The Republican Party Begins In N.H.

By Dean Dexter

Former N.H. Governor Hugh Gregg and his associate Georgi Hippauf, have published an exhaustive outline of the Republican Party's origins in New Hampshire. In doing so, they also make a convincing case for Mr. Gregg's long-time argument that the Grand Old Party did indeed see its first organizational meeting in Exeter, New Hampshire on October 12, 1853. This was less than a year before any other such gathering took place in the country.

Acting as midwife at the party's birth, the authors contend, was Amos Tuck, teacher, lawyer, three-term Congressman and friend of Abraham Lincoln. Tuck early on became involved in the insurgent movement against the then-dominant Democratic party over the issue of slavery. Years before the fateful meeting in Exeter, Tuck broke ranks with Concord's Franklin Pierce - then the most prominent politician in the state and head of the Democratic Party - when Pierce denied Tuck friend John P. Hale renomination to his seat in congress over the annexation of Texas. Tuck helped Hale's later election to the U.S. Senate as the first Free-Soil member of that body, and at the same time won a seat in congress for himself.

Gregg and Hippauf meticulously document how the various anti-slavery factions in both New Hampshire and the nation finally jelled in the 1853-54 period to give birth to the Republican movement. What made New Hampshire first, they contend, was Tuck's foresight and drive to organize these factions in his home state before his contemporaries did elsewhere. The movement was given the national spotlight by Tuck friend Horace Greeley, born in Amherst, founder of the New York Tribune. Tuck, Greeley, and Lincoln served in Congress together. Various other states have attempted to take credit as the birthplace of the Republican Party, particularly Ripon, Wisconsin (which Gregg and his wife visited in preparing the book). Through careful research, Gregg and Hippauf show the Exeter session predated them all. Most historians have previously overlooked Tuck's role and the Exeter meeting because Tuck's session was held in secret, not revealed until years later.

The authors augment their story with insight into Lincoln's visit to Exeter in 1860 and long friendship with Tuck. They note Hale's influence as a national figure and provide vintage photographs of key players and locations, newspaper headlines, and copies of historical documents. This is a fascinating look at a key time in New Hampshire and national history.

Birth of the Republican Party, by Hugh Gregg and Georgi Hippauf, $21.95 (plus $2 S/H). Hard cover limited edition. Publisher: Resources of New Hampshire, Inc., 1995, indexed with bibliography. Not available in bookstores. Order by calling 603-886-1743.

Tribute to the late Hugh Gregg

This review originally appeared in the September, 1995 issue of New Hampshire Editions magazine. Used by permission.

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