Chapter

“Patronage Is a Dangerous Element of Power”

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: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195161045.003.0013
“Patronage Is a Dangerous Element of Power”

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John M. Clayton outlined the central agenda of Zachary Taylor's presidency, a term that can best be understood in two phases. The sixty-four-year-old president and his men attempted to transform the Whig party into a broader and more inclusive organization. From its inception, this foolish and utopian initiative provoked angry resistance from most Whigs. The administration's inept patronage policies bitterly divided Whigs against each other and contributed to a truly dismal performance in the crucial state and congressional elections of 1849, thereby neutralizing the solid successes of 1848. By the time Congress assembled in December, the new party initiative had utterly failed, thereby jeopardizing the administration's far more sensible policy proposals. For the remainder of his presidency, therefore, Taylor and the Whig party suffered the consequences of this abortive, fractious, and misguided foray into party building. The party itself never fully recovered from Zachary Taylor's first nine months in the White House.

Keywords: John M. Clayton; Zachary Taylor; presidency; Whig party; patronage policies; Congress; elections; White House

Chapter.  24865 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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