Block #6: Whig’s Defeat
Sponsored by: The Williston Community Church
Located at the Williston Community Church
8270 Harmony Rd, Denton, MD 21629
Painted by Amanda Lewis of Denton.
September 15, 2013
Several of the major political disputes during the 1840s and 50s focused on the issue of slavery, and led eventually to the American Civil War. These issues came to a head with the rivalry between the two leading political parties, the Whigs and the Democrats. The debate over slavery ultimately filtered into every aspect of politics, as it affected finance, western expansion, presidential elections, personal liberty laws, and declarations of war. Important acts passed in Congress during this time would shape the practice and expansion of slavery. The Fugitive Slave Act made runaways more vulnerable during their time on the Underground Railroad, forcing many to make their way to Canada to seek freedom. It also required both government officials and citizens to assist in the recovery of slaves or face punishment themselves.
The Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850 determined that the issue of slavery in the new western states would not be addressed, leaving the decision to the citizens of these territories when they applied for statehood. The major dispute about westward expansion was resolved at the 1844 election with the defeat of the Whig presidential candidate, Henry Clay; the event for which this block is named. Like the country as a whole, the Whig party was divided over the question of slavery, a completely North versus South issue that eventually led to the collapse of the party in 1865. Former Whig members in the northern states, like Abraham Lincoln, joined the newly formed Republican Party.