Whig Party

Zachary Taylor

The Whig Party was a political party of the United States during the era of Jacksonian democracy (1833 – 1856). The party was formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson and his Democratic Party to promote the strength of the presidency and executive branch at the expense of Congress.  The Whigs advocated the supremacy of Congress over the presidency, and favored a program of modernization and economic protectionism. In its two decades of existence, the Whig Party saw two of its candidates, William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor, elected president.

The party was ultimately destroyed by the question of whether to allow the expansion of slavery to the territories. The anti-slavery faction successfully prevented the renomination of own incumbent President Fillmore in the 1852 presidential election. The voter base defected to the Republican Party, various coalition parties in some states, and to the Democratic Party.

The name was chosen to echo the ‘American Whigs’ of 1776, the name that the colonists of the British Thirteen United Colonies, who rebelled against British control during the American Revolution, called themselves. The American Whigs took the whig moniker from the British Whig Party, who contested with the rival Tories from the 1680s to the 1850s. The original British iteration of the Whigs supported the supremacy of parliament over the monarch, free trade, Catholic emancipation, the abolition of slavery, and expansion of the franchise (suffrage).

‘Whig’ has become a widely recognized label of choice for people who see themselves as opposing tyranny.

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