Synopses & Reviews
The political home of Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Horace Greeley, and the young Abraham Lincoln, the American Whig Party was involved at every level of American politics--local, state, and federal--in the years before the Civil War, and controlled the White House for eight of the twenty-two years that it existed. Now, in The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party
, Michael F. Holt gives us the only comprehensive history of the Whigs ever written--a monumental history covering in rich detail the American political landscape from the Age of Jackson to impending disunion.
In Michael Holt's hands, the history of the Whig Party becomes a political history of the United States during the tumultuous Antebellum period. He offers a panoramic account of a time when a welter of parties (Whig, Democratic, Anti-Mason, Know Nothing, Free Soil, Republican) and many extraordinary political statesmen (including Andrew Jackson, John C. Calhoun, William Seward, Daniel Webster, Martin Van Buren, and Henry Clay) struggled to control the national agenda as the U.S. inched towards secession. It was an era when Americans were passionately involved in politics, when local concerns drove national policy, and when momentous political events rocked the country, including the Nullification Controversy, the Panic of 1837, the Annexation of Texas, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Holt captures all of this as he shows that, amid this contentious political activity, the Whig Party continuously strove to unite North and South, repeatedly trying to find a compromise position. Indeed, the Whig Party emerges as the nation's last great hope to prevent secession and civil war.
The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party is a magisterial work of history, one that has already been hailed by William Gienapp of Harvard as "one of the most important books on nineteenth-century politics ever written."
"Holt's history of the Whigs, the fruit of many long hard years of research and writing, is an important work."--American Historical Review, December 2000
"The Rise and Fall of the Whig Party is a magesterial work, one that cannot be neglected by nineteenth-century historians even if their particular emphasis is not political history. While it is intended to be the history of a political party, it has something worthwhile to say about almost every major issue in United States history from the nullification controversy of 1832 to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854."--Civil War History, March 2000
"Michael Holt's long-awaited magnum opus combines massive archival research and sophisticated analysis of election returns with judicious interpretations. Defying current academic fashions, this book displays not only the author's perseverance but his intellectual courage." --Daniel Walker Howe, Rhodes Professor of American History, Oxford University
"In its short life the Whig party helped shape the political and economic institutions of the antebellum United States. And the party's death in the mid-1850's was both effect and cause of the political breakdown that led to secession and Civil War. Michael Holt tells this story in more detail and with deeper insight than any other historian. The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party will instantly become an indispensable reference work on antebellum political history."--James McPherson, Princeton University
"Mike Holt's history of the Whig Party is magisterial.... This massive book will have a thunderous impact on scholarship and on the understanding of the American past." --William J. Cooper, Jr., Louisiana State University
Here, Michael F. Holt gives us the only comprehensive history of the Whigs ever written. He offers a panoramic account of the tumultuous antebellum period, a time when a flurry of parties and larger-than-life politicians--Andrew Jackson, John C. Calhoun, Martin Van Buren, and Henry Clay--struggled for control as the U.S. inched towards secession. It was an era when Americans were passionately involved in politics, when local concerns drove national policy, and when momentous political events--like the Annexation of Texas and the Kansas-Nebraska Act--rocked the country. Amid this contentious political activity, the Whig Party continuously strove to unite North and South, emerging as the nation's last great hope to prevent secession.
About the Author
Michael F. Holt
is Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History and Chair of the History Department at the University of Virginia. A leading authority on nineteenth-century American politics, he has been a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and of the National Humanites Center, and in 1993-94, he was the Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at Cambridge University. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Table of Contents
1. "Not Fitted to Make Converts"
2. "To Rescue the Government and Public Library"
3. "No Opposition Man Can Be Elected President"
4. "We Have Many Recruits in Our Ranks from the Pressure of the Times"
5. "Harrison and Prosperity or Van Buren and Ruin"
6. "The Whig Party Seems Now Totally Broken Up and Dismembered"
7. "The Whigs Are in High Spirits"
8. "The Present Administration Are Your Best Recruiting Officers"
9. "The Contest for President Should Be Regarded as a Contest of Principles"
10. "We Must Have the Aid of Gunpowder"
11. "Stimulate Every Whig to Turn Out"
12. "Many Discordant Political Interests to Reconcile"
13. "Patronage Is a Dangerous Element of Power"
14. "The Slavery Excitement Seems Likely to Obliterate Party Lines"
15. "The Long Agony Is Over"
16. "God Save Us from Whig Vice Presidents"
17. "Fillmore...Is Precisely the Man for the Occasion"
18. "Webster Is Now Engaged in Strenuous Efforts to Secure the Succession"
19. "Scott and Scott Alone Is the Man for the Emergency"
20. "Like Pissing Against the Wind"
21. "Now Is the Time to Start New; the Old Issues Are Gone"
22. "This Nebraska Business Will Entirely Denationalize the Whig Party"
23. "The Whig Party, as a Party, Are Entirely Disbanded"
24. "Confusion Worse Confounded"
25. "Let, Then, the Whig Party Pass"
26. "The Whig Party Is Dead and Buried"
Abbreviations Used in Notes