Historians have interpreted what the Whig party stood for in ways that are strikingly different, according to the History Channel's website. While some see them as champions for economic growth, banks, businesses and corporations, others see them as standing for humanitarian reform, a positive liberal state and morality in politics. The party formed primarily in opposition to the policies of Andrew Jackson.
According to About.com, the Whig party formed in 1834 and took its name from the British Whigs who stood in opposition to the king. The American Whigs had difficulty finding a candidate to unite them in 1836, finally settling upon William Henry Harrison but too late to defeat Martin Van Buren, Jackson's hand-picked successor. By the 1840 election, the Whigs had gathered strength, allowing Harrison to win the presidency. Harrison's death one month after his inauguration allowed Whig John Tyler to become president. The Whigs lost the White House in 1844 to James K. Polk, but the party retook it in 1848 with Zachary Taylor, who died 16 months later. As slavery became an important issue in U.S. politics, the Whigs started declining in 1852, and the party was gone by 1854. However, its influence continued through former members, including Abraham Lincoln.