British Whig Party


Whig, English political party. The name, originally a term of abuse first used for Scottish Presbyterians in the 17th cent., seems to have been a shortened form of whiggamor [cattle driver]. It was applied (c.1679) to the English opponents of the succession of the Roman Catholic duke of York (later James II), a group led by the 1st earl of Shaftesbury. The Glorious Revolution of 1688, in which the Whigs were joined by many Tories (see Tory), assured a Protestant succession and the constitutional supremacy of Parliament over the king. Political parties during the 18th cent. were essentially groups of factions allied on specific issues. After the accession of William III advocacy of a constitutional monarchy no longer distinguished the Whigs, and during the reign of Queen Anne they became identified increasingly with aristocratic large landholders and the wealthy merchant interests. Under George I and George II most governments were composed of those with aristocratic connections, loosely Whig. The disgrace of Anne's Tory ministers who negotiated for the return of James II on her death, and the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745 stigmatized the Tories as supporters of absolute monarchy, and the Whig ministries of Robert Walpole and Henry Pelham dominated the period. After the accession (1760) of George III there were at first no real issues around which parties could polarize, but a Whig party gradually emerged, united largely in opposition to William Pitt, under the leadership of Charles James Fox. This party became identified with dissent, industrial interests, and social and parliamentary reform, and also with the Prince Regent, later George IV. Whig ministries under the 2d Earl Grey and Lord Melbourne were in power from 1830 to 1841, passing the first parliamentary reform bill. After this the Whigs became a part of the rising Liberal party, in which they constituted the conservative element.

See B. Williams, The Whig Supremacy (2d ed. 1962).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

British Whig Party: Selected full-text books and articles

Walpole and the Whig Supremacy By H. T. Dickinson English Universities Press, 1973
The Whig Supremacy, 1714-1760 By Basil Williams Clarendon Press, 1962 (2nd edition)
Party Politics By Ivor Jennings Cambridge University Press, vol.2, 1960
Librarian's tip: Includes discussions of the British Whig Party throughout
Lords of Parliament: Studies, 1714-1914 By R. W. Davis Stanford University, 1995
Librarian's tip: Includes discussion of the British Whig Party in multiple chapters
Beyond Liberty and Property: The Process of Self-Recognition in Eighteenth-Century Political Thought By J. A. W. Gunn McGill-Queen's University Press, 1983
Librarian's tip: Chap. III "Mandeville: Poverty, Luxury, and the Whig Theory of Government"
`It's Over' the Demise of Conservatism By Laymon, Richard History Review, September 1999
Walpole By John Morley Macmillan and Co., 1928
FREE! A History of Modern England By Herbert Paul Macmillan Company, vol.1, 1904
Librarian's tip: Chap. I "The Last Whig Government"
Georgian Oxford: University Politics in the Eighteenth Century By W. R. Ward Clarendon Press, 1958
Librarian's tip: Chap. IX "A New Whig Connexion"
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