometimes fought one another with what strikes us today as a surprising amount of vitriol. After all, not only did they belong to the same political party, but they were waging a war for the nation's survival; they might have been expected to sublimate petty political hatreds for the sake of a higher cause. However, they spilled most of this venom over how to fight and win the war, or elections, or appointments—not over whether even to try to win them, or what winning them might mean.
Consequently, what follows is an attempt to offer insight into the Republican party's mind, from its victory in the election of 1860 until the death of Abraham Lincoln. It is not a history of the Republican party during the Civil War, although much of that history is necessarily discussed here. It is not a history of the Cabinet, Congress, or Lincoln or any other individual, although elements of that creep into the text and certain prominent Republicans receive more attention than others. Nor is it a statistical study of the peaks and valleys of the party, citing an array of quantification and regression analysis to prove its point. I have benefited greatly from such works, and they underpin some of the conclusions that follow, but the appearance of any statistics in the pages that follow is purely accidental.
Lincoln emerges here as the central figure in his party, and I mean that in two ways. As president he was the only Republican answerable