This dissertation examines the emergence and establishment of the Republican Party in the Border South slave states of Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri during the Civil War era. As regional and national tensions over slavery began to consume American political life, Frank Blair and other likeminded antislavery leaders attempted to build a Republican organization within the Border South. This dissertation argues that to become a viable political alternative, Republicans in the Border South developed a particular ideology of liberal political antislavery. This ideology promoted a message of white supremacy and free white labor, and reinforced a desire to see the economic progress of their states untrammeled by slavery. As a result, this ideology attracted enough antislavery men to form the only viable contingent of Republicans in the southern slave states.
This dissertation also argues for the political importance of Border South Republicans during the Civil War era. Despite being small in number, they played an outsized role in the political and strategic direction of the Republican Party. Border South Republican leaders took an active role in party formation, and influenced major political decisions made during the war. Furthermore, Republican policy concerning black civil and political rights during Reconstruction were often made with Border South Republican concerns in mind.
Taking a chronological approach to tell the story of the Republican Party in the Border South, this dissertation examines how the liberal political antislavery consensus was shattered by the Civil War. As emancipation, black civil rights, and disenfranchisement emerged as political issues during Reconstruction, Border South Republicans would find themselves struggling to reconcile their ideological goals with political reality.