Following the Election of 1840, members of the Whig Party must have been optimistic about their future. They likely imagined that the dominance of the Jacksonian Democrats could be replicated within the ranks of the Whigs and supplant the Democrats. It was not to be, however.
In 1832, Henry Clay addressed the Senate, expressing his hope that “some day,” America “would be rid of this, the darkest spot on its mantle,” speaking of slavery. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 586 quoting Life, Correspondence, and Speeches of Henry Clay, ed. Calvin Colton (New York, 1857), I, 189, 191.
The Election of 1840 juxtaposed the Whig Party’s policies against the Democratic Party’s more fluid policies. The Whigs “possessed a more coherent program: a national bank, a protective tariff, government subsidies to transportation projects, the public lands treated as a source of revenue, and tax-supported public schools.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 583-84. The Democrats did not have such rigid policies, relying instead on the “emotional bond” they they had with their followers, rather than policy initiatives. Id. at 584 citing Matthew Crenson, The Federal Machine: Beginnings of Bureaucracy in Jacksonian America (Baltimore, 1975), 29.
The Election of 1840 is one that stands out in history. That is for principally one reason: voter turnout.
As was customary until 1904, an incumbent president did not campaign openly for his re-election. This was true for President Martin Van Buren as well. See Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 573.
William Henry Harrison, a Whig, won the White House in the election of 1840. In March 1841, for his inauguration, he stood in the cold and wind and spoke for an hour and a half. See Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 570.