As a political party, the Whig’s were torn apart in the decade leading up to the Civil War due to internal conflicts emanating from disagreement over how to hold the American Republic together. Pre Civil War Whig’s included Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John Quincy Adams, and Abraham Lincoln who first ran for Congress as a member of the Whig Party. While Lincoln was the first Republican President, his philosophy was essentially Whig.
What was the Whig philosophy of Abraham Lincoln and what does it teach us today? Lincoln believed in individual rights and this would lead him to issue the Emancipation Proclamation which led to the abolition of the barbarous institution of chattel slavery. Lincoln understood that no person has a right to own another person. Lincoln accepted the biblical principle, as enunciated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal. This notion, inspired by the Bible, is absolutely relevant today as the Modern Whig seeks to re-awaken within the bosom of his fellow citizen, the idea that he has a God given right to his individual sovereignty and to determine his own destiny. Over a half a million men died in the Civil War to establish the principle that both men and women were each created in the image of God and that, as such, rights come from the creator and not from the State.
While fighting to defend the principle of individual rights by abolishing chattel slavery, Lincoln also championed the cause of a strong and sovereign American Republic as he supported such national programs as the building of the transcontinental railroad. In this regard, Lincoln was acting in the tradition of his Whig mentors who had supported national projects and internal improvements. In 1825, John Quincy Adams, for example, envisioned a time when America would launch a space program. The Modern Whigs support infrastructure improvements that would make America energy independent.
Lincoln protected American industry and labor with the passage of the Morril Tariffs. These measures taxed imports which raised revenue for the national treasury while protecting and strengthening American industry. Today’s Whigs support fair trade tariffs on imports, taxes on American corporations and individuals doing business overseas, and laws that encourage domestic capital formation, accumulation, and investment. Whigs are economic nationalists who encourage free enterprise at home with low taxes while raising revenue through taxing imports, overseas transactions, and through high royalties on the profits derived from domestic natural resources such as oil, gas, and coal.
Lincoln raised money to finance the Civil War by issuing debt-free treasury notes instead of borrowing funds from banks at interest. Known as “greenbacks” these treasury issued dollars were backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. Today’s Whigs propose that Congress issue greenbacks to pay the national debt and, over time, eliminate fractional reserve banking. Constitutional currency would lead to economic stability as the amount of currency issued by the government would be no more or less than the economy would require. This would be a great means to reduce poverty and enhance private savings.
The Whigs developed their political philosophy before the advent of “left” and “right.” Whig’s are not left in that the Whig is not a hyper-nationalist. The left advocates virtual worship of secular state power as the left seeks to implement the nanny state that intervenes in all aspects of the life of the citizen. The Whig is a nationalist in that he loves his country and advocates policies that enhance national sovereignty and economic prosperity but only to the degree that it fosters individual freedom and free enterprise. The right advocates a strict libertarian approach which is also rejected by the Whigs.
Whigs believe in the concept of subsidiarity which calls for the strongest government to be local and the weakest government to be national. Whigs advocate local control of education policy and state control of health policy, welfare, and social questions such as the regulation of abortion and marriage. This concept is based upon a concept that has become increasingly rare since the demise of the Whig party and that is that the citizen is capable of self-government and that this capability is best expressed by the smaller unit of government. Yet the Whigs support a vigorous and united national government that is charged with conducting a trade policy that is pro-American business and a foreign and military policy that is engaged in the world in support of allies and in opposition to foes.
Whigs believe that national interest should reflect self-interest and that this idea finds its best expression in the US Constitution. Whigs believe that adherence to the Constitution would restore limited government through a separation of powers. Whigs seek to reduce illogical regulations which would result in more individual freedom and which would save trillions of dollars in wasteful spending. The end of bad regulations would put an end to the informal national virtual monopolies that have formed around education, finance, energy, and healthcare.
The Modern Whig Party is the fastest growing third party in America today. This is due to the fact that the Whigs represent a move that goes beyond the calcified and polarized ideologies of both the left and the right. Whigs support ideas that are more self evidently natural to human progress, ideas that develop a stronger and more soverign individual as reflected in a stronger and more soverign nation.