If you are looking for an excellent book about the history of the Republican Party, the 2014 release by Heather Cox Richardson — To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party — is a great choice. Richardson presents a concise history from the Party’s inception to the current era which is no easy task considering she covers 150 years in about 350 pages.
The book has a nice conversational tone, is heavily foot-noted, includes well-known figures and incidents from American history as well as lesser known historical moments like this one about president Benjamin Harrison:
“A rising kingmaker named Mark Hanna organized Republican operatives to give the House back to Republicans and elect Harrison. In the 1888 election, Republicans took the House and Senate. Although the Harrison ticket didn’t run well, it did manage — one way or another — to take New York’s crucial electoral votes, which put Harrison in the White House, despite losing the popular vote by about 100,000. Harrison was a pious man, and after the election he commented to Hanna, ‘Providence has given us this victory.” Hanna later grumbled: “Providence hadn’t a damn thing to do with it. (A) number of men were compelled to approach the penitentiary to make him President.’ “— To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party by Heather Cox Richardson.
The basic premise of Richardson’s book is that only two Republican presidents have followed in the political and philosophical footsteps of Abraham Lincoln: Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Whether you agree with that assessment or not the book is an excellent way to gain a greater understanding of the how the Republican Party works and who or what dictates the Party’s direction.
It’s also a great primer for those wanting to better understand the two-party political structure that defines our country’s electoral process.
Throughout the book the age-old debate about which is more important — the Declaration of Independence – or the Constitution is revisited. According to the author, Lincoln subscribed to the belief that the Declaration — which said all men were created equal — was more important than the Constitution which, the author asserts, Lincoln viewed as a document centered around private property rights and not individual rights.