Whig Party (United States)
This article contains an overview of the history of the rise and fall of the U.S. Whig Party, its leaders, their beliefs and the demise of the party over the issue of slavery.
Whig Party Definition and Summary
Summary and Definition of the Whig Party: The Whig Party was formed in 1832 by opponents of the high-handed, autocratic attitude of "King Andrew" Jackson and the policies of the Democratic Party, which led to Jackson's Bank War and the destruction of the Second Bank of the United States. Originally called National Republicans, the party members consisted of many political groups such as nullifiers, anti-masons but were united as strong opponents to Jackson and as advocates of a national banking system. The National Republicans changed their name to the Whig Party, a traditional term used by opponents of tyrannical monarchies, to emphasize their views of Andrew Jackson. The demise of the Whig party in the 1850s was due to conflicts between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions and many former Whigs joined the new Republican Party.
Whig Party History: The Democratic-Republican Party splits into two groups
What caused the formation of the Whig party? The Whig Party was formed when the Democratic-Republicans split into two parties following the 1824 presidential election and the issue of national defense. The first faction consisted of Democratic-Republicans organized by Martin Van Buren and led by Andrew Jackson. Jackson's supporters dropped the word "Republican" from the party name and called themselves Democrats. The second faction, led by John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay, were at first called the National Republican Party but in the 1830's changed their name to the Whig Party.
Whig Party Symbol
The Whig Party was an owl, symbolizing wisdom.
Whig Party History: Why was it called the Whig Party?
Why was it called the Whig Party? What were the origins and meaning of the term Whig? The term 'Whig' originated in Britain. It doesn't refer to men who wore wigs! The word Whig derives from a shortened form of the derisory Scottish word 'Whiggamore' meaning a horse thief. The term 'Whig' was first used in British politics to describe those opposed to the supreme power of the monarchy and connoted rebellion, radicals and nonconformity. It later became associated with liberalism and progressive policies. The term 'Whig' was first adopted by American colonists who resented British control, favored independence from Great Britain, and supported the Revolutionary War but fell into disuse after the colonies won their independence. The National Republicans 'resurrected' the term and called themselves the Whig Party to indicate their strong opposition to what they believed were tyrannical actions by "King Andrew" Jackson.
Whig Party Beliefs and Whig Party Platform
The Whig Party was a coalition of different groups, all opposed to Jackson and the Democrats. This coalition of factions included advocates of States' Rights, supporters of the old Federalist Party and a strong National government, supporters of the American System, Nullifiers (refer to the Nullification Crisis), and Anti-Masons who strongly opposed Freemasonry. The Whig Party therefore consisted of many groups with differing ideas but the main Whig Party beliefs and their platform was based on the following:
Whig Party Leaders
Who were the leaders of the Whig Party? The early leaders of the Whig Party were Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun. They were strongly supported by William Seward, Horace Greeley, Thurlow Weed and Thaddeus Stevens.
Whig Party Presidents
Who were the Whig Presidents? Four United States presidents were elected on the Whig Party platform:
William Harrison (Presidency: 1841)
John Tyler (Presidency: 1841-1845)
Zachary Taylor (Presidency: 1849-1850)
Millard Fillmore (Presidency: 1850-1853)
Whig Party History: The Elections
The Whig Party saw William Harrison elected as president but he died after serving only one month in office, before being able to make the party's impact on the nation. John Tyler as Vice President, assumed the presidency, but upset many members of the Whig party when he applied the veto to key Whig banking and tariff bills and opposing their plan to redistribute the proceeds from the sale of public lands. The furious Whigs disowned John Tyler and nominated Henry Clay as the next president. However during the election campaign Henry Clay split the party by refusing to take a definite stand on the issue of the Texas Annexation. The northern abolitionists, who opposed the admission of Texas to the Union as a slave state, withdrew their support of Henry Clay and the split in the Whig party over the slavery issue ensured victory for James Polk, the Democratic candidate. Zachary Taylor followed as the next Whig President. President Millard Fillmore was the last Whig president and pushed the Compromise of 1850 through Congress.
The Whig Party and Slavery: Conscience Whigs and Cotton Whigs
The different factions of the Whig Party were divided on the issue of slavery. The Mexican War (1846–1848) fuelled the slavery controversy as one faction believed in allowing slavery in the territories acquired during the war, whereas the other group believed that slavery should be forbidden.
The Anti-slavery Whigs from Massachusetts, became known as the Conscience Whigs and wanted to halt the spread of slavery into new territories
The Pro-slavery Whigs from the southern states became known as the Cotton Whigs took the opposite view
Whig Party Demise: Slavery and the Compromise of 1850
What issue led to the demise of the Whig party and why did it collapse? The divisions in the Whig party were deepening over the issue of slavery. The Compromise of 1850 was an attempt by Henry Clay to settle the issues in the newly formed Territories of the United States. The anti-slavery faction (the Conscience Whigs) disagreed with the Compromise of 1850 and successfully prevented the re-nomination of Millard Fillmore, its own incumbent, and destroyed the Whig Party. The Whigs from the south moved to the Democrat Party and the Whigs from the north including members of the "Barnburners" anti-slavery faction and the Free-Soilers moved to the newly formed Republican Party.
Whig Party - Video of the US Presidents
The article on the History of the Whig Party provides a fast overview of the history of the US Government. The following Presidents of the USA video enables you to sit back and listen to the history of all the Presidents of the USA - a useful educational resource for kids, children and schools that complements the information found in the History of the Whig Party.