|Did You Know?
President Abraham Lincoln was a Whig Party leader before he decided to create the Republican Party.
Freedom has always been a core aspect of any sovereign country. This is more prevalent in the United States of America, the land of freedom and opportunity. But USA also struggled after it gained independence from the British. The Federalists were a political party that supported the underground battle of freedom against the British and the major participants in this party played an important role in shaping the country. It led to the formation of the Whig Party and a division of people into members of this party led by Henry Clay, and the Democrats led by Andrew Jackson. Minor parties like the Anti-Masonic party and the Anti-Slavery Free Soil Party formed an alliance with the Whig party to follow Washington's ideals of national liberty and classical liberalism.
This led to a political divide in the country with the Whig Party promoting modernization and better infrastructure, while the Democratic Party led by Andrew Jackson had the local support of farmers and promoted traditionalism and expansionism. It led to the Second Party System, which in turn, led to better voter turnout among the American public and was witness to the policies of Andrew Jackson. The Whig Party was responsible for major changes in policies and set the precedent for the future.
The party named itself the Whig Party after the Patriots (freedom fighters) who fought against the monarchist British Empire. It had separated itself from the Democrats and the policies of President Andrew Jackson which promoted agriculture and felt that construction of roads and infrastructure were against democracy. The Whig Party was founded by Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams, the former President of the United States (1825-1829). The Whigs had local support in the South where there was dislike of the land grabs of Andrew Jackson and the executive power he held, because of which he was termed as 'King Andrew I'.
The Whigs had policies pertaining to education and national transport which would connect the country as well as improve trade. Their policies were especially attractive to the upper class like doctors, lawyers, plantation owners, merchants, bankers, and factory owners. They had the following policies outlined:
The Whigs proposed nation-wide education to better help the illiterate youth across the country. The proposal of state schools by Horace Mann was widely accepted by the Whigs.
The party proposed the establishment of banks as financial systems that would print paper money and distribute it among the public as currency. The Second Bank of United States was established to collect higher tariffs from the Southern States which would mitigate the financial panic of 1837. This would aid business corporations as well as promote national growth.
The Whig party was extremely successful in creating roadways in the southern states.
The party had an anti-slavery stance since the beginning and even ceded the annexation of Texas and Utah. It even tried to negotiate freedom of the Indians living on the fringes of the border states.
Compromise of 1850
The Compromise of 1850 was a bill proposed by Senator Henry Clay which separated the territories of Texas, California, Utah, and New Mexico. This bill prevented the civil war brewing between the South and the North for a decade. It had the premise of the Fugitive Slave Act which banned slavery.
Most of these policies were derided by Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party who alleged that these policies would benefit the elitist upper class with whom Clay was associated. He garnered the support of local farmers, since the production of agricultural crops contributed to national growth.
Henry Clay was the founder of the Whig Party and proposed many policies that aimed at national liberty rather than democracy. He was responsible for the election of President John Quincy Adams and was responsible for creating policies like the Tariff of 1828 which levied taxes on southern states to contribute to capital growth. He freed slaves working on his plantations.
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States and adopted an early program of internal improvements that included roadways and public education through state schools. He joined the Whig Party with Henry Clay due to their policies of national liberty as well as their mutual dislike of President Andrew Jackson. He was responsible for reducing the national debt due to the foreign policies he proposed with neighboring countries.
William Henry Harrison
He was the ninth President of the United States and a decorated war hero who fought against the native tribes. He was the first President to die in office after a month.
Zachary Taylor was the twelfth President and a decorated war hero who fought in the Mexican-American War. Just like his compatriot, William Henry Harrison, he too died a premature death and served a year in office.
Daniel Webster was renowned for his oratory skills and stood for public education. He became the Secretary of State twice, for William Henry Harrison and Millard Fillmore.
Collapse of the Whig Party
The fall of the party could be attributed to the anti-slavery stand adopted by John Quincy Adams. It also led to dissent within the party as south Whig party leaders owned slaves and refused to relinquish their freedom. Other factors could have been the establishment of banks and construction of infrastructure laws aimed at better growth by Andrew Jackson's policies as he preferred the agricultural sector. A further blow was dealt when John Tyler, the Vice-President to William Henry Harrison vetoed the bill promoting Whig economic legislation, and was thus expelled from the party. The last years of the Whig Party centered around the Compromise of 1850, a treaty that aimed at preserving the Union.
The party soon split with some prominent candidates creating the Republican Party, while others created the Know-Nothing Party, attracted by the nativist policies and against the German and Irish immigrants. Some candidates enjoyed some individual successes in their constituencies in the border states and joined the Constitutional Union Party that was formed in 1860 at the onset of the civil war. In spite of the policies it proclaimed at that time, they were passed by the Democratic Party in the coming years with the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves as well as making education available in every state.
The Whig Party had a re-emergence as the Modern Whig Party, with the members comprising veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. It follows the similar principles of freedom against tyranny and is slowly gaining momentum with its chapters spread in California, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, Michigan, and Virginia.