“The Contest for President Should Be Regarded as a Contest of Principles”

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 Contest for President Should Be Regarded as a Contest of Principles”

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Many historians have echoed Thomas Dorr's charge that the Whig party's nomination of Zachary Taylor in 1848 was an act of desperation, a confession that they could not win on issues. By January 1848, Whig leaders, having squabbled about their nominee for three years, remained far from a consensus. By then most southern Whigs, like northern Whigs from strongly Democratic states, enthusiastically backed Taylor. Despising the war in which he gained fame, many Whigs, however, vehemently opposed him. Others adamantly rejected Taylor because they demanded a committed advocate of Whig programs. They objected to a candidate who, in Dorr's words, “has not made up his mind on any of the great questions of principle and policy that have so long divided the country”. Only days after Dorr wrote this, Rhode Island's Whigs officially endorsed Henry Clay for the nomination explicitly because he embodied Whig principles.

Keywords: Thomas Dorr; Whig party; nomination; Zachary Taylor; Rhode Island; Henry Clay

Chapter.  14100 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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