At first glance, a general seemed to be a strange choice for the Whigs. In fact, the popular backlash they stirred against Democratic President James K. Polk was so great that the Whigs seized control of Congress during the midterm election. In the letters he wrote, he invoked Whig doctrine, justifying a passive president who deferred to the people and the Congress.
The territory the U.
Both parties each awkwardly uniting Northerners who disliked slavery with Southern slaveholders had reason to seek safe candidates that year. Still, many Whig loyalists mistrusted Taylor. He was crude, nonpartisan, unpresidential. By the spring of , now hungering for the nomination, Taylor tried mollifying these partisans. He professed his party loyalty in a ghostwritten letter that his brother-in-law John Allison knew to leak to the public. With Polk respecting his promise to serve only one term, at their convention in May the divided Democrats settled on General Lewis Cass, a former congressman, secretary of war and senator.
On the first ballot, Taylor won 76 percent of the Southern vote, but 85 percent of the Northern delegates opposed him. On the fourth ballot, Taylor secured the nomination, beating Clay, Scott and Webster. Taylor claimed he won on his own nonpartisan terms, without any promises. But the sectional animosity this outsider stirred was discouraging, especially since he was supposed to be capable of uniting the party and the nation. The nomination left many other Whigs dissatisfied. The party had not even drafted a platform for this undefined, unqualified leader.
Harrison won the electoral college vote easily, but the popular vote was very close. The Whigs had won with electoral votes, compared with 60 for the Democrats. But Harrison only took the popular vote by about , votes. His vice president, John Tyler, did not fare well with the Whigs since he was a former Democrat. Tyler quickly antagonized his new party, and the Whigs eventually expelled him from their party while he was still President.
Polk won the Electoral College by taking New York, but he only led Clay in the national popular vote by 40, votes. But cracks started to appear in the Whig coalition over the issues of territorial expansion and slavery. Four years later, the Whigs were able to get a second candidate elected as President. Zachary Taylor, the Whig presidential candidate, was a slave owner and a popular figure after the Mexican-American War.
Milliard Fillmore balanced the ticket as a known, anti-slavery Northerner; he was promoted by New York state political power broker Thurlow Weed, a former Anti-Mason. Though intended for the teacher, all or part of the following background information may be useful for some students. The Democrats felt, despite hard times, that the issues were on their side. They published a fairly specific platform, the first document of its kind from a major national party.
But the Whigs controlled the direction of the campaign. According to Van Deusen : "Hard times and falling prices for wheat and cotton played a large part in the contest, but the main issue presented to the people was a manufactured one. The Whigs did not publish a platform—not surprisingly, as the practice was not yet an obligatory part of the nominating process.
In fact, the Democratic platform was the first of its kind from a major party. But Van Deusen ascribes a different reason to the lack of a platform : "With an eye to the … need for stressing different aims in different sections of the country, the convention agreed that it would be better not to have a platform and none was drafted.
Whatever the reason, no Whig position statement came out of the nominating convention.
Whether or not issues were important to the campaign is a question on which students can reflect as they analyze campaign documents. Whether largely based on issues or image, the campaign saw both parties using traditional organizing on a national scale, combined—especially in the case of the Whigs—with a style of campaigning that was new or on a much grander scale. Arthur M.
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Schlesinger, Jr. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, William Henry Harrison spoke in public-unprecedented for a candidate for president. On at least one occasion, he addressed the accusation that he and, by implication, his party took no stand on the issues. He vehemently denied this in a speech in Dayton, Ohio, on September 10, In this lesson, students can also look at an annotated version of an excerpt from the speech to evaluate Harrison's defense.
Rise of the Whigs | US History I (AY Collection)
Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts. Analyze change and continuity in historical eras. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to assess how the significance of their actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context. Use questions generated about multiple historical sources to pursue further inquiry and investigate additional sources.
Analyze multiple and complex causes and effects of events in the past. Distinguish between long-term causes and triggering events in developing a historical argument. Integrate evidence from multiple relevant historical sources and interpretations into a reasoned argument about the past. Ask each group to select one particularly compelling document of those they reviewed and share it with the class. What strategies are used in the document to communicate a message?
In what way, if at all, does the document communicate information about issues? Which issues are referred to in the document?
In what way, if at all, does the document communicate an image? What image of the candidate do the pro-documents attempt to communicate? What image of the candidate do the anti-documents attempt to communicate? Which documents do students believe would have been particularly effective? Particularly ineffective?
The issues listed on the chart are, as follows:. If students are unfamiliar with any of these, review them as necessary using the class text or another source. Time permitting, allow for discussion of the differences between the two sets of secondary accounts.
Students who have read the secondary accounts of the rival parties should be able to respond effectively to the following short essay questions, appropriate for a test:. Skip to main content.