Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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WHIG PARTY (IN U. S. HISTORY). I. 1829-33. From 1801 until after the presidential election of 1828 the unity of the democratic or republican party was still nominally unbroken. Membership in it was so essential to political advancement that after 1817 all national opposition to it came to an end. In 1824 the nomination of presidential candidates by a congressional caucus was urged on the ground that all the aspirants belonged to the same party: and, even through John Quincy Adams' administration, the "Adams and Clay republicans," who supported the president, and the "Jackson republicans," who opposed him, steadily acknowledged each other's claim to the party name. (See DEMOCRATIC-REPUBLICAN PARTY, III.; FEDERAL PARTY, II.; CAUCUS, CONGRESSIONAL.)


—Notwithstanding this surface unity, there had long been a departure from the original democratic canons, and a break in the dominant party, which first becomes plainly visible after the war of 1812. The idea that the people were to impose their notions of public policy upon their rulers, and not altogether to receive them from their rulers, which the federalists had always detested at heart, had now been accepted by all politicians; but, working under this limitation, a strong section of the dominant party now aimed at obtaining, by Jefferson's methods, objects entirely foreign to Jefferson's programme. This was particularly the case in the northern states, where commerce, banking, and the other interests, not bounded by state lines, on which Hamilton had depended for the building up of nationality, were now supplemented by another, manufactures, non-existent in Hamilton's time. (See NATION.) All these looked to the republican party for a support and protection which the laissez faire of the Jeffersonian theory would have refused them. It is, then, very significant of the republican drift that banking was recognized by a national bank in 1816, commerce by a great system of public improvements in 1821, and manufactures by a slightly protective tariff in 1816, strengthened in 1824 and 1828. (See BANK CONTROVERSIES, III.; INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS; TARIFF.) But this was the federalist policy, with the new feature of a protective tariff, which was at least rudimentary in the federalist policy; and the principal difference between the federalists and the Adams republicans was, that the former intended to be the guides, and the latter the exponents, of the people in carrying out the policy specified. The election of Adams as president in 1824, with his appointment of Clay as secretary of state, long denounced as a guilty bargain, was really the organization of a party, and the work was only hindered by Clay's angry denials of a "bargain." A frank acknowledgment of party birth, with the complete formulation of its principles which was given by President Adams in his annual messages, would have brought an intelligent support; the attempt to retain Jefferson's party name for the Adams faction only served to call attention to their complete departure from Jefferson's theory, and thus repelled every voter to whom "republicanism" was still the touchstone of politics.


—It was not until toward the end of Adams' term of office that any of his followers began to take the step which should have been taken at first, and assumed the name of "national republicans." Even when it was assumed, the assumption was only tentative, and was confined to a few northern and eastern newspapers. To the mass of the Adams party the struggle still seemed to be only one between two wings of the same party, and the result of the election of 1828 showed which of the two seemed the better "republicans" to the country at large. Adams' electoral vote was that of the old federal party, the vote of the New England states, New Jersey and Delaware, sixteen of New York's thirty-six votes, and six of Maryland's eleven votes. But the popular vote showed a wider strength than the federalists had ever had. Jackson's majority was but 508 out of 8,702 votes in Louisiana, a state whose sugar-planting interest was always to incline it toward a protective tariff; 4,201 out of 130,993 votes in Ohio, where New England immigration and ideas were strong, in North Carolina and Virginia 30 per cent. of the popular vote was for Adams; and his total popular vote, in spite of the practical unanimity of most of the southern states, was 509,097 to 647,231 for Jackson. This was at least an encouraging growth for a party which as yet aimed at a total reversal of the republican policy while retaining the republican name.


—The year after Jackson's inauguration was one of sudden political quiet. The newspapers of the year were busied mainly with internal improvements, the first struggle of the railroad toward existence, and the growth of manufactures. It was not until the beginning of the year 1830 that Jackson's drift against the bank, the protective tariff, internal improvements, and the other features of the Adams policy, became so evident that his opponents were driven into renewed political activity. The name "national republican" at once became general. But the new party was at first without an official leader. In October, 1828, an indiscreet or treacherous Virginia friend of Adams had obtained from Jefferson's grandson and published a letter from Jefferson, written three years before, which named Adams as the authority for the allegation of a federalist secession scheme in 1808. (See EMBARGO, SECESSION.) Adams' newspaper organ, the "National Intelligencer," at once confirmed Jefferson's statement, with some corrections, and asserted that the president had known in 1808, "from unequivocal evidence, although not provable in a court of law," that the federalist leaders aimed at "a dissolution of the Union and the establishment of a separate confederation." The former federalist leaders of Massachusetts, or their sons, at once demanded his evidence, which he refused to give, and the quarrel died away in mutual recriminations. Adams' purpose seems to have been to emphasize his own original "republicanism"; but he only succeeded in alienating from himself the legitimate successor of the federal party. His inability to see that he had created a new party cost him the party leadership, which passed at once to Henry Clay. Adams was out of politics, and, when he entered the house again, in December, 1831, came as an anti-masonic representative; Clay, when he entered the senate in the same month, came as the most conspicuous advocate of the Adams policy. Dec. 12, 1831, the national republicans, in convention at Baltimore, unanimously nominated him for the presidency, and John Sergeant for the vice-presidency. No platform was adopted, but an address to the country formulated the party principles very distinctly in its attacks on Jackson's policy. May 7 following, a "young men's national republican convention" met at Washington, renewed the nominations, and adopted ten resolutions indorsing a protective tariff, a system of internal improvements, the decision of "constitutional questions" by the supreme court, and a cessation of removals from office for political reasons. The popular vote of 1832 was proportionally very similar to that of 1828; but the electoral vote was very different. Maine, New Hampshire and New Jersey were now democratic; the "unit system" in New York gave the whole vote of that state to Jackson; Vermont gave her votes to the anti-masonic candidates; and the result gave Jackson 219, Clay 49, and others 18. (See ELECTORAL VOTES, XII.) Something was evidently lacking. Support of the United States bank (see BANK CONTROVERSIES, III.) helped the party in the middle and eastern states, but worked against it in the south and west. Support of a protective tariff helped the party in the middle and eastern states, where manufactures flourished, and growers of wool, flax and hemp desired a market in their own neighborhood, but again it exerted an unfavorable influence in the south and west. Too impatient to trust to time and argument for a natural increase of their national vote, and hardly willing to trust to a general system of purchase by "internal improvements" alone, the national republicans began, after the election of 1832, a general course of beating up for recruits, regardless of principle, which was the bane of their party throughout its whole national existence. No delegate could come amiss to their conventions: the original Adams republican, the nullifier of South Carolina, the anti-mason of New York or Pennsylvania, the state-rights delegate from Georgia, and the general mass of the dissatisfied everywhere, could find a secure refuge in conventions which never asked awkward questions, which ventured but twice (in 1844 and 1852) to adopt a platform, and which ventured but once (in 1844) to nominate for the presidency a candidate with any avowed political principles. The "national republicans" formed a party with principles and the courage to avow them; their reckless search for recruits placed their principles at the mercy of their new allies, and the bed became "shorter than that a man could stretch himself on it, and the covering narrower than that he could wrap himself in it."


—II. 1833-53. However heterogeneous was the mass of dissatisfaction in 1833-4, there was community of feeling on at least one point, dislike to the president. In South Carolina, nullification (see that title) had received its death-blow from the president's declared intention to usurp, as the nullifiers believed, the unconstitutional power to make war on a sovereign state; and the bitterness of this feeling was aggravated in the case of their leader, Calhoun, by a preliminary personal dispute with the president. The nullifiers were thus ready and willing to become the allies of the national republicans; and it is asserted by Hammond that Clay's compromise tariff of 1833, which gave the nullifiers a road of retreat, was one consideration for the alliance. The anti-masons of the northern and eastern states (see ANTI-MASONRY) had failed to make any impression in the election of 1832, and in transferring their national allegiance it was easier for them to go to the national republicans, whose leader, Clay, had publicly declared that he had not attended a masonic meeting for years, than to the Jackson party, whose leader was a warm and avowed free mason. In the south, particularly in Tennessee and Alabama, many democrats disliked Van Buren as the predestined successor of Jackson. Their leader was Hugh L. White, and, though his candidacy was at first that of a revolting democrat, his supporters soon came to feel that they were also fighting against the president and his dictation of his successor. In Georgia, the state-rights, or Troup, party, which had ousted the Indians from the state (see CHEROKEE CASE), had really been assisted by Jackson, and opposed by Adams, in accomplishing their purpose. Nevertheless, as a sort of connecting link between the nullifiers and the White party, they became the anti-Jackson party of their state, though their entrance to the general alliance was not perfected until 1835-7. All these elements, indeed, remained in nominally separate existence throughout the year 1833, though their approach was daily becoming closer. Jackson's removal of deposits from the United States bank, Oct. 1, 1833, in defiance of a previous adverse vote of the house (see DEPOSITS, REMOVAL OF), seemed to the entire opposition such a flagrant executive usurpation of power as could not escape popular condemnation, and the national republican leaders seized upon it as an opportunity for cementing their new alliances. The task seemed difficult, in view of the radically different political beliefs of the two leading elements of the alliance, and it was only made possible by the personal character of the opposition to Jackson, and by the political tact of James Watson Webb, of New York, in finding an available party name. His newspaper, the "Courier and Enquirer," had originally supported Jackson, and had been driven into the opposition by the president's course. In February, 1834, he baptized the new party with the name of "whig," with the idea that the name implied resistance to executive usurpation, to that of the crown in England and in the American revolution (see AMERICAN WHIGS), and to that of the president in the United States of 1834. In reality, the objects of the name were to oppose a verbal juggle to the verbal juggle of the opposite party, to balance the popular name of republican or democrat by the popular name of whig, and to give an apparent unity of sentiment to fundamental disagreement. In all these it was successful. The name "took." Within six months the anti-masons and national republicans had ceased to be, and the whigs had taken their places. In the south the change was slower. It was not until after the election of 1836, in which White was unsuccessful, that the White and Troup parties fairly took the name of whigs; and in South Carolina the nullifiers in general never claimed the name, and at the most only allowed whigs elsewhere to claim them as members of the party.


—In 1836 the party was entirely unprepared for a presidential contest. Harrison was nominated for the presidency, as a "people's candidate," by a great number of mass meetings of all parties, and, in December, 1835, by whig and anti masonic state conventions at Harrisburgh, and by a whig state conventions at Baltimore, the former naming Granger and the latter Tyler for the vice-presidency. Harrison's politics were of a democratic cast, but he satisfied the whig requisite of opposition to the president, while he satisfied the anti-masonic element still better by declaring that "neither myself nor any member of my family have ever been members" of the masonic order. Webster was nominated in January, 1835, by the whig members of the Massachusetts legislature, but he found little hearty support outside of his state. White had now gone so far in opposition that copies of the official "Washington Globe," containing bitter attacks upon him, were franked to the members of the Tennessee legislature by the president in person. The legislature, however, in October, 1835, unanimously re-elected White senator, and by a vote of 60 to 12 nominated him for the presidency. Soon afterward, the Alabama legislature, which had already nominated White, rescinded the nomination, having become democratic. The South Carolina element, having control of the legislature, by which electors were to be appointed, made no nominations, and finally gave the state's electoral vote to Willie P. Mangum, a North Carolina whig, and John Tyler, a nullifier. All the factions of the opposition thus had their candidates in the field, and at first sight their discordant efforts might have seemed hopeless. But all the politicians of the time expected a failure of the electors to give a majority to any candidate, and a consequent choice by the house of representatives, in which the opposition, though in a numerical minority, hoped to control a majority of states. These forecasts proved deceptive. Van Buren received a majority of the electoral votes, and became president.


—Van Buren's whole term of office was taken up by the panic of 1837, the subsidiary panic of 1839, and the establishment of the sub-treasury system in 1840, to take the place of the national bank and complete a "divorce of bank and state." (See BANK CONTROVERSIES, IV.; INDEPENDENT TREASURY.) Seldom have so many alternations in political prospects filled a presidential term. In 1837 Van Buren entered office with an overwhelming electoral majority, and his opponents prostrate before him; and within two years the whigs "had the loco-focos at their mercy." So poor had the administration grown that Calhoun and his followers ranged themselves with it again, holding that the executive was now so weak as to be harmless, and that the real danger was from the whigs. Preston, of South Carolina, and John Tyler, were almost the only leading nullifiers who nominally remained whigs. To balance this, the White and Troup party had now come into the whig ranks, the former bringing John Bell as its most prominent leader, and the latter John M. Berrien, John Forsyth, Thos. Butler King, Alexander H. Stephens, and Robert Toombs. Before 1840 returning prosperity had changed the scene. The democrats were now more than confident, they predicted the dissolution of the whig party, and declared that they would be satisfied with nothing less, with no mere victory; and, to crown the whole, they were completely defeated in the presidential election of 1840 by the "moribund" whig party. In the accomplishment of this sudden victory, the whig leaders have been reproached with an entire sacrifice of principle to availability, but it is well to remember that their party was as yet no complete vessel, but rather a raft, composed of all sorts of materials, and very loosely fastened together.


—Of the opposition candidates who had been in the field in 1836 it was evident that Harrison was the only available candidate for 1840. The whig party was not homogeneous enough to take its real leader, Clay, or its perhaps still better representative, Webster; nor had it sunk so low in its own coalition as to take a real democrat like White. Harrison was the favorite of the anti-masonic element; his western life and military services gave him strength at the west; and, in a less degree, at the south; and it was possible in the north and east to keep his very doubtful attitude as to the establishment of a new national bank under cover, while laying special stress on his determination to respect the will of the people's representatives in congress, and to spare the veto. This last point decided his nomination, for the whig leaders saw that his name would bring votes, while under cover of it the real contest could be carried on for congressmen, the actual governing power under Harrison's proposed disuse of the veto. And yet it is plain now that the whig party was more homogeneous in 1840 than it thought itself, and that it had a "fighting chance" of success under Clay. Its leaders ought to have learned this, if from nothing else, from the desperate expedients to which they were driven in the effort to dragoon the convention into nominating Harrison. And never was a convention so dragooned. It met at Harrisburgh, Dec. 4, 1839, and was treated as a combustible to which Clay's name might be the possible spark. By successive manœuvres it was decided that a committee of states should be appointed; that ballots should be taken, not in convention, but in the state delegations; that in each delegation the majority of delegates should decide the whole vote of the state; that the result of each ballot should be reported to the committee of states; and that this committee should only report to the convention when a majority of the states had agreed upon a candidate. The first ballot gave Clay 103 votes, Harrison 94, and Scott 57, and it was not until the fifth ballot that the committee of states was able to report the nomination of Harrison by 148 votes to 90 for Clay and 16 for Scott. In the same fashion Tyler was nominated for the vice-presidency on the following day.


—The "campaign of 1840" was based entirely on Harrison's popularity and the general desire for a change, and under cover of these the whigs carried on a still hunt for congressmen, the real objects of the campaign. In all points they were successful. Log-cabins and hard cider, supposed to be typical of Harrison's early life, were made leading political instruments; singing was carried to an extent hitherto unknown; mass meetings were measured by the acre, and processions by the league; and in November "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too," received 234 electoral votes to 60 for their opponents, and were elected. The popular vote was nearly evenly balanced. The whigs had carried New England (except New Hampshire), New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, north of the Potomac; and south of it they had carried the "White and Troup party" states, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia, the whig states, Kentucky, North Carolina and Louisiana, and had made an exceedingly close contest in Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri and Alabama. Evidently, the conjunction of Harrison and Tyler had kept all the elements of the opposition well in hand. More important still, the new congress, to meet in 1841, had a whig majority in both houses, though the majority was not sufficient to override a veto.


—In spite of its diversity of opinion, the party had now developed a number of able leaders, Clay and Webster at their head, who for the next half dozen years were fast giving their party a definite policy, very similar to that of its most valuable element, the former national republicans. Among these were, Evans, Kent and Fessenden, of Maine; Slade, Collamer and George P. Marsh, of Vermont; J. Q. Adams, Winthrop, Choate, Everett, John Davis, Abbolt Lawrence and Briggs, of Massachusetts; Truman Smith, of Connecticut; Granger, Fillmore, Seward, Spencer, N. K. Hall, Tallmadge, Weed and Greeley, of New York; Dayton, of New Jersey; Forward, Meredith and Ingersoll, of Pennsylvania; Bayard, Clayton and Rodney, of Delaware; Kennedy, Cost Johnson and Reverdy Johnson, of Maryland; Archer, Botts, Leigh and W. B. Preston, of Virginia; Graham, Mangum, Rayner, Clingman and Badger, of North Carolina; Legaré, of South Carolina; Berrien, Forsyth, King, Stephens and Toombs, of Georgia; H. W. Hilliard, of Alabama; S. S. Prentiss, of Mississippi; Bell and Jarnagin, of Tennessee; Crittenden, Morehead, Garret Davis, Wickliffe, John White and Underwood, of Kentucky; McLean, Giddings, Vinton, Corwin and Ewing, of Ohio; R. W. Thompson and Caleb B. Smith, of Indiana; and Woodbridge and Howard, of Michigan. Of the old nullifier element, Rives, Wise, Gilmer and Upshur drifted off to the opposite party under Tyler's leadership.


—Harrison's sudden death, and the accession of Tyler, were severe blows to the rising party, for they placed it temporarily under the feet of the remnants of its former allies, the nullifiers, just as it had begun to learn that it had a policy of its own which nullifiers could not support. But the whigs themselves, and particularly Clay, made the blow needlessly severe. Seeing here an opportunity to secure for himself an undisputed party dictatorship in a war on Tyler, he declared war and carried it on a l'outrance. Its bank details are elsewhere given. (See BANK CONTROVERSIES, IV.) In 1842, by the act of Aug. 30, the whigs secured a protective tariff, closely following that of 1832, but only after sacrificing a section continuing the distribution of land to the states (see INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS), because of which Tyler had vetoed the whole bill. In the elections of 1842 for the second congress of Tyler's term, the democrats obtained a two-thirds majority in the house, a result usually regarded as an infallible presage of the succeeding presidential election. And yet the whigs do not seem to have really been weakened. Their convention met at Baltimore, May 1, 1844, the first and last really representative convention of the party. For the presidency Clay was nominated by acclamation; and for the vice-presidency Theodore Frelinghuysen, then of New York city, was nominated on the third ballot. For the first time the party produced a platform, a model in its way, as follows: "that these [whig] principles may be summed up as comprising a well-regulated national currency; a tariff for revenue to defray the necessary expenses of the government, and discriminating with special reference to the protection of the domestic labor of the country; the distribution of the proceeds from the sales of the public lands; a single term for the presidency; a reform of executive usurpations; and generally such an administration of the affairs of the country as shall impart to every branch of the public service the greatest practicable efficiency, controlled by a well-regulated and wise economy." Even beyond the day of election the whigs were confident of success. But their original ally, Calhoun, had been for some years at work on a project which was, directly and indirectly, to dissolve the fragile bond which as yet united the northern and southern whigs, and made them a national party. It seems wrong to attribute the proposed annexation of Texas (see ANNEXATIONS, III.) entirely to a desire for extension of the slave area: it seems to have been a subsidiary object with southern democratic leaders to throw into politics a question which would cost Clay either his northern or his southern support, and the scheme was more successful even than they had hoped. The popular vote was nearly equal, and the electoral votes were 170 for Polk to 105 for Clay; but in the former were included the thirty-five votes of New York and the six votes of Michigan. In both these states the Polk electors were only successful because the abolitionists (see ABOLITION, II.) persisted in running a candidate of their own. Had their votes gone to Clay, as they would have done but for Calhoun's "Texas question" and Clay's trimming attitude upon it, Clay would have been president by 146 electoral votes to 129, and a very slight popular majority. What added bitterness to the disappointment was, that the democrats had taken a leaf from the whig book of 1840, by being protectionist in some states, and free trade in others; that Polk's majority of 699 in Louisiana was the fruit of about 1,000 unblushingly fraudulent votes in Plaquemines parish; that fraudulent voting and naturalization were charged upon the New York city democrats; and that Texas annexation had cost Clay the vote of all the southern states except Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. The consequent bitterness of feeling died away, except in one respect, the foreign vote and its almost solid opposition to the whigs. "Ireland has conquered the country which England lost," wrote one of Clay's correspondents after the election; and the permanence of this feeling did much to turn the whig party into the "native American," or "know-nothing" party of after years.


—The question of Texas annexation had not sufficed to destroy the bond between northern and southern whigs, for, while both opposed this and subsequent annexations, the former did so for fear of slavery extension, and the latter nominally on economic grounds, but really for fear of the introduction of the slavery question into politics. But the war with Mexico gave their opponents another opportunity, which they used. The act recognizing the existence of war with Mexico declared the war to have arisen "by the act of the republic of Mexico." The object was to force the whigs to vote against the war, a vote much more dangerous to a southern than to a northern whig, or else array the two elements of the party against one another. The whigs managed to evade it, however, most of them by refusing to vote, some senators by adding formal protests to their affirmative votes; and fourteen in the house and two in the senate (Thomas Clayton and John Davis) found courage to vote against the bill. During the war the whigs voted steadily for supplies to carry it on, on the principle that an American army had been thrust into danger and must be supported; so that the democrats made very little political capital out of it. Indeed, the next congress, which met in 1847, had a slight whig majority in the house, a strong indication of a whig success in the presidential election of 1848.


—But the "Wilmot proviso" (see that title) had been introduced, and it was to find at last the joint in the whig armor. As the effort to restrict slavery from admission to the new territories went on, it became more evident month by month that it would be supported by the mass of the northern whigs, and opposed by the mass of the southern whigs, and month by month the wedge was driven deeper. Men began to talk freely of a "reorganization of parties," but that could only affect the whigs, for their opponents were already running the advocates of the proviso out of their organization. As the presidential election of 1848 drew near, the nomination of Taylor, urged at first by mass meetings of men of all parties, became more essential to the whigs. The democrats, after banishing the proviso men, were sufficiently homogeneous to be able to defy the slavery question; no such step could be taken by the whigs, and they needed a candidate who could conceal their want of homogeneity. In the north Taylor's antipathy to the use of the veto power was a guarantee that he would not resist the proviso, if passed by congress; in the south he had the tact which enabled him to answer an inquiring holder of 100 slaves thus briefly and yet suggestively: "I have the honor to inform you that I, too, have been all my life industrious and frugal, and that the fruits thereof are mainly invested in slaves, of whom I own three hundred. Yours truly. Z. Taylor." And his nomination was pressed harder upon the whigs by his declared intention to remain in the field in any event, as a "people's candidate." Nevertheless, when the whig convention met at Philadelphia, June 7, 1848, though Taylor had 111 votes, Clay had 97, Scott 43, Webster 22, and 6 were scattering. It was not until the next day, on the fourth ballot, that Taylor was nominated by 171 votes to 107 for all others. Fillmore was nominated for the vice-presidency on the second ballot, by 173 to 101 for all others. Clay had thus received his discharge from party service, for he was now over seventy years of age, and evidently this was his last appearance before a whig convention. To Webster, also, though five years younger than Clay, the blow was severe, and he publicly declared Taylor's nomination one which was eminently unfit to be made; but he and the other northern whigs finally supported the nomination. Taylor carried all the middle and eastern states (except Maine and New Hampshire), and, in the south, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee, and was elected by 163 to 127 electoral votes. In both the north and the south he had also a plurality of the popular vote, the vote for Van Buren (see FREE-SOIL PARTY) preventing him from having a majority. But the election of Taylor was in itself deceptive. It was the result of democratic division in one state, New York, whose thirty-six votes would have elected Cass by an exact reversal of the electoral votes as above given. The division had really very little basis in principle, but was one of those contests between national and state party "machines" which have always been common in that state (see NEW YORK); but it sufficed to elect Taylor, and to give the whigs almost as many representatives in congress as their opponents.


—The meeting of the new congress in 1849 showed the first strong sign of whig dissolution. A half dozen southern whigs, headed by Toombs of Georgia, insisted on a formal condemnation of the proviso by the whig caucus; and when that body refused to consider the resolution, the Toombs faction refused to act further with the party. The loss was not large, but it was the opening which was very soon to be fatal. All through the session, which ended with the compromise of 1850 (see COMPROMISES, V.), the whole body of southern whigs exhibited a growing disposition to act together, even in opposition to the northern whigs, wherever the interests of slavery were brought into question. On the final votes, in August and September, 1850, it is practically impossible to distinguish southern whigs from southern democrats. Not that the northern whigs generally resorted to anything stronger than passive opposition: Thaddeus Stevens' suggestion, after the passage of the fugitive slave law, that the speaker should send a page into the lobby to inform the members there that they might return with safety, as the slavery question had been disposed of, lights up the whole line of policy of the northern whigs during 1850. They saw only that action of any kind must offend either their southern associates or their own constituents, and in either event ruin the party; and like the prudent man who foreseeth the evil and hideth himself, they took temporary refuge in refusal to act.


—Such a policy could not be permanent, and yet most of the northern whig leaders at first thought that they could at least make its advantages permanent; that they could retain their southern associates by acquiescing, however unwillingly, in the final decision, and their northern constituents by their unwillingness to indorse the decision itself. Taylor's death, in 1850, and Fillmore's accession, committed the northern whigs to the official policy of regarding the compromise of 1850 as a law, to be obeyed until repealed, and of opposing any attempt to repeal it as a reopening of the slavery excitement. Webster's speech of March 7, 1850, which is far oftener reviled than read, was really only the first declaration of this policy and one of the least objectionable. But the popular clamor which it excited was largely an indication that northern whig leaders were already out of sympathy with a large fraction of their constituents. In several northern states schisms opened at once, the most prominent instances being those between the "conscience whigs" and the "cotton whigs" in Massachusetts, and the "silver gray" or administration whigs, and the dominant Seward faction in New York. But the general spread of any such schism was not possible. No new leaders had been developed as yet to take the place of the old ones, who still held their hands on the party machinery; reflection, and the absence of further agitation, made the mass of northern whigs willing to retain their southern wing, if the events of 1850 could be tacitly treated as a past episode in the party history; and the first twenty months of Fillmore's administration went by with a great deal of murmur, but no open revolt. While there was no great disposition to excommunicate men like Seward and Giddings, who retained whig views on every subject outside of the slavery agitation, there was at least a disposition to relegate them to the limbo of "free-soilers" and disclaim responsibility for them.


—In the spring of 1852 the southern whigs again intervened to finally break up the party. For twenty years they had accepted a northern alliance mainly as a point of resistance to southern democracy, and they had now consorted with their old opponents long enough to have lost their abhorrence of them. As the presidential election of 1852 approached, they prepared an ultimatum for the northern whigs which they must have known meant either the division or the defeat of the party. At the whig caucus, April 20, 1852, to arrange for the national convention, a southern motion was made to recognize the compromise of 1850 as a "finality." The motion was evaded, as not within the powers of the meeting, but its introduction was ominous. Northern whigs were willing to yield to such a recognition, tacitly: to do so expressly would have hazarded their majority in every northern whig state. But, when the whig national convention met at Baltimore, June 16, the southern ultimatum was pressed again, and more successfully. The platform was in eight resolutions: 1, defining the federal government's powers as limited to those "expressly granted by the constitution"; 2, advocating the maintenance of both state and federal governments; 3, expressing the party's sympathy with "struggling freedom everywhere"; 4, calling on the people to obey the constitution and the laws "as they would retain their self-respect"; and 7, urging "respect to the authority" of the state as well as of the federal government. Of the remaining three, the fifth and sixth are the last economic declaration of the party, as follows: "5. Government should be conducted on principles of the strictest economy; and revenue sufficient for the expenses thereof ought to be derived mainly from a duty on imports, and not from direct taxes; and in laying such duties sound policy requires a just discrimination, and, when practicable, by specific duties, whereby suitable encouragement may be afforded to American industry, equally to all classes and to all portions of the country. 6. The constitution vests in congress the power to open and repair harbors, and remove obstructions from navigable rivers, whenever such improvements are necessary for the common defense, and for the protection and facility of commerce with foreign nations or among the states—said improvements being in every instance national and general in their character." The eighth and last was the southern ultimatum, as accepted and formulated by the recognized northern leaders, the words "in principle and substance" being interlined in the draft by Webster at the suggestion of Rufus Choate. "8. That the series of acts of the 32d congress, the act known as the fugitive slave law included, are received and acquiesced in by the whig party of the United States as a settlement in principle and substance of the dangerous and exciting questions which they embrace; and, as far as they are concerned, we will maintain them and insist upon their strict enforcement, until time and experience shall demonstrate the necessity of further legislation to guard against the evasion of the laws on the one hand and the abuse of their powers on the other—not impairing their present efficiency: and we deprecate all further agitation of the question thus settled, as dangerous to our peace, and will discountenance all efforts to continue or renew such agitation, whenever, wherever or however the attempt may be made; and we will maintain this system as essential to the nationality of the whig party and the integrity of the Union." This was the famous resolution that gave rise to the popular verdict upon the party, "died of an attempt to swallow the fugitive slave law." The other resolutions were adopted unanimously: this by a vote of 212 to 70, the latter all from northern whigs.


—Three candidates were before the convention. On the first ballot Fillmore had 133 votes, Scott 131, and Webster 29. On the second ballot, the votes for Fillmore and Scott were reversed, and from this point there was little change until, on the 53d ballot, Scott was nominated by 159 votes to 112 for Fillmore and 21 for Webster. Graham was then nominated on the second ballot for the vice-presidency. Scott's availability was much like that of Taylor, less the latter's popularity: his military services were great, and very little was known of his political opinions. But the whigs were beaten long before election day. In the north the eighth resolution cut deep into the whig vote, and it gained no votes in the south. For some unintelligible reason Scott had been the candidate of the anti-slavery vote in the convention, and he was believed to be much under the influence of Seward: the consequent refusals of southern whigs to vote made the popular vote in southern states noticeably smaller than in 1848. As a result of both influences the whigs carried but four states, Massachusetts and Vermont in the north, and Kentucky and Tennessee in the south, and even these by very narrow majorities. Scott and Graham were defeated; out 71 whigs were chosen out of 234 representatives in the next congress; 22 of these were southern whigs, most of whom, like A. H. Stephens, had publicly refused to support Scott in 1852, and were soon to be openly democrats; and the great whig party was a wreck. The country had no use for it: its economic doctrines were not a subject of present interest, and on the overmastering question of the extension of slavery it could neither speak nor keep silence without sealing its own fate.


—III. 1853-60. For the first few months of Pierce's term there was an unwonted quiet in politics. New men sought to build up a new party on the ruins of the whig organization by utilizing the old whig feeling against the foreign vote (see AMERICAN PARTY); and, as this promised a possible escape from the slavery question, the remnants of the whig party in 1856 indorsed the "American" nomination of Fillmore and Donelson, "without adopting or referring to the peculiar doctrines" of the party which had at first nominated him. But, by this time, most of the former northern whig vote had gone into the new republican party (see its name) under new leaders, while a large part of the former whig leaders had gone into the democratic party. Thus the former element gave the republican party its economic doctrines, while the latter lost all distinction as it changed its habitat. Still, the whig remnants lived on in a few northern states until 1857-8, when they were finally absorbed into the republican party. In 1860 the old whig element in the border states nominated Bell and Everett (see CONSTITUTIONAL UNION PARTY), and was still strong enough to dispute the southern states with the ultra democracy; but the outbreak of the rebellion dissipated this last trace of the once-powerful whig party.


—The history of the party nominally covers a quarter of a century, 1828-52, but it must be confessed that its real and distinct existence covers only about four years, 1842-6, and that its only real party action was its nomination of Clay in 1844, with the possible exception of Clay's nomination in 1831. During all the rest of its history the party was trading on borrowed capital, and its creditors held mortgages on all its conventions, which they were always prompt to foreclose. And yet it had its own office to perform, for in its members, rather than in its leaders, was preserved most of the nationalizing spirit of the United States. (See NATION, III.) In this sense, if we may not altogether accept the epitaph suggested by one of its leaders, that "the world was not worthy of it," we may at least believe that the nation was not ready for it.


—There is no good history of the whig party. Ormsby's History of the Whig Party gives so much space to events before 1824 that only the last 200 pages treat of events thereafter, and the treatment is itself of little value. Niles' Register, though a periodical, is about the best record of the party, though Wilson's Rise and Fall of the Slave Power is more convenient. The American Whig Review, published monthly 1844-52, will give the party's view of its own work; and 2 A. H. Stephens' War Between the States, 237, will give the inside history of the party's downfall. Its platforms in full may be found in Greeley's Political Text Book of 1860, 11-18. See also 2 von Holst's United States; North American Review, January, 1876 (W. G. Sumner's "Politics in America"); Wise's Seven Decades; 8-16 Benton's Debates of Congress; 2 Hammond's Political History of New York; Sargent's Public Men and Events; Clay's Works, Private Correspondence, and Colton's Life and Times of Clay; Webster's Works, Private Correspondence, and Curtis' Life of Webster; Adams' Memoir of John Quincy Adams; Everett's Orations and Speeches; Seward's Works; Coleman's Life of Crittenden; Tuckerman's Life of Kennedy; Prentiss' Memoir of S. S. Prentiss; Choate's Writings, and Parker's Reminiscences of Choate; Winthrop's Speeches and Addresses; Cleveland's A. H. Stephens in Public and Private; the series of biographies in the Whig Review; the antagonistic authorities under DEMOCRATIC PARTY; and authorities under articles referred to, particularly BANK CONTROVERSIES, III., IV.; DEPOSITS, REMOVAL OF; CENSURES; INDEPENDENT TREASURY; BROAD SEAL WAR; INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS; ABOLITION; COMPROMISES, V.; FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW; AMERICAN PARTY; REPUBLICAN PARTY.


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