The Whig Party was a political party active in the middle of the 19th century in the United States. Four US presidents belonged to the party while in office and it emerged in the 1830s as the immediate successor to the National Republican and Anti-Masonic Parties, and was also rooted in the tradition of the Federalist Party. Along with the rival Democratic Party, it was central to the Second Party System from the early 1840s to the mid-1860s and it originally formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson and his Democratic Party. In particular, the Whigs supported the supremacy of the US Congress over the Presidency and favored a program of modernization, banking and it appealed to entrepreneurs, planters, reformers and the emerging urban middle class, but had little appeal to farmers or unskilled workers. It included many active Protestants, and voiced a moralistic opposition to the Jacksonian Indian removal, Party founders chose the Whig name to echo the American Whigs of the 18th century who fought for independence. The underlying political philosophy of the American Whig Party was not directly related to the British Whig party, the Whig Party nominated several presidential candidates in 1836. General William Henry Harrison of Ohio was nominated in 1840, former Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky in 1844, another war hero, General Winfield Scott of New Jersey was the Whig Partys last presidential nominee, in 1852. In its two decades of existence, the Whig Party had two of its candidates, Harrison and Taylor, elected president, John Tyler succeeded to the presidency after Harrisons death in 1841, but was expelled from the party later that year. Millard Fillmore, who became president after Taylors death in 1850, was the last Whig president, the party fell apart because of the internal tension over the expansion of slavery to the territories. Most Whig Party leaders eventually quit politics or changed parties, the northern voter base mostly gravitated to the new Republican Party. In the South, most joined the Know Nothing Party, which unsuccessfully ran Fillmore in the 1856 presidential election, the Constitutional Union Party experienced significant success from conservative former Whigs in the Upper South during the 1860 presidential election. Whig ideology as a policy orientation persisted for decades and played a role in shaping the modernizing policies of the state governments during Reconstruction. The name Whig derived from a term that Patriots used to refer to themselves during the American Revolution and it indicated hostility to the British Sovereign, and despite the identical name, did not directly derive from the British Whig Party. The American Whigs were modernizers who saw President Andrew Jackson as a man on horseback with a reactionary opposition to the forces of social, economic. Casting their enemy as King Andrew, they sought to identify themselves as opponents of governmental overreaching. Despite the apparent unity of Jeffersons Democratic-Republicans from 1800 to 1824, as Jackson purged his opponents, vetoed internal improvements, and killed the Second Bank of the United States, alarmed local elites fought back. In 1831, Henry Clay re-entered the Senate and started planning a new party and he defended national rather than sectional interests. His Jacksonian opponents, however, distrusted the government and opposed all federal aid for internal improvements
Whig Party handbill for Clay–Frelinghuysen, 1844
An Available Candidate: The One Qualification for a Whig President—a political cartoon about the 1848 presidential election. It refers to Zachary Taylor or Winfield Scott, the two leading contenders for the Whig Party nomination in the aftermath of the Mexican–American War. Published by Nathaniel Currier in 1848, digitally restored.
Horace Greeley's New York Tribune—the leading Whig paper—endorsed Clay for President and Fillmore for Governor, 1844