The American Whigs: An Anthology

By Daniel Walker Howe | Go to book overview

4
WHIG IMAGE-MAKING

Calvin Colton


DEMOCRACY

Calvin Colton ( 1789-1857) was one of the leading propagandists and theoreticians of the Whig party. He wrote on a wide variety of subjects, defending the state of American civilization against the sneers of Europeans, yet criticizing his fellow countrymen for their treatment of the Indians. A Presbyterian minister who became disillusioned with religious revivalism and converted to the antirevival Episcopal church, Colton always remained deeply concerned with the social implications of various religious positions. He was devoted to Henry Clay, editing his speeches for posterity and preparing a eulogistic biography that cast the great Kentuckian as a folk hero. In the last years of his life he taught economics and produced an elaborate defense of the protective tariff.

Like the preceding selection, this one is taken from a Whig campaign tract of 1844. Colton reminds his readers that four years earlier the Whigs had gained victory by depicting William Henry Harrison as a "log cabin" and "hard cider" candidate. Actually Harrison lived in a comfortable house, had enjoyed a classical education (displayed in his inaugural address), and was by no means an uncouth backwoodsman. But Colton understood the arts of Political persuasion and was sensitive to what he called the "poetry of symbols."


A STORY

A Member of the House of Representatives, in Congress, a friend of Mr. Van Buren, met a Whig Senator in a steamboat in the early part of the Presidential campaign of 1840, when the former said to the latter, "Your Log Cabin and Hard Cider is no go. We shall beat you.""How so?" asked the Senator. "Mr. Van Buren," answered the Member, "relies upon the words Democracy -- Democrat -- and Democratic. We

SOURCE. [ Calvin Colton,] Democracy. Number VI of The "Junius" Tracts. ( New York, 1844).

-89-

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