Founded in 1833, the Whig Party were the main political opponents of the Democratic Party prior to the birth of the Republicans. They embraced a program of modernization and expansion, promoting a market-based economy as a means of securing America’s position globally. Morally, they took a more authoritarian position than their opposite number, advocating the prohibition of alcohol and an education system that instilled piety and conformity to Protestant values. On slavery they were deeply divided, and it was the dispute between abolitionists and the pro-slavery faction that brought the party to its knees in 1860.
Watch a brief interview with history professor Eric Foner on the differing stances of Whigs and Democrats towards the relationship between the individual and the state.