What Did the Whigs Stand For?

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The American Whig party stood for an opposition to tyranny and domestic improvements; they were largely a coalition unified against the policies of Andrew Jackson. The American Whigs derived their name and attitude from a faction of the British parliament known for its liberal ideology and opposition to royal excesses. The Whigs were extremely varied in their political makeup.

The American Whigs formed in direct response to the presidency of Andrew Jackson. His administration marked the greatest instance of executive power at that point in the nation's history. Jackson wielded the veto in a revolutionary way, blocking any legislation he disagreed with instead of merely those bills that he considered unconstitutional. He also began a tradition of political patronage, awarding office to those who helped him achieve his policy objectives.

The Whigs detested the direction in which Jackson took the presidency. In general, Whigs favored states' rights and congressional supremacy over the presidency. They also took on a platform of modernization; their proposed infrastructure projects (roads and railways) greatly appealed to westerners, while their proprotection platform made them popular in the north.

Ultimately, it was this highly inclusive coalition structure that led to the downfall of the Whigs. Inner-party dissension regarding slavery divided and debilitated it. Most antislavery Whigs ended up joining the Republican party.