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."
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Henry Clay promoted a system, known as the American System, which entailed government expenditures to promote the development of national infrastructure, paid by a protective tariff. Daniel Webster of New Hampshire was a force in the United States Senate for the preservation of the Union above all else. Between 1828 and the Civil War, the Whig Party was the primary national alternative to the Democratic Party founded by Andrew Jackson. The Republican Party was formed in 1854 by Americans who were appalled at the Kansas-Nebraskaz Act. Andrerw Jackson represented a break with the aristocratic tradition of American politics and the rise of the common man.. John C. Calhoun of South Carolina was a vigorous Congressional exponent of the inteterest of the South in the decades before the Civil War. After Texas gained independence, its annexation to the United States created diplomatic problems with Mexico and internal controversy over slavery. The Kansas-Nebraska Act was intended by Southerners to bring Kansas into the Union as a slave state, but it failed in that and instead inspired the formation of the Republican Party.