Jon De Vos – Where Republicans come from
September 17, 2009
I admired the first George Bush because he wouldn’t eat his broccoli. He told Barbara, “I won’t, I won’t, I won’t eat my broccoli. I don’t have to, that’s why I became president!”
Let’s roll the clock back to our seventh President, Andrew Jackson, whose administration spanned two terms from 1829 to 1837. “Old Hickory” became a national hero and the subject of song when he whupped the British in The Battle of New Orleans.
His popularity swept him into the presidency. Once there, he ruled with complete disregard for the sentiment or ideas of his enemies, estimated eventually at more than half the people who knew him, a problem in a democracy. Fueling the fire, while in office, Jackson placed more than 2,000 of his political cronies into government jobs. Jackson was also the only American president ever to pay off the National Debt.
In 1834, the Whig Party grew out of a power struggle between Jackson and Congress over war powers and economic and domestic policies. His critics grew in number and called themselves Joe Wilsonites, er, no, that’s not right, they called themselves Whigs, which became the battle cry of those opposing Jackson’s assertion of power. Jackson was a Democrat, or as they were known then, he was a Democratic Republican.
The Whigs gained in strength and numbers until the election of 1840 brought a Whig victory in President William Henry Harrison. Harrison was a former governor of the Indian Territory charged by Presidents Adams and Jefferson to wrest as much land as he could from Native Americans. In numerous treaties he was instrumental in taking more than 50 million acres from the Indians, plying them with liquor and paying them a penny per two hundred acres for prime land, securing much of today’s Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri.
Harrison’s inaugural day was cold and rainy. In his address, he went on for nearly two hours, speaking longer than any president so far. He spent over three hours exposed and bare-headed in the snow on the steps of the East Portico of the Capitol. Later he attended several parties in his honor, still wearing the wet clothes he wore at the oath of office. In doing so, he contracted pneumonia. White House physicians immediately began “bleeding” him in the same medical treatment that killed George Washington. His administration was the shortest of any president’s so far – he died exactly a month after being sworn in.
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The next and final successful Whig Party candidate was Zachary Taylor, elected in 1848. The Fourth of July, 1850, was a scorcher. President Taylor was at a party at the base of the Washington Monument where he grew dangerously overheated and reacted by eating iced milk and cherries. OK, I guess he ate a LOT of iced milk and cherries, so much so that his doctor begged him to stop. Apparently he responded, “I won’t, I won’t, I won’t stop eating cherry ice cream. I don’t have to, that’s why I became president!” Later that evening, the President complained of stomach cramps and died shortly after. Whig contenders were badly beaten by Democrats in the next two presidential elections
The Whig Party split into two factions over the Civil War with the northern Whigs opposing slavery while the southern Whigs were in favor of it. After the War, the southern Whigs joined up with the Democrats, while the northern Whigs went on to become the nucleus of the newly rejuvenated Republican Party.
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