The Whig Party was formed in 1834 by a coalition of National Republicans, Anti-Masons, and disgruntled Democrats, who were united by their opposition to “King Andrew” Jackson and his “usurpations” of congressional and judicial authority. The party took its name from the seventeenth-century British Whig group that had defended English liberties against the usurpations of pro-Catholic Stuart Kings. Like the Democrats, the Whigs were a coalition of sectional interests, class and economic interests, and ethnic and religious interests. Democratic voters tended to be small farmers, residents of less-prosperous towns, and Scots-Irish or Catholic Irish. Whigs tended to be educators and professionals; manufacturers; business-oriented farmers; British and German Protestant immigrants; upwardly aspiring manual laborers; free blacks; and active members of Presbyterian, Unitarian, and Congregational churches. The Whig coalition included supporters of Henry Clay’s American System, states’ rights supporters, religious groups alienated by Jackson’s Indian removal policies, and bankers and businesspeople frightened by the Democrats’ anti-monopoly and anti-bank rhetoric. Whereas the Democrats stressed class conflict, Whigs emphasized the harmony of interests between labor and capital, the need for humanitarian reform, and leadership by men of talent. The Whigs also idealized the “self-made man,” who starts “from an humble origin, and from small beginnings rise[s] gradually in the world, as a result of merit and industry.” Finally, the Whigs viewed technology and factory enterprise as forces for increasing national wealth and improving living conditions.

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