Lincoln was ready to take the lead. In January 1856, when Paul Selby of the Jacksonville Morgan Journal proposed a conference of anti-Nebraska editors to plan for the next presidential election, Lincoln endorsed his idea, and when the editors met at Decatur on February 22, he was the sole nonjournalist in attendance. With his guidance the group drafted a conservative declaration that called for restoration of the Missouri Compromise, upheld the constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Act, and pledged noninterference with slavery in the states where it already existed. To appease the more radical antislavery element, the resolutions also affirmed the basic free-soil doctrine, which Salmon P. Chase and Charles Sumner had most forcibly enunciated, that the United States was founded on the principle that freedom was national, and slavery exceptional. To win foreign-born voters, the platform advocated religious toleration and opposed any changes in the naturalization laws, and to attract the Know Nothings it denounced "attacks" on the common school system -- meaning catholic efforts to secure aid for parochial schools. Still avoiding the name "Republican," the conference called for a state fusion convention to be held at Bloomington on May 29.
So the Republican party, as it was originally conceived, was opposed to faith-based education and school vouchers. Who would've thought?