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The Rise and Fall of the American Whig PartyJacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War$
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Michael F. Holt

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780195161045

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195161045.001.0001

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“Harrison and Prosperity or Van Buren and Ruin”

“Harrison and Prosperity or Van Buren and Ruin”

(p.89) Chapter 5 “Harrison and Prosperity or Van Buren and Ruin”
The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party

Michael F. Holt

Oxford University Press

The Whig party's choice of General William Henry Harrison instead of Henry Clay at Harrisburg has made them seem particularly opportunistic. Whigs, indeed, nominated military heroes rather than civilian leaders in four of the five presidential campaigns they contested, including the only two times they won. That record has led to the illusion that the Whig party was a natural loser, triumphing only when it evaded issues and clung to the coattails of figurehead leaders who had popularity beyond the boundaries of the Whigs' normal voting constituency. The Whig victory in 1840 is, accordingly, usually attributed to the legendary “Log Cabin-Hard Cider” campaign the party ran on Harrison's behalf. In December 1839, most Whigs could not foresee what would happen to the economy and to Whig fortunes in 1840. The inverse relation between economic conditions and the Whigs' political fortunes played a major role in both Harrison's nomination and his subsequent election.

Keywords:   Whig party, William Henry Harrison, Henry Clay, Harrisburg, Log Cabin-Hard Cider, economy, nomination, election

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