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Whig,English political party. The name, originally a term of abuse first used for Scottish Presbyterians in the 17th cent., seems to have been a shortened form of whiggamor [cattle driver]. It was applied (c.1679) to the English opponents of the succession of the Roman Catholic duke of York (later James IIJames II,
1633–1701, king of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1685–88); second son of Charles I, brother and successor of Charles II. Early Life
..... Click the link for more information. ), a group led by the 1st earl of ShaftesburyShaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st earl of,
1621–83, English statesman. In the English civil war he supported the crown until 1644 but then joined the parliamentarians.
..... Click the link for more information. . The Glorious RevolutionGlorious Revolution,
in English history, the events of 1688–89 that resulted in the deposition of James II and the accession of William III and Mary II to the English throne. It is also called the Bloodless Revolution.
..... Click the link for more information. of 1688, in which the Whigs were joined by many Tories (see ToryTory
, English political party. The term was originally applied to outlaws in Ireland and was adopted as a derogatory name for supporters of the duke of York (later James II) at the time (c.
..... Click the link for more information. ), assured a Protestant succession and the constitutional supremacy of Parliament over the king. Political parties during the 18th cent. were essentially groups of factions allied on specific issues. After the accession of William IIIWilliam III,
1650–1702, king of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1689–1702); son of William II, prince of Orange, stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, and of Mary, oldest daughter of King Charles I of England.
..... Click the link for more information. advocacy of a constitutional monarchy no longer distinguished the Whigs, and during the reign of Queen Anne they became identified increasingly with aristocratic large landholders and the wealthy merchant interests. Under George IGeorge I
(George Louis), 1660–1727, king of Great Britain and Ireland (1714–27); son of Sophia, electress of Hanover, and great-grandson of James I. He became (1698) elector of Hanover, fought in the War of the Spanish Succession, and in 1714 succeeded Queen Anne
..... Click the link for more information. and George IIGeorge II
(George Augustus), 1683–1760, king of Great Britain and Ireland (1727–60), son and successor of George I. Though devoted to Hanover, of which he was elector, George was more active in the English government than his father had been.
..... Click the link for more information. most governments were composed of those with aristocratic connections, loosely Whig. The disgrace of Anne's Tory ministers who negotiated for the return of James II on her death, and the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745 stigmatized the Tories as supporters of absolute monarchy, and the Whig ministries of Robert WalpoleWalpole, Robert, 1st earl of Orford,
1676–1745, English statesman. Early Life and Career
He was the younger son of a prominent Whig family of Norfolk.
..... Click the link for more information. and Henry Pelham dominated the period. After the accession (1760) of George IIIGeorge III,
1738–1820, king of Great Britain and Ireland (1760–1820); son of Frederick Louis, prince of Wales, and grandson of George II, whom he succeeded. He was also elector (and later king) of Hanover, but he never visited it.
..... Click the link for more information. there were at first no real issues around which parties could polarize, but a Whig party gradually emerged, united largely in opposition to William PittPitt, William,
1759–1806, British statesman; 2d son of William Pitt, 1st earl of Chatham. Trained as a lawyer, he entered Parliament in 1781 and in 1782 at the age of 23 became chancellor of the exchequer under Lord Shelburne.
..... Click the link for more information. , under the leadership of Charles James FoxFox, Charles James,
1749–1806, British statesman and orator, for many years the outstanding parliamentary proponent of liberal reform. He entered Parliament in 1768 and served as lord of the admiralty (1770–72) and as lord of the treasury (1772–74) under
..... Click the link for more information. . This party became identified with dissent, industrial interests, and social and parliamentary reform, and also with the Prince Regent, later George IVGeorge IV,
1762–1830, king of Great Britain and Ireland (1820–30), eldest son and successor of George III. In 1785 he married Maria Anne Fitzherbert, a Roman Catholic.
..... Click the link for more information. . Whig ministries under the 2d Earl GreyGrey, Charles Grey, 2d Earl,
1764–1845, British statesman. Elected to Parliament in 1786, he was one of those appointed to manage the impeachment of Warren Hastings.
..... Click the link for more information. and Lord MelbourneMelbourne, William Lamb, 2d Viscount
, 1779–1848, British statesman. He entered Parliament as a Whig in 1805, was (1827–28) chief secretary for Ireland, and entered (1828) the House of Lords on the death of
..... Click the link for more information. were in power from 1830 to 1841, passing the first parliamentary reform bill. After this the Whigs became a part of the rising Liberal partyLiberal party,
former British political party, the dominant political party in Great Britain for much of the period from the mid-1800s to World War I. Origins
..... Click the link for more information. , in which they constituted the conservative element.
See B. Williams, The Whig Supremacy (2d ed. 1962).
1. a member of the English political party or grouping that in 1679--80 opposed the succession to the throne of James, Duke of York (1633--1701; king of England and Ireland as James II, and of Scotland as James VII, 1685--88), on the grounds that he was a Catholic. Standing for a limited monarchy, the Whigs represented the great aristocracy and the moneyed middle class for the next 80 years. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the Whigs represented the desires of industrialists and Dissenters for political and social reform. The Whigs provided the core of the Liberal Party
2. (in the US) a supporter of the War of American Independence
3. a member of the American political party that opposed the Democrats from about 1834 to 1855 and represented propertied and professional interests
4. a conservative member of the Liberal Party in Great Britain
5. a person who advocates and believes in an unrestricted laissez-faire economy
6. History a 17th-century Scottish Presbyterian, esp one in rebellion against the Crown