Cover image for The rise and fall of the American Whig Party : Jacksonian politics and the onset of the Civil War
The rise and fall of the American Whig Party : Jacksonian politics and the onset of the Civil War
Holt, Michael F. (Michael Fitzgibbon)
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xviii, 1248 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1600 Lexile.
Corporate Subject:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
JK2331 .H63 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
JK2331 .H63 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
JK2331 .H63 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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The political home of Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Horace Greeley, and the young Abraham Lincoln, the American Whig Party was involved at every level of American politics--local, state, and federal--in the years before the Civil War, and controlled the White House for eight of the twenty-twoyears that it existed. Now, in The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, Michael F. Holt gives us the only comprehensive history of the Whigs ever written--a monumental history covering in rich detail the American political landscape from the Age of Jackson to impending disunion. In Michael Holt's hands, the history of the Whig Party becomes a political history of the United States during the tumultuous Antebellum period. He offers a panoramic account of a time when a welter of parties (Whig, Democratic, Anti-Mason, Know Nothing, Free Soil, Republican) and manyextraordinary political statesmen (including Andrew Jackson, John C. Calhoun, William Seward, Daniel Webster, Martin Van Buren, and Henry Clay) struggled to control the national agenda as the U.S. inched towards secession. It was an era when Americans were passionately involved in politics, whenlocal concerns drove national policy, and when momentous political events rocked the country, including the Nullification Controversy, the Panic of 1837, the Annexation of Texas, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Holt captures all of this as he shows that, amid this contentiouspolitical activity, the Whig Party continuously strove to unite North and South, repeatedly trying to find a compromise position. Indeed, the Whig Party emerges as the nation's last great hope to prevent secession and civil war. The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party is a magisterial work of history, one that has already been hailed by William Gienapp of Harvard as as "one of the most important books on nineteenth-century politics ever written."

Author Notes

Michael F. Holt, a leading authority on nineteenth-century American politics, is Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History at the University of Virginia

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

In 1834, opponents of Andrew Jackson organized the Whig Party. In all, four Whigs sat in the White HouseÄHarrison, Tyler, Taylor, and FillmoreÄwhile leaders such as Henry Clay and Daniel Webster failed to capture that prize, contending with Democrats over tariffs, banks, internal improvements, territorial expansion, and, ultimately, slavery until the party's demise in the 1850s. The University of Virginia's Holt, author of Political Parties and American Political Development (LJ 6/1/92), details how great national issues intersected with lesser matters like control of patronage and the ambitions of persons and factions as well as with local and state-level concerns to shape the history of the Whigs. Although only dedicated readers will complete the trek through these 1000 dense pages, this book caps the career of a prominent political historian and will long be a staple for academic library collections in history and political science.ÄRobert F. Nardini, North Chichester, NH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In this long-awaited study of the American Whigs, Holt (Univ. of Virginia) presents the results of some two decades of inquiry into the party home of Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and Abraham Lincoln. Emphasizing the dynamics of intraparty as well as interparty competition, the political structures of federalism, and his rather familiar arguments about the relationship between the collapse of the Second Party System and the coming of the American Civil War, Holt's narrative reflects something of a return to old-fashioned political history. The work is lightly seasoned by an awareness of the innovations offered by literature on voting behavior and ideology, less so by attention paid to policy and governance or the party's legacy for the American political tradition. Steeped in extensive archival research, this detailed recounting of the policies and practices of Whig politicos and the party's achievements, shortcomings, and eventual demise will long stand as definitive. A magnificent resource for scholars, Holt's weighty tome will prove essential reading for political historians, although it may tax the patience of the more casual reader. Graduate, faculty. B. D. Simpson Arizona State University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
1 "Not Fitted to Make Converts"p. 1
2 "To Rescue the Government and Public Liberty"p. 19
3 "No Opposition Man Can Be Elected President"p. 33
4 "We Have Many Recruits in Our Ranks from the Pressure of the Times"p. 60
5 "Harrison and Prosperity or Van Buren and Ruin"p. 89
6 "The Whig Party Seems Now Totally Broken Up and Dismembered"p. 122
7 "The Whigs Are in High Spirits"p. 162
8 "The Present Administration Are Your Best Recruiting Officers"p. 208
9 "The Contest for President Should Be Regarded as a Contest of Principles"p. 259
10 "We Must Have the Aid of Gunpowder"p. 284
11 "Stimulate Every Whig to Turn Out"p. 331
12 "Many Discordant Political Interests to Reconcile"p. 383
13 "Patronage Is a Dangerous Element of Power"p. 414
14 "The Slavery Excitement Seems Likely to Obliterate Party Lines"p. 459
15 "The Long Agony Is Over"p. 521
16 "God Save Us from Whig Vice Presidents"p. 553
17 "Fillmore ... Is Precisely the Man for the Occasion"p. 598
18 "Webster Is Now Engaged in Strenuous Efforts to Secure the Succession"p. 635
19 "Scott & Scott Alone Is the Man for the Emergency"p. 673
20 "Like Pissing Against the Wind"p. 726
21 "Now Is the Time to Start New; the Old Issues Are Gone"p. 765
22 "This Nebraska Business Will Entirely Denationalize the Whig Party"p. 804
23 "The Whig Party, as a Party, Are Entirely Disbanded"p. 836
24 "Confusion Worse Confounded"p. 879
25 "Let, Then, the Whig Party Pass"p. 909
26 "The Whig Party Is Dead and Buried"p. 951
Notesp. 987
Abbreviations Used in Notesp. 1179
Bibliographyp. 1181
Indexp. 1203