On March 20, 1854, the Republican Party was founded. The name "Republican" was first used many years before, by Thomas Jefferson's political party, the Democratic Republican Party. That name was shortened to the Democratic Party, which is what we call it today. The present-day Republican Party was formed by opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, and by members of other parties, like the Democratic and Whig parties, who disagreed with their parties' positions on slavery. By 1855, the Republican Party was thriving in the North, while it had almost no following in the South. The Republican Party's first candidate for President of the United States was Abraham Lincoln, who was elected in 1860.
-- The Writer’s Almanac