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Whig Party

WHIG PARTY

Whig Party was a name applied to political parties in England, Scotland, and America. Whig is a short form of the word whiggamore, a Scottish word once used to describe people from western Scotland who opposed King Charles I of England in 1648.

In the late 1600s, Scottish and English opponents of the growing power of royalty were called Whigs. The Whigs maintained a strong position in English politics until the 1850s,

when the Whig progressives adopted the term Liberal. In the American colonies, the Whigs were those people who resented British control, favored independence from Britain, and supported the Revolutionary War. The term was first used in the colonies around 1768. The term Whig fell into disuse after the colonies won their independence.

However, political opponents of Democratic President andrew jackson revived the term in the 1830s. After Jackson soundly defeated a field of challengers representing an array of political parties in 1832, many of these challengers began coordinating their efforts under the Whig Party name. The Whig Party included former National Republicans, conservative factions of the democratic-republican party, and some former members of the Anti-Masonic Party. By 1834 the Whigs were promoting their party as an alternative to the policies of "King Andrew" Jackson, whose administration they compared to the unpopular reigns of English Kings James II (1633–1701) and George III (1760–1820).

Often united by little more than their distaste for Jackson's administration and their desire to oust the democratic party from the White House, the Whigs struggled to define their platform. Whigs generally criticized the growth of executive power, a development they associated with Jackson's use of civil-service patronage, also known as the "spoils system," by which government officials were replaced solely on partisan grounds instead of merit. Many Whigs who came from an evangelical Protestant background encouraged a variety of moral reforms, condemning Jackson's sometimes brutal and arbitrary treatment of Native American Tribes and militant quest for territorial expansion.

The Whig Party nominated four unsuccessful candidates for president in the election of 1836, william henry harrison from Ohio, daniel webster from Massachusetts, Hugh Lawson White from Tennessee, and Willie Person Mangum from North Carolina. Democrat martin van buren won the election with 58 percent of the vote, while Harrison received 25 percent, White received 8.9 percent, Webster 4.7 percent, and Mangum 3.7 percent.

The Whigs simplified and consolidated their ticket in 1840, again offering Harrison for president and john tyler for vice president. The Whigs triumphed, but Harrison died after one month in office, and Vice President Tyler, who had once been a Jacksonian Democrat, acceded to the presidency. Tyler embittered the Whigs by vetoing congressional bills that sought to restore the bank of the united states, abolished by Jackson, and by opposing their plan to redistribute the proceeds from the sale of public lands. Most of Tyler's cabinet immediately resigned in protest, and his membership in the party was withdrawn.

In 1844 the Whig Party nominated henry clay from Kentucky for president. In the ensuing campaign Clay refused to take a definite stand on the Texas annexation issue. This choice provoked northern abolitionists, who opposed the admission of Texas to the Union as a slave state, to support the little-known Liberty Party candidates, James Gillespie and Thomas Morris. The Whig split ensured victory for the Democratic candidate, james k. polk.

Once the Mexican War (1846–1848) had been declared, controversy over allowing or forbidding slavery in the territories acquired during the war further splintered the party. Antislavery Whigs from Massachusetts, known as Conscience Whigs, opposed the so-called Cotton Whigs in the pro-slavery southern states.

Despite the division, the Whig Party, with the popular general zachary taylor as its candidate, was successful in the presidential election of 1848. The divisions resurfaced, however, when Taylor declared his opposition to Clay's proposal to end the deadlock over the admission of California to statehood. Before the stalemate could be resolved, Taylor died. His successor, millard fillmore, helped push Clay's compromise through Congress in 1850.

The compromise of 1850 (a series of laws passed by Congress to settle the issues arising from the deepening section conflict over slavery) only served to intensify the divisions within the party. Southerners and conservative northerners who supported the compromise refused to cooperate with the northerners who opposed it. Consequently, the election of 1852 resulted in the overwhelming defeat of the Whig candidate, General Winfield Scott. Many supporters of the compromise subsequently began leaving the party.

Southern Whig support for the kansas-nebraska act of 1854 (a law that created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska and gave both territories the power to resolve the issue of slavery for themselves) convinced most northern Whigs to abandon the party, and by the end of that year the party had essentially disbanded. Many voters who abandoned the Whig Party initially joined the so-called know-nothing party. Most northern Whigs, however, eventually joined the newly formed republican party. In the South, most of the Whigs were soon absorbed by the Democratic Party. In 1856, a small Whig convention backed Millard Fillmore, the unsuccessful Know-Nothing candidate for the presidency.

further readings

Holt, Michael F. 1999. The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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"Whig Party." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved June 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/whig-party

Whig party

Whig party, one of the two major political parties of the United States in the second quarter of the 19th cent.

Origins

As a party it did not exist before 1834, but its nucleus was formed in 1824 when the adherents of John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay joined forces against Andrew Jackson. This coalition, which later called itself the National Republican party, increased in strength after the election of Jackson in 1828 and was joined in opposition to the President by other smaller parties, the most notable being the Anti-Masonic party. By 1832, Jackson had also earned the enmity of such diverse groups as states' rights advocates in the South, proponents of internal improvements in the West, and businessmen and friends of the Bank of the United States in the East. This opposition was built up and correlated by Henry Clay in the election of 1832. Two years later, in 1834, all the various groups were combined in a loose alliance.

Party Successes

In the 1836 presidential election the Whigs were not unified or strong enough to join behind a single presidential candidate; instead several Whig candidates ran for office. The most prominent were Daniel Webster in New England, William Henry Harrison in the Northwest, and Hugh Lawson White in the Southwest. The election went to the Democrat, Martin Van Buren, but in opposition the Whigs grew steadily stronger.

The two great leaders of the party were Clay and Webster, but neither was ever to head a victorious national ticket. This failure was partly a result of the sectional variations in the party, which had only one common aim, opposition to the Democrats, and partly a result of the power held by intraparty forces opposed to them, including the political bosses of New York, Thurlow Weed and William Seward. The party went on to victory in 1840 with the rousing "Log Cabin and Hard Cider" campaign, which put William H. Harrison in the White House. Harrison died after only one month in office and was succeeded by his Vice President, John Tyler of Virginia.

A definite break now ensued between Tyler and the Whig leaders in Congress—a break that illustrated the Whig philosophy of government. The Whigs had originated in objection to what they considered the excessive power of the executive branch under Andrew Jackson. To them the legislative branch of the government represented the wishes of the people, and the task of the executive was to serve as the enforcing agent of the legislative branch. When Tyler ignored the counsel of his cabinet and vetoed bills that sought to reestablish the Bank of the United States, about 50 Whig members of Congress met in caucus and read Tyler out of the party. At the behest of Clay the entire cabinet resigned; even Webster retired after completing the Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1843).

Clay became the standard-bearer in 1844 but was defeated by James K. Polk. In 1848, Weed and his associates swung the nomination from Webster and Clay to Zachary Taylor, who had gained wide popularity as a commander in the Mexican War. This move temporarily prevented a division of the party, and although Taylor died while Clay was formulating the Compromise of 1850 in Congress, Millard Fillmore, his Vice President and presidential successor, kept the faith of the Whig party.

Disintegration

By the time Fillmore had succeeded to the presidency, the disintegration of the party was already manifest; in 1848 several important Whigs joined the new Free-Soil party, along with the abolitionists. In New England a bitter struggle developed between antislavery "Conscience Whigs" and proslavery "Cotton Whigs," in other places between "lower law" Whigs and "higher law" Whigs (the term "higher law" had originated from a famous speech by William H. Seward, who declared that there was a higher law than the Constitution).

In the election of 1852, the party was torn wide open by sectional interests. Both Clay and Webster died during the campaign, and Winfield Scott, the Whig presidential candidate, won only 42 electoral votes. This brought about a quick end to the party, and its remnants gravitated toward other parties. The newly formed (1854) Republican party and the sharply divided Democratic party absorbed the largest segments. Other Whigs, led by Fillmore, drifted into the Know-Nothing movement.

Bibliography

See A. C. Cole, The Whig Party in the South (1913, repr. 1962); E. M. Carroll, Origins of the Whig Party (1925, repr. 1970); G. R. Poage, Henry Clay and the Whig Party (1936, repr. 1965); R. J. Morgan, A Whig Embattled: The Presidency under John Tyler (1954); M. F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party (1999).

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"Whig party." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Whig Party

WHIG PARTY

WHIG PARTY represented the main national opposition to the Democratic Party from the mid-1830s until the early 1850s. Ostensibly, the party came together and took its name in hostility to the aggrandizement of executive power by President Andrew Jackson during his assault on the Bank of the United States in 1833–1834. In the 1836 presidential election, the northern and southern wings stood apart, offering different sectional candidates, but by 1839 they had come together behind a single candidate and a common set of policies. They elected two presidents, William Henry Harrison in 1840 and Zachary Taylor in 1848, both of whom soon died in office. Each won popular majorities in both the North and the South, while Whig congressmen throughout showed a high level of voting cohesion on most national issues, thus demonstrating that the party represented a nationwide coalition based on agreement on a nonsectional program.

In the North, especially in New England-settled areas, the party attracted Jackson's old antagonists, the National Republicans and the Antimasons. The former were somewhat conservative socially but liberal in religious matters, while the latter expressed the moral-reformist sentiments stemming from the evangelical revival, an influence that became more important as ethnocultural issues intensified in the 1840s. In the South, where the Jacksonians had been predominant, a new opposition appeared in the mid-1830s that drew its earliest support from those who objected to Jackson's assertive response to the nullification crisis and then exploited fears of northern abolitionist interference to arouse popular support. But at least as important for the southern party as for the northern party were widespread objections in more commercialized areas to the Jacksonians' assaults on the banking system and their resistance to state improvement programs. The panic of 1837 and the Democrats' refusal to countenance government help in the subsequent depression gave a common bond to Whigs all over the country, who thereafter acted together to promote positive government policies for economic advancement.

Those policies were not implemented after the 1840 victory, because John Tyler, the states' rights vice president who succeeded Harrison in 1841, obstructed passage of the party program. The Whigs never again enjoyed command of all branches of the federal government. However, they recovered control of the House of Representatives after 1846, when they had to take responsibility for financing a war against Mexico they had voted against. Thereafter, the Whigs were irredeemably divided by the problem of slavery expansion. Believing in positive national government, they needed a solution, whereas the localistic Democrats could evade the central issue. Moreover, some northern Whigs who represented strong antislavery strongholds made speeches in opposition to the Compromise of 1850 that undermined the efforts of southern Whigs to reassure their constituents that the party could still be trusted on slavery. Consequently, Whig support in the South fell decisively by 1852. Meanwhile, the northern Whigs faced large-scale Catholic immigration into seaboard cities, and their leaders' attempts to win immigrant votes condemned the party in some states to collapse amid the mass nativist movements of 1854. By 1856, many northern Whigs had stopped voting or turned to the Democrats as the party of national unity, but many more subsequently turned to the new Republican Party as the expression of northern views on the sectional issues of the day.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cooper, William J., Jr. The South and the Politics of Slavery, 1828– 1856. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978.

Holt, Michael F. The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Howe, Daniel Walker. The Political Culture of the American Whigs. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Sellers, Charles. "Who Were the Southern Whigs?" American Historical Review 59 (1954): 335–346.

Donald J.Ratcliffe

See alsoBank of the United States ; Compromise of 1850 ; Jacksonian Democracy ; National Republican Party ; Sectionalism .

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Whig Party

Whig Party One of the two major US political parties from 1834 to 1854. It was a coalition party, garnering the support of eastern capitalists, western farmers, and southern plantation owners. The party elected two presidents: William Henry Harrison in 1840 and Zachary Taylor in 1848. The issue of slavery split the Whigs, however, and the Republican Party emerged from its disintegration in 1854.

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