There is a rich history behind the term Whig. This history involves the fight for freedom against tyranny, and for a government of the people, by the people, for the people. For more than four hundred years, the name Whig has stood for representative government, liberty, socio-economic improvements, modernization, public education, a strong legislative branch, and cooperation between the private and public sectors. Historically, Whigs have believed that in order for any country to thrive, the citizenry must be represented in a form of a democratic republic.
As Henry Clay, one of the founders of the American Whig Party, stated, “Government is a trust, and the officers of the government are trustees. And both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people.”
At the start of the 21st century, government has grown to exercise tremendous power over the American people. Congress passes bills without even reading them, while presidents go to war without popular consent. Yet, less than half of the electorate votes in elections, while lobbyists and special interests line the pockets of politicians who do their bidding at the expense of the common good.
Despite the sometimes overwhelming sense that little can be done to change direction, in 2009 the Whig Party came out of a long hibernation to restore the power to the people and to put and end to the clearly dysfunctional two-party system.
The name Whig first appeared in Scotland. It was used to describe the Scotts who fought against the British Crown in a raid called the Whiggamore Raid during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (1639-1651). These Whigs were a group of people from western Scotland who opposed King Charles I of England in 1648. It was also used to refer to a radical faction of the Scottish Covenanters who called themselves the Kirk Party.
In the late 1600s, the British Whigs were born in opposition of the succession of the Catholic King James II to the throne. From this opposition, Whiggery, as it is referred to, was born. Whiggery was a philosophy which saw political authority as stemming from the people. This philosophy is based on on the idea that there is a contract existing between the people and the King and if the King overrode their interest, they might rightfully resist. These Whig principles played a key role in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in Great Britain.
Whiggery flourished in the British colonies on the New World in the years following the Glorious Revolution. Initially, this philosophy claimed that the colonists had the same rights as all English citizens, including the right to be represented in the British Parliament. After long being denied such rights, American Whigs opted for independence from England and became the group of people whom today we call the Founding Fathers.
In the late 1700's, radical writings were circulated throughout England. These writings sought political, social and economic reforms in Great Britain. Some of the more radical elements sought republicanism, the abolition of titles, equal rights, frequent elections, economic freedom and freedom of the press. The term "radical" means getting to the root of the problem and making fundamental changes. The supporters of this approach, who were mainly from the middle classes, became known as the Radical Whigs. The Radical Whigs had a great influence on the American and the French Revolutions. Some of these Radical Whigs included philosophers such as John Locke, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, Thomas Paine and David Hume.
The writings of the Radical Whigs played a significant role in the development of the American Revolution. Their writings were widely read by the North American colonists. As the English Crown denied the colonists equal rights as Englishmen (including the right to be represented in the English Parliament), and imposed an onerous tax system, the colonists decided to break away from the Kingdom of Great Britain to form an independent country where the government was by the people and for the people.
When the American Revolution started, the word Whig was first used to refer to any American patriot who supported independence. These patriot Whigs were the leading figures who, in July 1776, declared the United States of America an independent nation. They are also known as the Founding Fathers: John Adams, John Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, Paul Revere, Nathanael Greene, Nathan Hale, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
One of the most sacred documents of the United States of America, The Declaration of Independence, has many Radical Whig ideas inscribed within it.
In the early 1830s, the term Whig and Whiggery was revived by political opponents of the Democratic President Andrew Jackson. Many of these opponents were against Jackson's policies, which sought to grow executive powers and administer the spoils system by which government officials were appointed solely on their loyalty to the party instead of their qualifications or merit. As a result, opposition to Jackson's policies helped create the first fully organized party system, which consisted of Jackson's loyalists, the Democrats, and his adversaries, the Whigs.
The Democratic Party at that time was a strong conservative party and many of them were from the South. Lead by Jackson himself, the party brought about radical changes, including a presidency that for the first time threatened to supersede the Constitutional powers delegated to Congress. Jacksonian Democrats followed the Jeffersonian political philosophy that favored an egalitarian agricultural society that expanded into the American West.
The Whig Party at the time practiced compromise as a political philosophy. Many of their members came across the political spectrum. Lead by Henry Clay, the party brought modernization and deepened the socio-economic system (such as banks, factories, and railroads) in America. The Whigs supported the supremacy of Congress over the executive branch and favored a program of modernization and economic protectionism, which the Democratic Party fiercely opposed. The Whigs also supported the policies of the American System. The American System was a mercantilist economic plan based on the American School ideas of Alexander Hamilton to harmonize and balance the nation's agriculture, commerce, and industry. The idea behind this system was to allow the nation to develop and flourish by providing a defense against the dumping of cheap goods by foreign suppliers. This plan consisted of three mutually reinforcing parts and they are as follows: 1. A high tariff to protect and promote the American industry 2. A national bank to encourage commerce and a national currency 3. Federal subsidies for roads, canals, and other internal improvements to develop and connect the nation.
The reason why the name Whig was used as a Party name was to echo the American Whigs of 1766, who fought for independence. In addition, it was also used because "Whig" was a widely recognized label of choice for people who saw themselves as opposing autocratic rule. The Whig Party was successful in passing modernization projects at the state level, but not at the national level. Many of the Whig Party's policies had to wait until Abraham Lincoln's presidency to be fully realized on the national level. The Whig Party promoted local, state, and national candidates for twenty years, competing with the Democrats and winning the presidential elections on two occasions. William Henry Harrison, who in 1840 became the first Whig president, and Zachary Taylor, who won the presidency in 1848, was among the most widely known Whigs, but the party also enjoyed Congressional majorities in the 1840s.
Whig Meeting Poster
In the years leading to the Civil War, the issues of state rights and the role slavery would play in the Western territories destroyed the Whig Party, as it had begun to unravel the United States. Unlike the Democratic Party, which had heavy membership in the South, the Whig Party's attempt to appeal to as many people as possible without maintaining a cohesive stance on major issues, in particular the role of slavery in new territories, eventually led to its demise, with Northern Whigs joining the newly formed Republican Party and Southern Whigs joining the Democrats.
The Whig Party was for most of its history concerned with promoting internal improvements, such as roads, canals, railroads, deepening of rivers, financial institutions, public schools, private colleges, charities, cultural institutions and anything else that would help America be internally strong. For its short years, the Whig Party had some very well known members, including Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Willie Person Mangum, John Quincy Adams, Winfield Scott, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, and Abraham Lincoln.
Special Note: Abraham Lincoln did start as a Whig and he considered himself a Whig by heart. There was a famous statement that Lincoln professed to his friends in 1861 - "I have always been an old-line Henry Clay Whig" - Lincoln admired the policies and the leadership of Henry Clay.
The term Whig and the Whiggery philosophy went into a great hibernation throughout the twentieth century in the United States of America. As Republicans and Democrats monopolized American politics, government gradually became increasingly gridlocked, ineffective, unrepresentative and no longer concerned with the well-being of the people. That is why Whiggery is needed once again to remind the electorate and elected officials of the words of Henry Clay: "Government is a trust, and the officers of the government are trustees. And both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people."
The idea of reviving the historical Whig Party was conceived in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan by members in the American Armed Forces. The Modern Whig Party was organized as a national party in late 2007 as a successor to the historical Whig Party.
Among its founding members were Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans dissatisfied with the deep ideological divide between the Republican and Democratic parties. Less than a year into its creation, the Modern Whig Party attracted more than 25,000 members nationally. Shortly after the Modern Whig Party was created, the USA Whig Party and Veterans Party of America merged with the Modern Whig Party.
Mike Lebowitz became the first national chair of the Modern Whig Party. Mike Lebowitz is a Washington, D.C. attorney and advocate for veterans' issues. He served in Iraq as an elite paratrooper in the Pathfinder Company of the 101st Airborne Division in the United States Army
The Party announced its first victory with the election of Whig member Ken Belcher as Constable of Lee County, Alabama in November 2008. In 2009, Ballot Access News reported that a candidate for the 2009 New Jersey Assembly elections was on the ballot under the Modern Whig Party designation. On November 2, 2009, Gene L. Baldassari sought a seat in the New Jersey Assembly, representing its Fourteenth District. Although he was defeated, Mr. Baldassari received great support throughout the nation from the Whig membership and positive reviews from the local media.
On December 12-13, 2009, the Modern Whig Party held its first national leadership council meeting in Washington DC. The party's bylaws and charter were made public shortly thereafter, with the document listing its official name as the Modern Whig Party of the United States of America.
On June 22, 2010, as a testament of the growing influence of the moderate Whigs, the American Centrist Party merged with the Modern Whig Party. Andrew Evans, the former American Centrist Party national chairman was appointed the Modern Whig Party after the merger. The next month the Center Party merged with the Whigs. The Modern Whig Party will continue to unite all moderate political forces as it proceeds with its historic mission to build a great American representative democracy.
During the 2010 election three Whig candidates ran for public office. Jeff Vanke, a college professor, and Kenny Golden, retired Commodore, ran for U.S. Congress in Virginia. Lalig Musserian, small businesswoman and Armenian immigrant, ran for state representative in Massachusetts. These three candidates did well in their campaigns spreading their solutions and the Modern Whig philosophy, to standing ovations at times. The Whig membership grew during the election as the pragmatic moderate Whig message spread. Whig news coverage occurred in local papers, interviews on web TV programs and national radio shows. The Modern Whig Party was also featured in Time magazine, front page of the Wall Street Journal, and CNN.com during the 2010 election year.
The three Whig candidates did well, averaging double digit support on Election Day, with a high of 22%. The election results were a good solid step forward for the Modern Whig Party in its mission to empower the American citizen and bring rational pragmatic solutions to government.
The Modern Whigs remain committed to growing to better serve America. We will uphold the Constitution and will work tirelessly to ensure that America remains the greatest nation on earth and to keep our government of the people, by the people, for the people.