Slavery was a hotly debated issue in America from early colonial times. When the United States won their independence from England, the issue continued to be debated, often threatening the unity of the young country. Abolitionists, who wanted to do away with the practice of slavery, formed a number of political parties. Other political parties supported slavery or were divided on the issue.

Birth of a Major Party

Abolitionist members of the Whig Party and several smaller parties began to organize a political party in 1854 with the express purpose of bringing an end to slavery in the United States. The new party adopted the name "Republican" in 1854 during an early organizational meeting in Jackson, Michigan.

Victory for the Abolitionists

By 1860, the Republican Party had gained a majority in the House of Representatives and managed to elect their first president -- Abraham Lincoln. The fledgling Republican Party was largely responsible for the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which freed all slaves in the U.S., the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed all people -- including former slaves -- equal protection under the law and the 15th Amendment, which gave all adult men the right to vote.