The Whig Party
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Established in 1834, the Whig Party was a reaction to the authoritarian policies of Andrew Jackson. “King Andrew,” as his critics labeled him, had enraged his political opponents by his actions regarding the Bank of the United States, Native Americans, the Supreme Court and his use of presidential war powers. The term Whig was taken from English politics, the name of a faction that opposed royal tyranny.
Opponents who gravitated to the Whig Party included Jackson critics, states’ rights advocates, and supporters of the American System. In some respects the Whigs were the descendants of the old Federalist Party, supporting the Hamiltonian preference for strong federal action in dealing with national problems.
Other components of the emerging coalition that became the Whig Party was the Anti-Masonic Party, the stated purpose of which was to combat the purported threat of Masonic power over political and judicial institutions. William H. Seward and Thurlow Weed of New York and Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania were among the Anti-Masons who migrated to the Whig Party. Another group was the Democratic Conservatives, who opposed their party's financial policies after 1836.
The Whigs' efforts to unify were slow and ultimately unsuccessful. Their record on the presidential level is as follows:
The issue of slavery split the party. “Conscience Whigs” in the North favored the abolition of slavery and halting the institution's spread into new territories. The “Cotton Whigs” in the South took the opposite viewpoints. Following Scott’s poor showing in 1852, the southerners moved to the Democratic Party and the northerners to the newly formed Republican Party.
There was never a truly consistent Whig political philosophy, except in the negative sense of opposing excessively concentrated power in the federal government. Their objectives came about largely after their disappearance. With no Southerners in Congress and Abraham Lincoln, a former Whig from Illinois, in the White House, the Republican Party finally passed much of the economic legislation regarding banking and tariffs that had long been advocated by the Whigs.
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The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War by Michael F. Holt.
The political home of Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Horace Greeley, and the young Abraham Lincoln, the American Whig Party was involved at every level o...
Franklin Pierce by Michael F. Holt.
The genial but troubled New Englander whose single-minded partisan loyalties inflamed the nation's simmering battle over slavery Charming and handsom...
Party Over Section: The Rough and Ready Presidential Campaign of 1848 by Joel H. Silbey.
The presidential campaign of 1848 saw the first strong electoral challenge to the expansion of slavery in the United States; most historians consider ...