The Crystallization of a
THE ELECTION OF 1844 WAS A SAD BLOW FOR THE Whig party, both in New York State and in the nation at large. It meant the predominance of Democratic policies at Washington— the annexation of Texas, permanent establishment of the Sub‐ Treasury and, worst of all in Greeley's eyes, the lowered (Walker) tariff of 1846. In the state, where Silas Wright had beaten Fillmore by over 10,000 votes, the Whigs were left a prey to gloom and factional fights. Bitter quarrels over nativism and abolitionism rent the air; the Courier and the Express were snarling at Greeley's radicalism; the ardent friends of Henry Clay declared that during the campaign just passed Seward and Weed had knifed the Old Prince; there was even talk of applying a liberal coat of tar and feathers to the Albany Dictator. Prospects for an advance toward felicity under Whig guidance were not exactly encouraging, and Thurlow Weed's leadership of the Whig party in New York State trembled in the balance.
Weed was thoroughly aware of the difficulties of the Whig situation and cast about for a remedy. As skillful in assaying the trends of public opinion as he was in making political adjustments, he had a clear perception of the driving force of reform. He was convinced, particularly after the 1844 defeat, that salvation for the party lay in a championship of change and improvement, a program mild enough not to alienate most conservatives, but at the same time courageous enough to rally a respectable portion of the masses into the Whig camp. Cautiously he began to orient Whig policies in the general direction of reform.
With particular reference to state politics, Weed maintained and developed his pro-Irish, antinativist attitude, professed sympathy