Skip to comments.Strange Stillbirth of the Whig Party
Posted on 12/29/2015 12:03:31 PM PST by LS
Every once in a while a scholar will write an absolutely pathbreaking article . . . then disappear. No books. No other articles. Sometimes they fail to get tenure, sometimes it's a health problem, sometimes they change research direction.
One of the most fascinating people I have come across is a historian named Lynn Marshall, who in 1967 wrote what I thought was one of the most profound articles ever---in the prestigious American Historical Review. He briefly taught at my school, the U. of California, Santa Barbara and word was (unverified) that he failed to get tenure.
Marshall produced no noteworthy books. But his 1967 article, "The Strange Stillbirth of the Whig Party," stuck with me and constantly informed my own writing. Today, some of its lessons seem profound.
Focusing on the Whig Party, created in 1832, Marshall argued that it didn't have a chance. The Whigs were formed as the "alternative" party to the Democrats (the name taken by Martin Van Buren and Andrew Jackson's party). To appreciate what that means, in my book 'Seven Events that Made America," I dedicate a chapter to Van Buren's formation of the Democrat Party specifically as an instrument to protect and preserve slavery. Every conservative really ought to understand the origins of the "Evil Party." It truly was evil. Anyway, Van Buren's idea was to bribe northerners (and the few anti-slave southerners) to maintain and perpetuate slavery through bribes known as government or party jobs. Organized top down along state, county, district, ward, precinct levels, the idea was to "get out the vote." At each level, the person who succeeded was rewarded with a promotion within the party or into state government. As you got higher, the promotions moved you into federal jobs. The Post Office was a biggie, larger at one point in Jackson's tenure than the Army.
But Jackson was an easy man to hate (and a good hater himself) and his enemies decided to form a party to oppose him. The problem was, Van Buren had already laid out the playing field. They either joined in the "spoils system" and patronage game, or lost. So the Whigs marched onto the Democrats' playing field and . . . well, lost. Except for two generals (Zachary Taylor and William Henry Harrison, both of whom died in office), the Whigs never won the presidency.
More to the point for us today: the Whigs never stood for ANYTHING except "like the Democrats, only not quite as much." They gave away goodies just as freely. But what did the Whigs in was not only that they were Democrat Lite, but that they refused to listen to the public clamor for change when it came to slavery. More than half the country opposed slavery, and perhaps as much as 1/3 were ardent abolitionists. Yet they had no real voice in government. Election after election, they either got a party dedicated to protecting slavery, or a party . . . complicit in protecting slavery. Thus, Marshall says, the Whigs were "stillborn." Not until the Republican Party of 1855 was there a genuine opposition party to the Democrats over the real issue that mattered.
Today we find ourselves in much the same status: two parties, hand in hand sitting at the dinner table while the fires rage outside, oblivious to the cries of the public to put out the fires.
The current GOP is exactly like the Whigs in 1850: no mission, no purpose, no point of opposition to the Democrats. They weren't stillborn, but they committed suicide along the way.
I usually abhor vanities.
This one was different, and on a topic worthy of reading.
Thanks foe posting it.
I find commentators beginning to propound both possibilities if Trump continues his meteoric rise in the polls and turns that into election victories (or pluralities that are almost victories).
In this regard, Trump's "policies" or "agenda" (both pretty amorphous at the moment) are essentially beside the point. He's a GOP-wrecker, not because of what he's for, but because of what he's against. He's attracting wide support in a disaffected electorate, not because of who he is (though he is entertaining!), but because of who he is not. Trump is the catalyst for wrecking things in the current GOP china shop.
I don't think conservatives like Cruz will ever have a chance in the current GOP. It's been a wet blanket that has smothered true conservatives since Reagan, and Reagan had lots of people in his own party throwing wet blankets on him and everything he tried to do.
Fallen Far they have...
The Republicans did such a good job of replacing the Whigs that they have become the Whigs.
Their only principle is to have no principles.
Their only strategy is preemptive surrender.
Their only plan for victory is to tick off their base as much as possible.
When Democrats are in charge, it’s as if the country is a car going off a cliff at 100 miles per hour. At least the Republicans drive the speed limit — but you’re still going off the cliff. What we need to do is to turn the car around.
If you start to think like a winner, you'll act like a winner, then pretty soon, you'll BE a winner. And if he only "wins" at 2-3 things like the Wall, a moratorium on Muslim immigration, national concealed carry---that would be ten thousand times what we've "won" at since 2001.
People say, "What about his views on eminent domain?" Well, I don't like 'em. But I haven't seen that as even remotely near his agenda. I happen to agree with most of his stated agenda---guns, taxes, trade, and security. If we get to the point where we disagree over things four years down the line, well, thank GOD. Because we will have made it four years down the line and lived to disagree about it.
The problem that the Republicans have is that the GOP establishment is as enamored of wielding power from Washington just like their Democrat counterparts. While they have talked about reducing Washington’s influence, they have done nothing to do so. And eventually there is a rift- because there has to be.
I agree, but with one, huge exception: they did achieve what they were formed to do initially, eliminate slavery. The thing is, the Dems have never changed. They have always been about slavery, one way or another.
LOL: “Eliminate them, we must.” (Yoda)
I think that they have been more consistently about the spoils system than slavery—though the two are closely related.
LORD help us ... we know not what we do!! Is anything too hard for GOD? NO!! Forgve us LORD we know not what we do, open our eyes, hearts, minds to see Thy will in Jesus name we pray, thank Thee for Thy grace, goodness, loving kindness, tender mercies, and our many daily blessings. Save America from our enemies. Heal our nation. Thank Thee for Thy WORD, plan of salvation, and forgiveness of our sins, when we have FAITH, and help us turn from our sins in FAITH and truth. Thank Thee Father! amen!
See Chris McDaniel as a case in point.
The Hatchling is out to get Mike Lee.
And all that agreed with that prayer said, “Amen.”
U B da MAN! of letters around here, at least for today (there are other FReepers who also are tied into academic pursuits/literature generation of merit/note).
If you can find it, get an article by Brown called “The Missouri Crisis, Slavery, and the Politics of Jacksonianism,” in South Atlantic Quarterly, 1966. Explains the modern day Dems better than anything.
What a fantastic contribution to this forum! Thank you!!
Great post. I think you could continue the analogy pretty far along if you substituted illegal immigration for slavery.
Please... Do you really think any large number of Northerners were “abolitionists?” They were simply anti-Southern.
But they got their wishes: just visit inner-cities Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, etc.
Yep. Many, many. Lewis Tappan, for example, had a large network in New York. They made up the bulk of the “Liberty” party. Don’t have a percentage, but it was far more than “anti-southern.”
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