Capitol Musings, A Blog by Gilda Caudron

"Capitol Musings" A Blog by Gilda Caudron

The American Whig Party

 All Americans have heard of the Republican Party and the Democrat Party. Many of us are familiar with other high-profile political groups such as the Libertarians and  the Green Party, for instance. 

 There are also some parties you might have heard of because they have state representation, including the Vermont Progressive Party, the Working Families Party and the Independence Party of New York. 

 As of now there are 39 plus small parties, not counting regional parties, that many of us have never heard of including such groups as the Constitution Party, the Justice Party, the Black Riders Liberation Party, the Objectivist Party, the United States Pirate Party and the Modern Whig Party. 

The last named, the Modern Whig Party, is one of the most interesting since this is a modern reboot of the original American Whig Party established in 1834 and based on the British Party that opposed Royal tyranny. 

The American Whigs opposed “King Andrew” otherwise known as President Andrew Jackson. They also supported strong Federalism while also endorsing States Rights and included among their ranks such luminaries as Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln. 

Surprisingly, one of the bonds that held them together was a strong anti-Masonic stance that only 41 years previously had seen George Washington lay the cornerstone of the US Capitol in full Masonic regalia. It has been reported that the General Washington's staff during the revolution resembled a Masonic convention. 

Without a doubt the Masons played a crucial role in American revolution and the formation of the new Republic. By 1800 there were 347 Masonic lodges in the United States and several US Presidents including Andrew Jackson, the bugbear of the Whigs, were Masons. 

 But by 1834 a political party had been formed to stop, among other things, the spreading influence and domination of the Masons. The Masons had literally made their mark on everything in Washington, D.C. There were obvious and not so obvious marks of Freemasonry all throughout the city, especially in the architecture and construction of the city that announced to those sufficiently versed in their history that the Masons were in charge.  

But as with all Secret Societies the very fact that it was a Secret Society fostered beliefs that something untoward was happening within its circles that excluded the ordinary person and was therefore something to be feared, a belief that is not without justification. 

In 1820 a Mason named William Morgan was last seen being forced into a carriage by four men reputed to be fellow Masons. When a body washed up later on the shores of Lake Ontario it was originally claimed to be that of the unfortunate man but as the body was badly decomposed it was difficult to say for sure, despite his wife's claims. 

 Rumors abounded that Morgan had been executed by his fellow Masons for the heinous crime of revealing Masonic secrets that were punishable by death in his all-revealing tome,  Illustrations of Masonry, by One of the Fraternity Who Has Devoted Thirty Years to the Subject.  The Freemasons had attempted to stop publication without avail and so it was that the disappearance of  Morgan became a subject of speculation that continues to intrigue.
Some claimed Morgan had been murdered, others said he had been paid to disappear while still others said he had been kidnapped, whereabouts unknown. Whatever the circumstances of his disappearance the fact remains that he was never seen or heard from again. 

This was the beginning of the end of the enormous influence of the Freemasons in the 19th century. At least in its outward and most visible form The ensuing public outcry resulted in the non-election of many Masons who stood for public office. The resultant formation of the Whig Party was another manifestation of the public mistrust of the Freemasons. 

No longer seen as the liberators of Colonial America from its chains to the Mother Country, it was now viewed with suspicion, a suspicion that has never really gone away even in the 21st century. 

As for the Whig Party it stumbled along with a diverse membership of disgruntled members culled from other factions until it finally coalesced into creating a party platform that  delivered a winning Presidential candidate named William Henry Harrison, who unfortunately died within a year of being elected in 1841. Subsequent Whig Presidents included John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore. And you thought all Presidents were either Democrat or Republican! 

By this time the Ante-Bellum era was in full flower in the country. In the South it all moonlight, magnolias, cotton fields and plantations with the crack of the overseer's whip in the background. In the North the clang of machinery working overtime rent the air as the Industrial revolution got underway. In the South slaves toiled without hope of freedom, in the North machines did the hard work and although working conditions were terrible the workers could call themselves free men and women. 

The North looked to the South and saw the continued injustice of slavery which after the publication of the book Uncle Tom's Cabin could no longer be ignored. There were other national issues to be sure, but the effects of the contentious slavery issue tore the Whig Party to pieces. 

Their party platform, based on national improvements, crumbled as Northern Whigs gravitated to the newly-formed Republican party which proclaimed itself the Anti-Slavery Party.  Southern Whigs eagerly embraced the States-Rights platform of the Democrats. 

In 1856 the Whigs ran a presidential candidate for the last time and four short years after that the Civil War began. With the dissolution of the American Whig Party the  Democrats and Republicans have handled the levers of powers ever since, despite the plethora of smaller political parties clustered in their way. 

Yet there were those who found kinship with the ideals espoused by the original American Whig Party and it experienced a renaissance when The Modern Whig Party was formed in 2009 by members of the Armed Forces who had served in Afghanistan and  Iraq. 

Whether or not it will ever be able to regain its former prominence remains to be seen, but given the contentious political climate of today, who knows! Stranger things have happened!

For More Information

  • If you are interested in finding out more about the American Whig Party visit
  • To read more about the American Whig Party read: The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War by Michael F. Holt.

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