Why Was the Whig Party Formed?

The Whig Party was formed in 1834 to oppose what its members considered the heavy-handed and tyrannical presidency of Andrew Jackson and his Democratic Party. The name implied hostility to royalty.

Though the Whigs were a loose coalition united by their dislike of President Jackson, they had some powerful members such as Daniel Webster, William Henry Harrison and Henry Clay, and eventually they managed to have four men ascend to the presidency on their platform. After defeat in 1836, the Whigs ran war hero William Henry Harrison as their candidate in 1840, who defeated Martin Van Buren. Harrison died after 31 days in office, and John Tyler, another Whig, succeeded him. Because the Whigs opposed free trade and the expansionist policy known as manifest destiny, their candidate, Henry Clay, lost the presidential election of 1844. However, in 1848 they ran another military hero, Zachary Taylor, and won. When Taylor died in office in 1850, Millard Fillmore, the last Whig president, succeeded him.

The main controversy that tore apart the Whig Party was the issue of slavery. When the Whig party fractured over this issue, many prominent Whig leaders such as Abraham Lincoln left the party and later joined the newly formed Republican Party. By the presidential election of 1856, the Whig Party had ceased to exist as a major force in American politics.