Saturday, April 25, 2009

"The Whig Party is dead and buried"

Apparently somebody is trying to revive the Whig Party. I certainly agree we need a new party, but I doubt the Whigs are it. As a historical phenomenon, the Whigs are fascinating, and there is much to admire about them, as Daniel Walker Howe has argued. But, as Edward Stafford, a Republican newspaper editor from Jackson, Mississippi, noted in 1870, "The Whig Party died of too much respectability and not enough people." I'll go with Zebulon Vance's opinion, as described by Michael F. Holt at the close of his magnificent history of the Whigs:
[Zebulon Vance] was also realistic enough to know the task [of reviving the Whig Party] was impossible. When asked to do so in 1865, therefore, he replied with cold finality: "The [Whig] party is dead and buried and the tombstone placed over it and I don't care to spend the rest of my days mourning at its grave." To this brutally candid and totally accurate extinguisher, there was -- and is -- only one appropriate response. Amen!

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