Whig party


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Wikipedia.
Related to Whig party: Tory 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 AdamsAdams, John Quincy,
1767–1848, 6th President of the United States (1825–29), b. Quincy (then in Braintree), Mass.; son of John Adams and Abigail Adams and father of Charles Francis Adams (1807–86).
..... Click the link for more information.
 and Henry ClayClay, Henry,
1777–1852, American statesman, b. Hanover co., Va. Early Career

His father died when he was four years old, and Clay's formal schooling was limited to three years.
..... Click the link for more information.
 joined forces against Andrew JacksonJackson, Andrew,
1767–1845, 7th President of the United States (1829–37), b. Waxhaw settlement on the border of South Carolina and North Carolina (both states claim him). Early Career

A child of the backwoods, he was left an orphan at 14.
..... Click the link for more information.
. This coalition, which later called itself the National Republican partyNational Republican party,
in U.S. history, a short-lived political party opposed to Andrew Jackson. In the election of 1828, which Jackson won overwhelmingly, some of the supporters of his opponent, President John Quincy Adams, called themselves National Republicans.
..... Click the link for more information.
, 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 partyAnti-Masonic party,
American political organization that rose after the disappearance in W New York state in 1826 of William Morgan. A former Mason, Morgan had written a book purporting to reveal Masonic secrets.
..... Click the link for more information.
. 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 StatesBank of the United States,
name for two national banks established by the U.S. Congress to serve as government fiscal agents and as depositories for federal funds; the first bank was in existence from 1791 to 1811 and the second from 1816 to 1836.
..... Click the link for more information.
 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 WebsterWebster, Daniel,
1782–1852, American statesman, lawyer, and orator, b. Salisbury (now in Franklin), N.H. Early Career

He graduated (1801) from Dartmouth College, studied law, and, after an interval as a schoolmaster, was admitted (1805) to the bar.
..... Click the link for more information.
 in New England, William Henry HarrisonHarrison, William Henry,
1773–1841, 9th President of the United States (Mar. 4–Apr. 4, 1841), b. "Berkeley," Charles City co., Va.; son of Benjamin Harrison (1726?–1791) and grandfather of Benjamin Harrison (1833–1901).
..... Click the link for more information.
 in the Northwest, and Hugh Lawson WhiteWhite, Hugh Lawson,
1773–1840, American political leader, b. Iredell co., N.C. He moved (1787) to what is now E Tennessee and served in the wars against the Creek and Cherokee. He was (1793) secretary to Gov.
..... Click the link for more information.
 in the Southwest. The election went to the Democrat, Martin Van BurenVan Buren, Martin,
1782–1862, 8th President of the United States (1837–41), b. Kinderhook, Columbia co., N.Y. Early Career

He was reared on his father's farm, was educated at local schools, and after reading law was admitted (1803) to the bar.
..... Click the link for more information.
, 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 WeedWeed, Thurlow
, 1797–1882, American journalist and political leader, b. Cairo, N.Y. After working on various newspapers in W New York, Weed joined the Rochester Telegraph and was influential as a supporter of John Quincy Adams.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and William SewardSeward, William Henry,
1801–72, American statesman, b. Florida, Orange co., N.Y. Early Career

A graduate (1820) of Union College, he was admitted to the bar in 1822 and established himself as a lawyer in Auburn, N.Y., which he made his lifelong home.
..... Click the link for more information.
. The party went on to victory in 1840 with the rousing "Log Cabin and Hard Cider" campaign, which put William H. HarrisonHarrison, William Henry,
1773–1841, 9th President of the United States (Mar. 4–Apr. 4, 1841), b. "Berkeley," Charles City co., Va.; son of Benjamin Harrison (1726?–1791) and grandfather of Benjamin Harrison (1833–1901).
..... Click the link for more information.
 in the White House. Harrison died after only one month in office and was succeeded by his Vice President, John TylerTyler, John,
1790–1862, 10th President of the United States, b. Charles City co., Va. Early Career

Educated at the College of William and Mary, he studied law under his father, John Tyler (1747–1813), governor of Virginia from 1808 to 1811, and was
..... Click the link for more information.
 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. PolkPolk, James Knox
, 1795–1849, 11th President of the United States (1845–49), b. Mecklenburg co., N.C. Early Career

His family moved (1806) to the Duck River valley in Tennessee and there, after graduating from the Univ.
..... Click the link for more information.
. In 1848, Weed and his associates swung the nomination from Webster and Clay to Zachary TaylorTaylor, Zachary
, 1784–1850, 12th President of the United States (1849–50), b. Orange co., Va. He was raised in Kentucky. Taylor joined the army in 1808, became a captain in 1810, and was promoted to major for his defense of Fort Harrison (1812) in the War of 1812.
..... Click the link for more information.
, 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 FillmoreFillmore, Millard,
1800–1874, 13th President of the United States (July, 1850–Mar., 1853), b. Locke (now Summer Hill), N.Y. Because he was compelled to work at odd jobs at an early age to earn a living his education was irregular and incomplete.
..... Click the link for more information.
, 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 partyFree-Soil party,
in U.S. history, political party that came into existence in 1847–48 chiefly because of rising opposition to the extension of slavery into any of the territories newly acquired from Mexico.
..... Click the link for more information.
, 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 ScottScott, Winfield,
1786–1866, American general, b. near Petersburg, Va. Military Career

He briefly attended the College of William and Mary, studied law at Petersburg, and joined the military.
..... Click the link for more information.
, 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 partyRepublican party,
American political party. Origins and Early Years

The name was first used by Thomas Jefferson's party, later called the Democratic Republican party or, simply, the Democratic party.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and the sharply divided Democratic party absorbed the largest segments. Other Whigs, led by Fillmore, drifted into the Know-Nothing movementKnow-Nothing movement,
in U.S. history. The increasing rate of immigration in the 1840s encouraged nativism. In Eastern cities where Roman Catholic immigrants especially had concentrated and were welcomed by the Democrats, local nativistic societies were formed to combat
..... Click the link for more information.
.

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).

References in periodicals archive ?
This surprising development alienated the Southern wing of the party, and Benjamin described the result as "like the explosion of a mine, rent the Whig Party into fragment--fragments that no mortal skill can ever reunite, for the cement of a common principle is wanting.
Edmund Burke became the leader of a new Whig party to seek to stop George III and the King's Friends from destroying the accomplishments of Salutary Neglect.
Indeed, the activities of Gerrit Smith and some abolitionists suggested that they had not yet concluded that the Whig party of Seward and Weed was worthy of support.
Henry Clay, the nominee of the Whig party, opposed immediate annexation.
With the Democratic Party thus committed to annexation, Tyler retired from the scene, leaving the contest to Polk of the Democratic Party, favoring immediate annexation; Clay of the Whig Party, favoring annexation under the right conditions; and, in the North, James A.
An often ignored and yet important portion of the Ethics was devoted to Weaver's analysis of the Whig Party of the nineteenth century and his diagnosis of the party's downfall.
It was a campaign that spelled the end of the Whig Party and of the general's political aspirations.
Father James Flint has written a superb account of the failed efforts of Lord John Russell and the Whig party to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
Speaking for a coalition of landholding and commercial affluence, National Republicanism leading to the Whig party, for instance, resulted in anti-Indian racism whether "soft racial policies" were preferred or not.
Accordingly, both men gravitated towards the Whig party that had been founded upon a declaration of 'rights' and in (armed) opposition to State 'tyranny'.
The 1980 coup undermined and ultimately derailed the growing political reform and democracy movement that had emerged in the late 1970s to challenge the True Whig Party dictatorship of Tolbert.
At this time politics and religion were mixed - a Dissenter would be a member of the Whig party and a Churchman a Tory.