“The Present Administration Are Your Best Recruiting Officers”

Michael F. Holt

in The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780195161045
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849635 | DOI:
“The Present Administration Are Your Best Recruiting Officers”

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One Massachusetts Whig lamented after Henry Clay's shocking defeat. His despair about the party's continued viability was widely shared. Many historians have accepted these Whig obituary notices as correct, if slightly premature. They have interpreted the reasons for Clay's loss as auguries of the Whig party's eventual death and as the beginning of that end. Supposedly, President James K. Polk's policies would greatly inflame tensions over slavery expansion and thus split the Whigs along sectional lines. Allegedly, Clay's defeat had also shown that the Whigs' economic platform was not popular enough either to bring them victory at the presidential election or to divert public attention from the fatal sectional issues. The appeal of Whig economic issues purportedly continued to deteriorate after 1844, thereby exposing the feebleness of Whig ideas and destroying the fealty voters paid the two-party system.

Keywords: Henry Clay; Whig party; James K. Polk; slavery; presidential election; two-party system

Chapter.  26854 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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