REPUBLICISM…What does this mean?
In order to understand the entire notion of the Republican Party, one must first understand — albeit platforms or policies — what is was like during the Founding era, and learn about the way that these people thought about what they were doing and trying to accomplish.
A curious controversy shattered the harmony of Boston in 1785, The dispute broke out soon after a group of young adults, sons and daughters of the city’s wealthiest families announced the formation of a tea assembly, or “San Souci Club.” The members of this select group gathered once a week for the pleasure of good conversation, a game of cards, some dancing, and perhaps a glass of Madeira wine.
These meetings outraged other Bostonians, many of them old patriots. T0 be sure Samuel Adams, who dreamed of creating a “Christian Sparta,” a virtuous society committed to republican purity, sounded the alarm. “Say my country,” he thundered, “why do you suffer all the intemperance’s of Great Britain to be fostered in our bosom, in all their vile luxuriance?” Furthermore, Adams in all his thundering saw to it that the club’s very existence threatened the “republican principles” for which Americans had so recently fought a revolution.
Unfortunately today, the term republican no longer possesses the evocative powers it did for Americans of the late eighteenth century. Adams and his contemporaries — some of whom probably visited the Sans Souci Club — believed creating a new nation-state involved more than simply winning independence from Great Britain. The American people had taken on a responsibility to establish an elective system of government. It was a bold experiment, and the precedents were not very encouraging. Indeed, the history books of that period offered disturbing examples of failure, of young republics that after a promising beginning had succumbed to political instability and military impotence.
More than did any other form of government, a republic demanded an exceptionally high degree of public morality. If American citizens substituted “luxury, prodigality, and profligacy” for “prudence, virtue, and economy,” then their revolution surely would have been in vain. Maintaining popular virtue was crucial to success. An innocent tea party, therefore, set off alarm bells. Such foolish gratifications” in Boston seemed to compromise republican goals.
It is not surprising that in this situation Adams again thundered, “Rome, Athens, and all the cities of renown, whence came your fall?”
White Americans were optimistic about their country’s chances. They came out of the Revolution with an almost euphoric sense of America’s special destiny. This expansive outlook, encountered among so many ordinary men and women, owed much to the spread of Protestant evangelicalism.
However skeptical Jefferson and Franklin may have been about revealed religion, the great mass of American people subscribed to a millennial vision of the country’s future. To this republic, God had promised progress and prosperity. The signs were there for everyone to see. One man announced, “There is not upon the face of the earth a body of people more happy or rising into consequence with more rapid stride” continuing with, “than the Inhabitants of the United States of America. Population is increasing, new houses building, new lands clearing, new settlements forming, and new manufactures establishing with a rapidity beyond conception.”