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The Whig Party was a political faction primarily associated with the United Kingdom and the United States. Beginning in 1678, the Whig Party rose in opposition to monarchical absolutism, Catholicism and British associations with France. Much of the writings from the radical wing of the group eventually influenced early colonial revolutionaries. In 1833, in strong opposition to the growing power of the presidency, the Whig Party became a force in American politics as well.
In the United Kingdom, the party was the main rival to the other political faction, the Tories. While the organization began as a fairly minor association of aristocrats, it garnered major power over the British political world after the American Revolution. It fought for the interests of the early Industrial Revolution and the religious freedoms of the Protestants. Throughout the 19th century, the Whigs became synonymous with expanding the power of the Parliament, establishing free trade outside of the United Kingdom and social issues such as the abolition of slavery. Eventually, the party was incorporated into the Liberal Party with other free trade factions of the political spectrum and officially disbanded in 1868.
In reference to an early name of patriots during the American Revolution, the Whig Party of the United States was officially established in 1833. The political faction stood heavily against the actions of President Andrew Jackson's Democratic Party, which the Whigs viewed as seizing too much power for the executive branch. Prominent members included their leader Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, and a young Abraham Lincoln. The Whig Party took political stances that supported a strong legislative branch, modern industrial development and protectionism in trade policy.
During its period of power in the United States, the Whigs were represented by four different presidents. William Henry Harrison was elected in 1840 but died 32 days into office. He was succeeded by John Tyler, who held office until 1845. Zachary Taylor took office in 1849 and likewise died in 16 months, being replaced by Millard Fillmore.
The Whig Party became highly fractured in the 1850s when the question of slavery's expansion split the constituency. Within a single year, the deaths of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster left the party with a power vacuum. During the 1852 presidential election, the Whigs nominated Winfield Scott who lost the vote by a substantial margin to Franklin Pierce of the Democratic Party. By the 1856 election, the party was divided, with most of its leadership — including Abraham Lincoln — joining with the Republican Party. The remaining members regrouped for the 1860 campaign as the Constitutional Union Party, but was soon disbanded after a third place finish in the presidential election.
While the Whigs in both the United Kingdom and the United States ceased to exist in the late 1800s, the name of the party has been brought back a number of times. The Modern Whig Party was established in 2008 by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Supporting a membership of roughly 25,000 to 30,000 by 2009, the party began to run federal candidates on the ticket in the state of Florida. The Florida Whig Party continues to expand with each election.
@Soulfox -- I don't know about that. Keep in mind that we have two political parties in the United States and a lot of people are sick of both of them.
The time may be right for a viable third party to emerge. Why not the Whigs? If that party can catch people who fall between the cracks of the Democratic and Republican parties, them it might wind up being a political force one day.
Keep in mind that I don't think of myself as naive for saying that. I know the Libertarians (for example) have tried to draw in disaffected parties for years and have only been moderately successful. Still, you've got to believe the Republicans and Democrats won't be around in the United States forever. Could the Whigs replace one of those two parties? Maybe and maybe not.
The Whig party? In the 21st century? Will wonders never cease? I figured the Whigs vanished when the Republicans effectively replaced it as the second major political party in the United States.
While it is novel that the Whigs are (kind of) back in action, I just can't help but think that it is yet another third party that will get nowhere fast.