The American Whig party was a US political party that existed from 1833-1856. During its time it served as one of the two main political parties along with the rival Democratic Party and ultimately had two of its candidates elected to the presidency. This post discusses the electoral vote totals of the Whig party during its existence.
The Whigs initially formed as a coalition of separate groups united in their displeasure of President Andrew Jackson’s policies (including the infamous Trail of Tears). They combined members from the Anti-Masonic, National Republicans and states rights minded Democrats. Some of the most prominent members included Henry Clay and Daniel Webster who helped to shape the party.
In their first election in 1836 the Whigs attempted a strategy of running three different candidates to deny Jackson’s hand picked successor (Martin Van Buren) an electoral victory and have the House of Representatives decide the race. This strategy failed, though the Whigs had a promising showing.
Electoral Vote Totals of the Whig Party by Year
They won their first successful campaign with William Henry Harrison winning the 1840 election. Harrison famously died shortly into his term, and was succeeded by John Tyler. Tyler, a former Democratic Party member only placed on the ticket to appease a segment of Whig voters, proved to be detrimental to Whig policies. The Whigs actually renounced him as a party member midway through the rest of his term.
After Henry Clay was narrowly defeated in 1844, the Whigs decided to run Zachary Taylor in the 1848 election. Taylor was an interesting choice as he was an outsider to the Whigs. A decorated war hero, Taylor was extremely popular though never committed to Whig principles. Instead he pushed a populist narrative that resonated with voters.
Though Taylor won the election, his nomination was the beginning of the end of the Whig party. For many the issue of slavery and its spread was the primary political issue of the day. The Whigs (and Democrats) toed the line on this issue considering they each had supporters on either side. As Taylor was a slave holder, the abolitionist Whig members immediately left to create their own party (Free Soil Party).
The issue of slavery continued to fracture the Whig party in the 1950s. They ran former general Winfield Scott in 1852, but he lost in a landslide. The Compromise of 1850 and Kansas Nebraska Act in 1854 ultimately spelled the party’s doom. Making slavery a national issue, the anti-slavery northern members moved on the create the Republican Party.
Though the Whig party ceased to function after 1856, its principles remained in discussion for many years. The failure to adapt to major national issues led the party to eventually be replaced.
Source: 270 to Win