Whig Party (United States)
The Whig Party was a political party of the United States during the era of Jacksonian democracy. Considered integral to the Second Party System and operating from 1833 to 1856, the party was formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party. In particular, the Whigs supported the supremacy of Congress over the executive branch and favored a program of modernization and economic protectionism. This name was chosen to echo the American Whigs of 1776, who fought for independence, and because "Whig" was then a widely recognized label of choice for people who saw themselves as opposing autocratic rule. The Whig Party counted among its members such national political luminaries as Daniel Webster, William Henry Harrison, and their preeminent leader, Henry Clay of Kentucky. In addition to Harrison, the Whig Party also counted four war heroes among its ranks, including Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Abraham Lincoln was a Whig leader in frontier Illinois.
In its over two decades of existence, the Whig Party saw two of its candidates, Harrison and Taylor, elected president. Both, however, died in office. John Tyler became president after Harrison's death, but was expelled from the party. Millard Fillmore, who became president 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 successfully prevented the nomination of its own incumbent President Fillmore in the 1852 presidential election; instead, the party nominated General Winfield Scott, who was soundly defeated. Its leaders quit politics (as Lincoln did temporarily) or changed parties. The voter base defected to the Republican Party, various coalition parties in some states, and to the Democratic Party. By the 1856 presidential election, the party had lost its ability to maintain a national coalition of effective state parties and endorsed Millard Fillmore, now of the American Party, at its last national convention.
- Holt (1999), p. 231.
- Holt (1999), pp. 27–30.