The Whig Party in Pennsylvania - Vol. 1

By Henry R. Mueller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE WHIG PARTY

THE Whig party, both in its national and in its state organizations, was peculiarly one of compromise and concession. Policies were announced, adhered to for a time, and, on the threat of internal opposition, modified and ultimately abandoned. While the shifting of parties on alleged principles is a common phenomenon of politics, yet possibly no party was ever so thoroughly committed to it as was the Whig. In a measure, it was inevitable that this should be so. Its great leader and idol, Henry Clay, had earned for himself, because of his compromising and compounding on the tariff issue in 1833, the title of "The Great Pacificator." A willingness to compromise on other issues marked his later career, culminating in the series of laws adopted in 1850, none of which definitively answered the questions which had been raised. With Clay and other leaders willing to abandon avowed principles and unwilling to adhere to definitely announced policies, the party wandering after the will-o'-the-wisp of immediate gain finally lost all.

The existence of the Whig party was not, however, with. out some advantage to the country. Its policy of political opportunism afforded ample time for the divergent sentiments in the sections to crystallize, showed the futility of efforts to compromise on fundamental principles, and proved the incompatibility of membership which was not founded on homogeneity. For, the accessions, which came to the Whig party as the result of its compromising, prevented

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