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The Second Party System

The National Republican Party

By Michael F. Holt, Ph.D.

Between Jackson's election in 1828 and the formation of the Whig party in early 1834, Jackson's political foes were divided among three or four groups. Most important was the National Republican party. Supporters of the Adams administration took this name after Adams's defeat in the election of 1828. Led by Adams, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John M. Clayton of Delaware, and Samuel Southard of New Jersey, the National Republican party was almost non-existent west of Ohio and south of Maryland and Kentucky, save for Louisiana whose sugar planters wanted protective tariffs. In sharp distinction to the Jacksonian Democrats, National Republicans were committed to using the national government to promote economic and social development. In particular, they were adherents of Henry Clay's "American System" which called for Congress to charter a national bank to supply the nation with a uniform and ample currency, pass a protective tariff to foster the development of manufacturing, and subsidize internal improvement projects to facilitate trade among different regions of the country. National Republicans also unanimously opposed Democrats' Indian Removal Act of 1830, which called for moving tribes from southeastern states west of the Mississippi River, and that opposition contributed to their unpopularity in much of the South. In 1832 National Republicans ran Henry Clay for president against Jackson, and to provide Clay with what they expected to be a winning issue, they encouraged Nicholas Biddle to seek a new charter for the Bank of the United States that year. This tactic not only provoked Jackson's famous veto of the new charter which rallied Democrats to his support. It also tarnished National Republicans as eastern elitists who championed a a privileged institution that Jackson had successfully labeled as a monster. Unable to rally all of Jackson's foes. Clay won only 49 electoral votes compared to Jackson's 219. Clearly uncompetitive, the National Republicans would shortly be subsumed by the new Whig party.

© 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project