Section #8 - Efforts to end federal debt, close the U.S. Bank and restore hard currency lead to recession

Chapter 79: The Whigs Prepare To Challenge Van Buren For The Presidency in 1836

Fall 1836

The Whig And Democrat Party Platforms Differ Sharply

With Martin Van Buren set to run on the Democrat ticket in 1836, his opponents scramble to organize a credible challenge to his election. 

Two of the parties created in 1832 to defeat Jackson – the Anti-Masons and the Nullifiers – have exhibited only limited regional appeal. This means that the race will come down to Henry Clays Whig Party vs. the Jacksonian Democrats.  

The platform differences between the two are substantial. 

Differences Between Democrat And Whig Policies In 1836 
Issues Jackson’s Democrats Clay’s Whigs
Political Roots Jefferson Hamilton
Political Philosophy Democracy/common man Republic/leader class
Core Constituency Small farmers Farmers + city wage earners
Core Geography South + West Border + Northeast
Labor Manual power Manual + machines
Government Power De-centralized/state’s rights Washington/federal control
Federal spending Limit it/balance budget Invest in infrastructure
Tariff Lower and on fewer goods Higher to protect mfrs.
Land prices Lower Higher to fund investments
Money Hard/specie Soft/paper
US Bank Opposed/corporate privilege Supportive/control currency
Capitalism Suspicious/elites/corruption Fundamental to growth

Clay also hopes to broaden the base of the Whig Party by uniting all forces who have opposed the Jackson Democrats – including remnants of the old Federalist and National Republican parties, the New York Anti-Masons, various southerners in the mold of his sometimes ally, John Calhoun, as well as the pro-business and pro-banking powers across regions.  

Fall 1836

The Whigs Nominate Four Regional Candidates To Send The Election To The House

Having been soundly defeated in 1832, Clay is astute enough to recognize that 1836 is not the time for his name to appear at the top of the ballot.

Instead, he opts for a unique strategy, with a Whig ticket built around four candidates, all tied to at least some of the party’s core principles, and all possessing regional popularity.  

The four Whigs on the ballot are: 

  • Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, the acknowledged leader of the New England region. 
  • William Henry Harrison, frontiersman, ex-Governor of the Northwest and Indiana Territories, military victor in tribal battles, congressman and diplomat, and currently living on his farm in Ohio. His role in Clay’s plan will be to win the far West now that Jackson is off the Democrat ticket.
  • Senator Hugh White of Tennessee, a long-time Jackson supporter who falls out over his belief that the President has failed in his support of state’s rights. White is expected to succeed in the deep South.
  • Senator Willie P. Mangum of North Carolina, a momentary Democrat who backs Clay’s “American System” objectives and will be asked to campaign in the coastal states of the south.  

Clay’s hope is that this four man contingent will deny Van Buren the electoral votes he needs to win outright, and instead throw the final call into the House where a compromise candidate might be chosen – perhaps even himself.