Whig Party (United States)

Whig Party (United States)

Overview
The Whig Party was a political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 during the era of Jacksonian democracy
Jacksonian democracy
Jacksonian democracy is the political movement toward greater democracy for the common man typified by American politician Andrew Jackson and his supporters. Jackson's policies followed the era of Jeffersonian democracy which dominated the previous political era. The Democratic-Republican Party of...

. Considered integral to the Second Party System
Second Party System
The Second Party System is a term of periodization used by historians and political scientists to name the political party system existing in the United States from about 1828 to 1854...

 and operating from the early 1830s to the mid-1850s, the party was formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

 and his Democratic Party. In particular, the Whigs supported the supremacy of Congress over the presidency and favored a program of modernization
Modernization
In the social sciences, modernization or modernisation refers to a model of an evolutionary transition from a 'pre-modern' or 'traditional' to a 'modern' society. The teleology of modernization is described in social evolutionism theories, existing as a template that has been generally followed by...

 and economic protectionism. This name was chosen to echo the American Whigs
Patriot (American Revolution)
Patriots is a name often used to describe the colonists of the British Thirteen United Colonies who rebelled against British control during the American Revolution. It was their leading figures who, in July 1776, declared the United States of America an independent nation...

 of 1776, who fought for independence and because "Whig" was then a widely recognized label of choice for people who identified as opposing tyranny.
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Encyclopedia
The Whig Party was a political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 during the era of Jacksonian democracy
Jacksonian democracy
Jacksonian democracy is the political movement toward greater democracy for the common man typified by American politician Andrew Jackson and his supporters. Jackson's policies followed the era of Jeffersonian democracy which dominated the previous political era. The Democratic-Republican Party of...

. Considered integral to the Second Party System
Second Party System
The Second Party System is a term of periodization used by historians and political scientists to name the political party system existing in the United States from about 1828 to 1854...

 and operating from the early 1830s to the mid-1850s, the party was formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

 and his Democratic Party. In particular, the Whigs supported the supremacy of Congress over the presidency and favored a program of modernization
Modernization
In the social sciences, modernization or modernisation refers to a model of an evolutionary transition from a 'pre-modern' or 'traditional' to a 'modern' society. The teleology of modernization is described in social evolutionism theories, existing as a template that has been generally followed by...

 and economic protectionism. This name was chosen to echo the American Whigs
Patriot (American Revolution)
Patriots is a name often used to describe the colonists of the British Thirteen United Colonies who rebelled against British control during the American Revolution. It was their leading figures who, in July 1776, declared the United States of America an independent nation...

 of 1776, who fought for independence and because "Whig" was then a widely recognized label of choice for people who identified as opposing tyranny. The Whig Party counted among its members such national political luminaries as Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster was a leading American statesman and senator from Massachusetts during the period leading up to the Civil War. He first rose to regional prominence through his defense of New England shipping interests...

, William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of the United States , an American military officer and politician, and the first president to die in office. He was 68 years, 23 days old when elected, the oldest president elected until Ronald Reagan in 1980, and last President to be born before the...

, and their preeminent leader, Henry Clay
Henry Clay
Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

 of Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

. In addition to Harrison, the Whig Party also nominated war heroes generals Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States and an American military leader. Initially uninterested in politics, Taylor nonetheless ran as a Whig in the 1848 presidential election, defeating Lewis Cass...

 and Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott was a United States Army general, and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852....

. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 was the chief Whig leader in frontier Illinois.

In its two decades of existence, the Whig Party had two of its candidates, William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor, elected president. Both died in office. John Tyler
John Tyler
John Tyler was the tenth President of the United States . A native of Virginia, Tyler served as a state legislator, governor, U.S. representative, and U.S. senator before being elected Vice President . He was the first to succeed to the office of President following the death of a predecessor...

 succeeded to the presidency after Harrison's death but was expelled from the party. Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States and the last member of the Whig Party to hold the office of president...

, who succeeded to the presidency after Taylor's death, was the last Whig to hold the nation's highest office.

The party was ultimately destroyed by the question of whether to allow the expansion of slavery to the territories. With deep fissures in the party on this question, the anti-slavery faction prevented the renomination of its own incumbent President Fillmore in the 1852 presidential election
United States presidential election, 1852
The United States presidential election of 1852 bore important similarities to the election of 1844. Once again, the incumbent president was a Whig who had succeeded to the presidency upon the death of his war-hero predecessor. In this case, it was Millard Fillmore who followed General Zachary Taylor...

; instead, the party nominated General Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott was a United States Army general, and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852....

. Most Whig party leaders thereupon quit politics (as Lincoln did temporarily) or changed parties. The northern voter base mostly joined the new Republican Party
History of the United States Republican Party
The United States Republican Party is the second oldest currently existing political party in the United States after its great rival, the Democratic Party. It emerged in 1854 to combat the Kansas Nebraska Act which threatened to extend slavery into the territories, and to promote more vigorous...

. By the 1856 presidential election
United States presidential election, 1856
The United States presidential election of 1856 was an unusually heated contest that led to the election of James Buchanan, the ambassador to the United Kingdom. Republican candidate John C. Frémont condemned the Kansas–Nebraska Act and crusaded against the expansion of slavery, while Democrat...

, the party was virtually defunct. In the South, the party vanished, but as Thomas Alexander has shown, Whiggery as a policy orientation persisted for decades and played a major role in shaping the modernizing policies of the state governments during Reconstruction after 1865.

Origins


The American Whigs were modernizers
Modernization
In the social sciences, modernization or modernisation refers to a model of an evolutionary transition from a 'pre-modern' or 'traditional' to a 'modern' society. The teleology of modernization is described in social evolutionism theories, existing as a template that has been generally followed by...

 who saw President Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

 as "a dangerous man on horseback" with a "reactionary opposition" to the forces of social, economic and moral modernization. Most of the founders of the Whig party had supported Jeffersonian democracy
Jeffersonian democracy
Jeffersonian Democracy, so named after its leading advocate Thomas Jefferson, is a term used to describe one of two dominant political outlooks and movements in the United States from the 1790s to the 1820s. The term was commonly used to refer to the Democratic-Republican Party which Jefferson...

 and the Democratic-Republican Party. The Republicans who formed the Whig party, led by Henry Clay
Henry Clay
Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

 and John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States . He served as an American diplomat, Senator, and Congressional representative. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of former...

, drew on a Jeffersonian tradition of compromise and balance in government, national unity, territorial expansion, and support for a national transportation network and domestic manufacturing. Jacksonians looked to Jefferson for opposition to the National Bank and internal improvements
Internal improvements
Internal improvements is the term used historically in the United States for public works from the end of the American Revolution through much of the 19th century, mainly for the creation of a transportation infrastructure: roads, turnpikes, canals, harbors and navigation improvements...

 and support of egalitarian democracy and state power. Despite the apparent unity of Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans from 1800 to 1824, ultimately the American people preferred partisan opposition to popular political agreement.

As Jackson purged his opponents, vetoed internal improvements and killed the Second Bank of the United States
Second Bank of the United States
The Second Bank of the United States was chartered in 1816, five years after the First Bank of the United States lost its own charter. The Second Bank of the United States was initially headquartered in Carpenters' Hall, Philadelphia, the same as the First Bank, and had branches throughout the...

, alarmed local elites fought back. In 1831 Henry Clay re-entered the Senate and started planning a new party. He defended national rather than sectional interests. Clay's plan for distributing among the states the proceeds from the sale of lands in the public domain was intended to serve the nation by providing the states with funds for building roads and canals, which would stimulate growth and knit the sections together. His Jacksonian opponents, however, distrusted the federal government and opposed all federal aid for internal improvements and they again frustrated Clay's plan. The "Tariff of Abominations" of 1828 had outraged Southern feelings; the South's leaders held that the high duties on foreign imports gave an advantage to the North (where the factories were located). Clay's own high tariff schedule of 1832 further disturbed them, as did his stubborn defense of high duties as necessary to his "American System
American System (economic plan)
The American System, originally called "The American Way", was a mercantilist economic plan that played a prominent role in American policy during the first half of the 19th century...

". Clay however moved to pass the Compromise of 1833, which met Southern complaints by a gradual reduction of the rates on imports to a maximum of twenty percent. Controlling the Senate for a while, Whigs passed a censure motion denouncing Jackson's arrogant assumption of executive power in the face of the true will of the people as represented by Congress.

Clay ran as a Whig in 1832 against Jackson but carried only 49 electoral votes against Jackson's 219. Clay and his Whig allies failed in repeated attempts to continue the Second Bank of the United States, which Jackson denounced as a monopoly and from which he abruptly removed all government deposits. Clay was the unquestioned leader of the Whig party nationwide and in Washington, but he was vulnerable to Jacksonian allegations that he associated with the upper class at a time when white males without property had the right to vote and wanted someone more like themselves. The Whigs nominated a war hero in 1840—and emphasized William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of the United States , an American military officer and politician, and the first president to die in office. He was 68 years, 23 days old when elected, the oldest president elected until Ronald Reagan in 1980, and last President to be born before the...

 had given up the high life to live in a log cabin on the frontier. Harrison won.

Party structure


The Whigs suffered greatly from factionalism throughout their existence, as well as weak party loyalty that stood in contrast to the strong party discipline that was the hallmark of a tight Democratic Party organization. One strength of the Whigs, however, was a superb network of newspapers that provided an internal information system; their leading editor was Horace Greeley
Horace Greeley
Horace Greeley was an American newspaper editor, a founder of the Liberal Republican Party, a reformer, a politician, and an outspoken opponent of slavery...

 of the powerful New York Tribune
New York Tribune
The New York Tribune was an American newspaper, first established by Horace Greeley in 1841, which was long considered one of the leading newspapers in the United States...

.

In the 1840s Whigs won 49 percent of gubernatorial elections, with strong bases in the manufacturing Northeast and in the border states. The trend over time, however, was for the Democratic vote to grow faster and for the Whigs to lose more and more marginal states and districts. After the close 1844
United States presidential election, 1844
In the United States presidential election of 1844, Democrat James K. Polk defeated Whig Henry Clay in a close contest that turned on foreign policy, with Polk favoring the annexation of Texas and Clay opposed....

 contest, the Democratic advantage widened and the Whigs could win the White House only if the Democrats split. This was partly because of the increased political importance of the western states, which generally voted for Democrats, and Irish Catholic and German immigrants, who voted heavily for the Democrats.

The Whigs appealed to voters in every socio-economic category but proved especially attractive to the professional and business classes: doctors, lawyers, merchants, ministers, bankers, storekeepers, factory owners, commercially oriented farmers and large-scale planters. In general, commercial and manufacturing towns and cities voted Whig, save for strongly Democratic precincts in Irish Catholic and German immigrant communities; the Democrats often sharpened their appeal to the poor by ridiculing the Whigs' aristocratic pretensions. Protestant religious revivals also injected a moralistic element into the Whig ranks.

Whig issues


The Whigs celebrated Clay's vision of the "American System" that promoted rapid economic and industrial growth in the United States. Whigs demanded government support for a more modern, market-oriented economy, in which skill, expertise and bank credit would count for more than physical strength or land ownership. Whigs sought to promote faster industrialization through high tariffs, a business-oriented money supply based on a national bank and a vigorous program of government funded "internal improvements," especially expansion of the road and canal systems. To modernize the inner America, the Whigs helped create public schools, private colleges, charities, and cultural institutions. Many were pietistic Protestant reformers who called for public schools to teach moral values and proposed prohibition
Prohibition in the United States
Prohibition in the United States was a national ban on the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol, in place from 1920 to 1933. The ban was mandated by the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and the Volstead Act set down the rules for enforcing the ban, as well as defining which...

 to end the liquor problem.

The Democrats harkened to the Jeffersonian ideal of an egalitarian agricultural society, advising that traditional farm life bred republican simplicity, while modernization threatened to create a politically powerful caste of rich aristocrats who threatened to subvert democracy. In general the Democrats enacted their policies at the national level, while the Whigs succeeded in passing modernization projects in most states.

Education


Arguing that universal public education was the best way to turn the nation's unruly children into disciplined, judicious republican
Republicanism in the United States
Republicanism is the political value system that has been a major part of American civic thought since the American Revolution. It stresses liberty and inalienable rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, supports activist government to promote the common good, rejects...

 citizens, Horace Mann
Horace Mann
Horace Mann was an American education reformer, and a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1827 to 1833. He served in the Massachusetts Senate from 1834 to 1837. In 1848, after serving as Secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education since its creation, he was...

 (1796–1859) won widespread approval from modernizers, especially among fellow Whigs, for building public schools. Indeed, most states adopted one version or another of the system he established in Massachusetts, especially the program for "normal schools" to train professional teachers.

1836-1840


In the 1836
United States presidential election, 1836
The United States presidential election of 1836 ushered Martin Van Buren into the White House. It is predominantly remembered for three reasons:...

 elections, the party was not yet sufficiently organized to run one nationwide candidate; instead William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of the United States , an American military officer and politician, and the first president to die in office. He was 68 years, 23 days old when elected, the oldest president elected until Ronald Reagan in 1980, and last President to be born before the...

 was its candidate in the northern and border states, Hugh Lawson White
Hugh Lawson White
Hugh Lawson White was a prominent American politician during the first third of the 19th century. He succeeded Andrew Jackson and served in the United States Senate, representing Tennessee, from 1825 until his resignation in 1840, and was a Whig candidate for President in 1836...

 ran in the South, and Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster was a leading American statesman and senator from Massachusetts during the period leading up to the Civil War. He first rose to regional prominence through his defense of New England shipping interests...

 ran in his home state of Massachusetts. Whigs hoped that their three candidates would amass enough Electoral College votes among them to deny a majority to Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren was the eighth President of the United States . Before his presidency, he was the eighth Vice President and the tenth Secretary of State, under Andrew Jackson ....

. That would move the election to the House of Representatives
History of the United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of two chambers of the United States Congress. The House, like its Senate counterpart, was created in the United States Constitution of 1787, but its origins lie in the years before the American Revolutionary War.-The Continental Congresses:The...

, allowing the ascendant Whigs to select their most popular man as president. The Whigs came only a few thousand votes short of victory in Pennsylvania, vindicating their strategy but failed nonetheless.

In late 1839, the Whigs held their first national convention
1839 Whig National Convention
The 1839 Whig National Convention was a presidential nominating convention held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in December 1839. This was the first national convention of the Whig Party of the United States....

 and nominated William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of the United States , an American military officer and politician, and the first president to die in office. He was 68 years, 23 days old when elected, the oldest president elected until Ronald Reagan in 1980, and last President to be born before the...

 as their presidential candidate. In March 1840, Harrison pledged to serve only one term as President if elected, a pledge which reflected popular support for a Constitutional limit to Presidential terms among many in the Whig Party. Harrison went on to victory in 1840
United States presidential election, 1840
The United States presidential election of 1840 saw President Martin Van Buren fight for re-election against an economic depression and a Whig Party unified for the first time behind war hero William Henry Harrison and his "log cabin campaign"...

, defeating Van Buren's re-election bid largely as a result of the Panic of 1837
Panic of 1837
The Panic of 1837 was a financial crisis or market correction in the United States built on a speculative fever. The end of the Second Bank of the United States had produced a period of runaway inflation, but on May 10, 1837 in New York City, every bank began to accept payment only in specie ,...

 and subsequent depression. Harrison served only 31 days and became the first President to die in office. He was succeeded by John Tyler
John Tyler
John Tyler was the tenth President of the United States . A native of Virginia, Tyler served as a state legislator, governor, U.S. representative, and U.S. senator before being elected Vice President . He was the first to succeed to the office of President following the death of a predecessor...

, a Virginian and states' rights
States' rights
States' rights in U.S. politics refers to political powers reserved for the U.S. state governments rather than the federal government. It is often considered a loaded term because of its use in opposition to federally mandated racial desegregation...

 absolutist. Tyler veto
Veto
A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation...

ed the Whig economic legislation and was expelled from the Whig party in 1841. The Whigs' internal disunity and the nation's increasing prosperity made the party's activist economic program seem less necessary and led to a disastrous showing in the 1842 Congressional elections.

A brief golden age




By 1844, the Whigs began their recovery by nominating Henry Clay
Henry Clay
Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

, who lost to Democrat James K. Polk
James K. Polk
James Knox Polk was the 11th President of the United States . Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He later lived in and represented Tennessee. A Democrat, Polk served as the 17th Speaker of the House of Representatives and the 12th Governor of Tennessee...

 in a closely contested race, with Polk's policy of western expansion (particularly the annexation of Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

) and free trade triumphing over Clay's protectionism and caution over the Texas question. The Whigs, both northern and southern, strongly opposed expansion into Texas, which they (including Whig Congressman Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

) saw as an unprincipled land grab. In 1848, the Whigs, seeing no hope of success by nominating Clay, nominated General Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States and an American military leader. Initially uninterested in politics, Taylor nonetheless ran as a Whig in the 1848 presidential election, defeating Lewis Cass...

, a Mexican-American War hero. They stopped criticizing the war and adopted no platform at all. Taylor defeated Democratic candidate Lewis Cass
Lewis Cass
Lewis Cass was an American military officer and politician. During his long political career, Cass served as a governor of the Michigan Territory, an American ambassador, a U.S. Senator representing Michigan, and co-founder as well as first Masonic Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Michigan...

 and the anti-slavery Free Soil Party
Free Soil Party
The Free Soil Party was a short-lived political party in the United States active in the 1848 and 1852 presidential elections, and in some state elections. It was a third party and a single-issue party that largely appealed to and drew its greatest strength from New York State. The party leadership...

, who had nominated former President Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren was the eighth President of the United States . Before his presidency, he was the eighth Vice President and the tenth Secretary of State, under Andrew Jackson ....

. Van Buren's candidacy split the Democratic vote in New York, throwing that state to the Whigs; at the same time, however, the Free Soilers probably cost the Whigs several Midwestern states.

Compromise of 1850


Taylor was firmly opposed to the Compromise of 1850
Compromise of 1850
The Compromise of 1850 was a package of five bills, passed in September 1850, which defused a four-year confrontation between the slave states of the South and the free states of the North regarding the status of territories acquired during the Mexican-American War...

 and committed to the admission of California as a free state and had proclaimed that he would take military action to prevent secession. In July 1850, Taylor died; Vice President Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States and the last member of the Whig Party to hold the office of president...

, a long-time Whig, became the President, and he helped push the Compromise through Congress in the hopes of ending the controversies over slavery. The Compromise of 1850 had been first proposed by the Whig Henry Clay of Kentucky.

The Whigs were unable to deal with the slavery issue after 1850. Their southern leaders nearly all owned slaves. The northeastern Whigs, led by Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster was a leading American statesman and senator from Massachusetts during the period leading up to the Civil War. He first rose to regional prominence through his defense of New England shipping interests...

, represented businessmen who loved national unity and a national market but cared little about slavery one way or another. However many Whig voters in the North thought that slavery was incompatible with a free-labor, free-market economy and supported the Wilmot Proviso
Wilmot Proviso
The Wilmot Proviso, one of the major events leading to the Civil War, would have banned slavery in any territory to be acquired from Mexico in the Mexican War or in the future, including the area later known as the Mexican Cession, but which some proponents construed to also include the disputed...

 that did not pass Congress but would have stopped the expansion of slavery. No one discovered a compromise that would keep the party united. Furthermore the burgeoning economy made full-time careers in business or law much more attractive than politics for ambitious young Whigs. Thus the Whig Party leader in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

, simply abandoned politics after 1849.

Death throes, 1852–1856



When new issues of nativism, prohibition and anti-slavery burst on the scene in the mid 1850s, no one looked to the quickly disintegrating Whig party for answers. In the north most ex-Whigs joined the new Republican party, and in the South, they flocked to a new short-lived "American" party.

The election of 1852 marked the beginning of the end for the Whigs. The deaths of Henry Clay
Henry Clay
Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

 and Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster was a leading American statesman and senator from Massachusetts during the period leading up to the Civil War. He first rose to regional prominence through his defense of New England shipping interests...

 that year severely weakened the party. The Compromise of 1850
Compromise of 1850
The Compromise of 1850 was a package of five bills, passed in September 1850, which defused a four-year confrontation between the slave states of the South and the free states of the North regarding the status of territories acquired during the Mexican-American War...

 fractured the Whigs along pro- and anti-slavery lines, with the anti-slavery faction having enough power to deny Fillmore the party's nomination in 1852. The Whig Party's 1852 convention in New York City saw the historic meeting between Alvan E. Bovay
Alvan E. Bovay
Major Alvan Earle Bovay was a founder of the United States Republican Party .-Early life:He was born in a rural community New York. He later attended Norwich University, in the mountains of Vermont, where he also received military training...

 and The New York Tribune's Horace Greeley
Horace Greeley
Horace Greeley was an American newspaper editor, a founder of the Liberal Republican Party, a reformer, a politician, and an outspoken opponent of slavery...

, a meeting which led to correspondence between the men as the early Republican Party meetings in 1854 began to take place. Attempting to repeat their earlier successes, the Whigs nominated popular General Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott was a United States Army general, and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852....

, who lost decisively to the Democrats' Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce was the 14th President of the United States and is the only President from New Hampshire. Pierce was a Democrat and a "doughface" who served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Pierce took part in the Mexican-American War and became a brigadier general in the Army...

. The Democrats won the election by a large margin: Pierce won 27 of the 31 states including Scott's home state of Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

. Whig Representative Lewis D. Campbell
Lewis D. Campbell
Lewis Davis Campbell was a U.S. Representative for Ohio. Over his successful political career he was elected as a Whig, Know-Nothing, Republican and Democrat.-Early life and career:...

 of Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

 was particularly distraught by the defeat, exclaiming, "We are slain. The party is dead—dead—dead!" Increasingly politicians realized that the party was a loser. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

, its Illinois leader, for example, ceased his Whig activities and attended to his law business.

In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act
Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, opening new lands for settlement, and had the effect of repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 by allowing settlers in those territories to determine through Popular Sovereignty if they would allow slavery within...

, which opened the new territories to slavery, was passed. Southern Whigs generally supported the Act while Northern Whigs remained strongly opposed. Most remaining Northern Whigs, like Lincoln, joined the new Republican Party
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 and strongly attacked the Act, appealing to widespread northern outrage over the repeal of the Missouri Compromise
Missouri Compromise
The Missouri Compromise was an agreement passed in 1820 between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the United States Congress, involving primarily the regulation of slavery in the western territories. It prohibited slavery in the former Louisiana Territory north of the parallel 36°30'...

. Other Whigs joined the Know-Nothing Party, attracted by its nativist crusades against so-called "corrupt" Irish
Irish people
The Irish people are an ethnic group who originate in Ireland, an island in northwestern Europe. Ireland has been populated for around 9,000 years , with the Irish people's earliest ancestors recorded having legends of being descended from groups such as the Nemedians, Fomorians, Fir Bolg, Tuatha...

 and German
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 immigrants. In the South, the Whig party vanished, but as Thomas Alexander has shown, Whiggism as a modernizing policy orientation persisted for decades. Historians estimate that, in the South in 1856, Fillmore retained 86 percent of the 1852 Whig voters. He won only 13% of the northern vote, though that was just enough to tip Pennsylvania out of the Republican column. The future in the North, most observers thought at the time, was Republican. No one saw any prospects for the shrunken old party, and after 1856 there was virtually no Whig organization left anywhere. Some Whigs and others adopted the mantle of the "Opposition Party
Opposition Party (United States)
The Opposition Party in the United States is a label with two different applications in Congressional history, as a majority party in Congress 1854-58, and as a Third Party in the South 1858-1860....

" for several years and had some success.

Legacy


In 1860, many former Whigs who had not joined the Republicans regrouped as the Constitutional Union Party
Constitutional Union Party (United States)
The Constitutional Union Party was a political party in the United States created in 1860. It was made up of conservative former Whigs who wanted to avoid disunion over the slavery issue...

, which nominated only a national ticket. It had considerable strength in the border states, which feared the onset of civil war. John Bell
John Bell (Tennessee politician)
John Bell was a U.S. politician, attorney, and plantation owner. A wealthy slaveholder from Tennessee, Bell served in the United States Congress in both the House of Representatives and Senate. He began his career as a Democrat, he eventually fell out with Andrew Jackson and became a Whig...

 finished third in the electoral college
Electoral college
An electoral college is a set of electors who are selected to elect a candidate to a particular office. Often these represent different organizations or entities, with each organization or entity represented by a particular number of electors or with votes weighted in a particular way...

.

During the Lincoln Administration (1861–65), ex-Whigs dominated the Republican Party and enacted much of the so-called "American System". (There are other American Systems, such as in manufacturing, and in hotel accommodations.) Later their Southern colleagues dominated the White response to Reconstruction. In the long run, America adopted Whiggish economic policies coupled with a Democratic strong presidency.

In the South during the latter part of the War Between the States and during the Reconstruction Era, many former Whigs tried to regroup in the South, calling themselves "Conservatives" and hoping to reconnect with the ex-Whigs in the North. These were merged into the Democratic Party in the South, but they continued to promote modernization policies such as large-scale railroad construction and the founding of public schools.

In today's discourse in American politics, the Whig Party is often cited as an example of a political party that lost its followers and its reason for being, as by the expression "going the way of the Whigs."

The True Whig Party - named in direct emulation of the American Whig party - was the dominant force in the politics of Liberia
Liberia
Liberia , officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Sierra Leone on the west, Guinea on the north and Côte d'Ivoire on the east. Liberia's coastline is composed of mostly mangrove forests while the more sparsely populated inland consists of forests that open...

 for more than a century.

Presidents from the Whig Party


Presidents of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

, dates in office
  1. William Henry Harrison
    William Henry Harrison
    William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of the United States , an American military officer and politician, and the first president to die in office. He was 68 years, 23 days old when elected, the oldest president elected until Ronald Reagan in 1980, and last President to be born before the...

     (1841)
  2. John Tyler
    John Tyler
    John Tyler was the tenth President of the United States . A native of Virginia, Tyler served as a state legislator, governor, U.S. representative, and U.S. senator before being elected Vice President . He was the first to succeed to the office of President following the death of a predecessor...

    (1841–1845)
  3. Zachary Taylor
    Zachary Taylor
    Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States and an American military leader. Initially uninterested in politics, Taylor nonetheless ran as a Whig in the 1848 presidential election, defeating Lewis Cass...

     (1849–1850)
  4. Millard Fillmore
    Millard Fillmore
    Millard Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States and the last member of the Whig Party to hold the office of president...

     (1850–1853)

Additionally, John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States . He served as an American diplomat, Senator, and Congressional representative. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of former...

, elected President as a Democratic-Republican, later became a National Republican and then a Whig after he was elected to the House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 in 1831.
Presidents Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 and Rutherford Hayes were Whigs before switching to the Republican Party
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

, from which they were elected to office.

Candidates


See also

  • List of Whig National Conventions
  • History of United States Democratic Party
  • History of United States Republican Party
  • American election campaigns in the 19th century
    American election campaigns in the 19th Century
    In the 19th century, a number of new methods for conducting American Election Campaigns developed in the United States. For the most part the techniques were original, not copied from Europe or anywhere else...

  • Whig (British political faction)
  • Know-Nothing Party
  • Constitutional Union Party
    Constitutional Union Party (United States)
    The Constitutional Union Party was a political party in the United States created in 1860. It was made up of conservative former Whigs who wanted to avoid disunion over the slavery issue...

  • Liberia
    Liberia
    Liberia , officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Sierra Leone on the west, Guinea on the north and Côte d'Ivoire on the east. Liberia's coastline is composed of mostly mangrove forests while the more sparsely populated inland consists of forests that open...

    n Whig Party
  • Florida Whig Party
    Florida Whig Party
    The Florida Whig Party is a registered political party in the state of Florida. In 2008, the party aligned itself with the Modern Whig Party, a national organization of about 30,000 members initially founded by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as a "comeback" of the historic Whig Party.However, the...

  • Modern Whig Party
    Modern Whig Party
    The Modern Whig Party is a United States political party whose stated intention is to be a "party for the rest of us." The Modern Whig Party describes itself as a mainstream, middle-of-the-road grassroots movement that caters to those voters who believe in various Republican issues but also believe...


External links