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Hardcover The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War Book

ISBN: 0195055446

ISBN13: 9780195055443

The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War

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Book Overview

The political home of Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Horace Greeley, and the young Abraham Lincoln, the American Whig Party was involved at every level of American politics--local, state, and federal--in the years before the Civil War, and controlled the White House for eight of the twenty-two years that it existed. Now, in The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, Michael F. Holt gives us the only comprehensive history of the Whigs ever written--a...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

A well reasoned work of political history.

In the Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, Professor Holt convicingly demonstrates through detailed inspection and analysis of national, state and local elections that the Whigs were always a deeply divided political party whose continued existance as a potent political force was always reliant upon their fervent opposition to the Democratic Party and its policies. For this reason, since Whig success or failure at the polls was always dependent upon Demoratic actions as opposed to those of the Whigs themselves, the Whigs were always at the mercy of their political opponents. Therefore, when tangable differences between the two parties began to deteriorate in the early 1850's, the long exisiting and deep divisions among the Whig rank and file allowed for crippling defections to both the enigmatic American and fledgling Republican parties. Thus, the Second Party System came to an abrupt, and for the country, a calamitous end.

Finally, a worthy analysis of the Fillmore presidency

There is much, much more to "The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party" than the sections that cover Millard Fillmore. I only cite him as an example of how this excellent work fills holes that had long existed in historical writings on this era. While there are biographies of Fillmore, no work likely to be of more general interest has dealt adequately with his administration. Even works like "The Ordeal of the Union" have rather little to say about this important, enigmatic figure in antebellum politics. Holt's work completely redresses this lack, as it does for many other figures in the Whig party. In addition, its analysis of the interaction of politics at the national and state levels (and occasionally the local and purely personal levels) should serve as an example for all future work on American political history. The more technical material - mostly focusing on election results - should not be too much of a problem. After the first time or two of wading through these sections of limited interest to the non-specialist, you develop a knack for knowing where to skim and where to pay close attention. I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in the political events preceding the Civil War.

Massive, intricately detailed masterpiece of history.....

For almost one thousand pages, Michael Holt not only examines the Whig party on a national, state, and local level, but he also presents the entire drama of pre-Civil War America. In fact, it is quite apparent after reading this book that the "causes" of the Civil War, if one even desires so simplistic a pursuit, are far from what conventional history leads us to believe. Yes, sectional differences played a huge role, but the decisions made by individual candidates, poltical conventions, and state leaders also had an effect on future events. As the author points out, the 1840s and 1850s were a far more contentious political era because the parties themselves, rather than states, printed ballots and therefore allowed for a proliferation of diverse parties. Holt also gives us the voices and personalties of the time: Clay, Webster, Harrison, Tyler, Fillmore, Taylor, and Polk. We are given access to intimate letters, diaries, speeches, and backroom conversations. In a nutshell, Holt takes us on a fantastic, yet ultimately sad journey of what is arguably the most decisive moment for our nation; a time in which the irrepressible conflict, still years away, began to have its unshakable hold on the country; when a still young republic, aching under the weight of Executive tyranny, expansionistic fervor, and abolitionism, began its descent into fratricidal madness. However, be warned: due to its length and detail, this book is recommended for avid history buffs only.

Superb political history

How did people think in the 19th century? What was the context of politics & political debate? How did politicians & politically-involved citizens jockey for position in the rough & tumble world of public policy? Can we learn lessons about today's political world from bygone days, more than 150 years in the past? This superb volume answers all of the foregoing and much more. I agree with the other reviewer that it is very detailed, not for the casual reader of history, but I am also annoyed by the Kirkus review's last sentence about "hardy" readers. Don't be scared off from the book by that comment. If you are interested in the dynamics of political debate today, this book contains many lessons. If you are interested in 19th century history & politics, particularly of the antebellum period, this book is a "must" for your personal library.
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