Whig Party

The Whig Party was, along with the Democrats, the second major party of the Jacksonian and antebellum periods of American history. It was founded in 1832 by Henry Clay and other politicians who were opposed to the perceived anti-industrialism and executive abuses of President Andrew Jackson. As its ideology evolved, the Whig Party adopted a loose platform favoring Clay's "American System," which envisioned the federal government fostering American national and economic development through internal improvements, investments, and tariffs. During its roughly twenty-five years of existence, the Whig Party counted many prominent politicians among its members, including Clay, Daniel Webster, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, and Abraham Lincoln. The party began to dissolve following the Compromise of 1850, as the growing divide between northerners and southerners over slavery split its national membership. Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 caused most remaining northern Whigs to abandon the party. Many eventually joined the newly formed Know-Nothing and Republican parties. Southern Whigs tended to retain the party name longer, although many became moderate Democrats by the Civil War.

Daniel Walker Howe, The Political Culture of the American Whigs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 11-22, 123-49, 263-98; Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 1-18, 521-52, 804-78, 951-85.