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Republican congressional candidate Dan Innis of Portsmouth, right, greets longtime Rockingham County Republican Stella Scamman of Stratham on Saturday as state Republicans celebrate the 160th anniversary of the founding of the party in Exeter. (GRETYL MACALASTER/Union Leader Correspondent)

Republicans celebrate 160th birthday in Exeter

EXETER - State Republicans have long asserted that Exeter is the birthplace of the Republican Party and on Saturday celebrated the 160th anniversary of its founding.

According to the New Hampshire GOP, the party was formed when Exeter resident and former Congressman Amos Tuck invited 14 people from various political parties to a secret meeting at the Major Blake Hotel where he spoke of the need to work together given their shared anti-slavery philosophy.

Most history books suggest the Republican Party was actually born in Ripon, Wis., on March 20, 1854, following passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed individual states and territories to determine whether to continue the practice of slavery.

In 1995, former Gov. Hugh Gregg and his associate, Georgi Hippauf, published a book titled "Birth of the Republican Party," which made a convincing case of Gregg's long claim that the party had been founded in New Hampshire.

"Today is a reminder of our roots and the principles of the party," Exeter Republican Town Committee Chairman Brian Griset said about Saturday's event.

Four different parties came together in 1853 because they knew it was the only way to succeed in the movement to abolish slavery, Griset said.

Many of the principles on which the party was founded hold true today including limited government, personal responsibility and fiscal responsibility, he said.

"We have a duty to continue those efforts and preserve those principles," Griset said.

Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican President in 1860, the same year he gave a speech at the Exeter Town Hall on the campaign trail.

Saturday's event speakers, Rogers Johnson, Leann Moccia, Regina Birdsell and Griset, talked about different aspects of the party's history, including its leading role in the Civil Rights and the Women's Suffrage movements.

Moccia said there are many similarities between the party as it was originally conceived and how it works today.

"There are a lot of factions in the Republican Party, or whatever you want to call them, but that has always been true," Moccia said. "What the Republican party has always been able to do is find the common thread that unites us."

She said everyone is entitled to their opinion, but discussion needs to be ongoing to find common ground among the disagreement, both in politics and in government.

Local Republicans, including state Sen. Nancy Stiles, Doug and Stella Scamman and J..P Marzullo, vice-chairman of the NHGOP, helped celebrate the anniversary with the cutting of a large cake. Recently announced Republican congressional candidate Dan Innis also attended.

The event was hosted by the Exeter Republican Town Committee in partnership with the Rockingham County Republican Committee, Seacoast Republican Women and the New Hampshire Republican State Committee.

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